Sugar bowl with lid (part of a five-piece tea service)
Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Medium or Technique
Not On View
The sugar bowl is raised in a lobed bulb form that nestles within a cast leafy support that springs from a narrow baluster. A conforming splayed foot, with undulating surface, is attached to the stem by a nut and bolt. The double handles are decorated with curving cast acanthus leaves. The seperate domed cover rests inside a waved flaring collar and is finished with a bud finial.
Marked by one of Boston’s best jewelry houses, this large and boldly shaped service is characterized by a playful sense of fashion in its form and a more sober restraint in its plain and highly polished surface. The sinuous lines of the bodies reflect the popular interest in the rendering of natural forms. The bulb shapes seem to grow from the foliage below and reach “full bloom” in their ruffled rims.
The firm of Harris & Stanwood first appeared in the 1839 Boston directory. William C. Harris and Henry B. Stanwood manufactured and retailed “silver ware” at 29 Tremont Row until 1842, when the firm moved to 253 Washington Street, just a short distance from their main competitor, Lows, Ball & Co., located at 123 Washington. Both firms showed pieces at the second Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association exhibition in 1839. The judges noted that it was difficult to judge which was better, “each house excellent of their kind but so different in character … while Harris & Stanwood very rich and beautiful in pattern and finished in a superior manner the design and excellence of the Antique Chased Pitcher presented for competition by Jones Lows & Ball is preferred.” Both firms were awarded a silver medal. The “Antique Chased Pitcher” probably referred to the new Rococo-revival style with chased and repousséd decoration, and its novelty may have appealed more than the plain surfaces characteristic of Harris & Stanwood.
In 1844 the firm, renamed named Harris, Stanwood & Co., received another silver medal from Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association for their “tea sets, pitchers, [and] salt cellars … [that] as to style and work of plain silver ware is equal to the best foreign [wares]” (see cat. no. 211).
An advertisement in the 1847 – 48 Boston directory describes the company as “Importers and Dealers in Silver and Plated Wares, Watches, Clocks, Lamps, Gas Fixtures, Candleabras, Tea Trays, Fine Table Cutlery, Rich Fancy Goods, &c., Watches and Clocks cleaned and repaired by an experienced workman.” Harris seems to have retired soon after; his name appeared only in the directory’s residential section. Stanwood worked alone until he was joined by James D. Stanwood and George D. Low, from 1853 to 1861, forming Henry B. Stanwood & Co. (see cat. no. 232). The following year, Henry B. Stanwood (and perhaps James D. Stanwood and George D. Low) joined his former rival at 123 Washington Street (at that time known as Shreve, Brown & Co.) to form Shreve, Stanwood & Co. (see cat. no. 231). Stanwood remained in business with Shreve until the former’s death in 1868, when the company reorganized to become the familiar Shreve, Crump & Low.
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.
Monogram "AR" on the front of the bowl.
"Harris & Stanwood" in roman letters, "Pure Silver Coin" in italics, "BOSTON" in roman letters, all on base
Original owners unknown and “A R” monogram unidentified. The service was loaned to the Museum in 1948 by Mr. and Mrs. William Phillips for use at public functions and was acquired as a gift from their heirs in 1969.
Gift of Beatrice P. Strauss, William Phillips, Jr., Drayton Phillips, Christopher H. Phillips and Anne P. Bryant