Salt spoon (one of a pair)

about 1740–50
Jacob Hurd (American, 1702 or 1703–1758)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Dimensions

9.2 x 1.8 cm (3 5/8 x 11/16 in.)

Accession Number

1973.735

Medium or Technique

Silver

On View

Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch Gallery (Gallery 132)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver flatware

This delicate salt spoons has an upturned midrib handle and a slender stem terminating in a flat shovel-shaped bowl curving gently outward at flattened end; a worn shell drop appears on the back of the bowl.


Salt spoons appeared in England beginning in the seventeenth century and were made in some quantity during the eighteenth. In England, the first and preferred form for the bowl was the shovel shape, which was gilded for protection against the corrosive effects of salt.
Colonial American salt spoons, by contrast, appear infrequently with a shovel-shaped bowl. That is particularly true for those made in eighteenth-century New England; few examples can be identified, and the use of a spoon was more likely to be inferred by its scale rather than its specialized shape.
This pair constitutes the only known shovel-shaped salt spoons to have been made in Jacob Hurd’s shop. An unmarked pair made for Benjamin and Mary (Toppan) Pickman has been attributed to John Coburn by Kathryn C. Buhler. In 1796 Paul Revere made four “salt shovels” for Jonathan Hunnewell, a bricklayer and president of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association. As the number of silversmiths and the demand for silver grew in nineteenth-century America, the shovel-shaped bowl attained latter-day popularity.
According to family history, these spoons were traditionally associated with a pair of trencher salts made by John Coney between 1710 and 1720 (cat. no. 34).

This text has been adapted from “Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000,” edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication.

Inscription

On back of handle, near tip, in roman letters: A; In script, engraved later on stemp, near tip: C. T. to T. E. W.

Markings

Marked on back within a rectangle: HURD.

Provenance

According to the donor, the patriot John Hancock gave the salt spoons to his first cousin, Lydia Bowes (1749-1805) on the occasion of her marriage in 1770 to Rev. Phinehas Whitney (1740-1819) of Shirley. By descent to their son, Thomas Whitney (1771-1884) and Henrietta Parker (1775-1864) of the same town, m.1799; to their son, James Phineas Whitney (1802-1847) and Lydia Bowes Parker Treadwell (b. 1815), m. 1836; to their daughter, Henrietta Parker Whitney (1837-1900) and Andrew McFarland Davis (b. 1833) of Worcester, m. 1862. To their daughter, Frederica King Davis (1869-before 1964), and Thomas Russell Watson (1850-1920) of Plymouth and Middletown, m. 1901; to their three daughters, Eleanor Whitney Watson (Mrs. Thomas B. Coolidge) (b. 1902), Marjorie (Mrs. T. Dana Hill) (b. 1903), and Mrs. William Payson. Purchased from Mrs. Coolidge and Mrs. Hill by the donors and made a gift.

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William L. Payson