Sugar bowl with lid (part of a four-piece tea service)

about 1825
Charles Alexander Burnett (1769–1848)

Object Place: Georgetown, District of Columbia, United States


18.5 x 20.1 x 14.5 cm (7 5/16 x 7 15/16 x 5 11/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View




Silver hollowware

This is a raised, round vessel with lobed sections emanating from bottom soldered to a low, round foot having a vertical edge of die-stamped ornament decorated with oak and grape leaf clusters. The vessel flares above lobes to a convex, die-stamped band with the same ornament below a gadrooned edge. The two angular strap handles with scroll termini are soldered to the body. The round stepped cover has lobed sections at its domed center; the finial is a replacement.

As with the service that Justice Bushrod Washington commissioned from Charles Alexander Burnett (cat. no. 137), this tea set was ordered by a member of the federal government who had moved to the District of Columbia. The owner, Richard Cutts of Cutts Island, Maine, was a direct descendant of John Cutts, the seventeenth-century governor of New Hampshire. Cutts followed his distinguished ancestor in public service when, in 1801, he became the first member of Congress to hail from Maine. He later served as Comptroller of the Treasury under President James Madison, among other posts.
Cutts’s relationship to the Madison presidency was more than official, for in 1804 he had married Anna Payne, sister of Dolley Madison (Dorothy Payne Todd, 1768 – 1849). That same year, the two couples patronized painter Gilbert Stuart, who produced likenesses of both. Although it is unknown whether the Madisons owned a Burnett tea service, the president owned a snuffbox that the craftsman made between 1815 and 1825. The Cuttses probably acquired this set from Burnett in the mid- to late 1820s, judging from its ample proportions, prominent lobes, and broad bands of milled decoration that characterize early Empire-era silver. The vessel form closely resembles a teapot in the Hammerslough collection, although the simple treatment of the spout and wooden handle is modest compared to the vigorously chased animal figures on the latter.

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.




"C. A. BURNETT" within a rectanatgle is marked on bottom below an eagle's head in a circle.


Originally owned by Anna Payne Cutts (1779 – 1832), daughter of John and Mary (Coles) Payne and sister of First Lady Dolley Madison, and Richard Cutts, son of Col. Thomas and Elizabeth (Scammon), m. 1804. The set descended to their son Richard Dominicus Cutts (1817 – 1883), m. Martha Jefferson Hackley in 1845. In turn, the set was made a gift to their son Harry Madison Cutts, M.D. (1858 – 1918), of Brookline, Massachusetts, m. Marion Belcher in 1891. Their son George Cutts (1895 – 1976) inherited the service. His wife, Priscilla (Whipple) Cutts (1903 – 1994), of Wellesley, Massachusetts, gave the service to her sons, the donors.

Credit Line

Gift of Robert Whipple Cutts and Henry Madison Cutts