Sugar tongs

about 1800
Samuel Drowne (1749–1815)

Object Place: Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States


5.4 x 14.4 cm (2 1/8 x 5 11/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View




Silver flatware

The tongs are of bow form, with cast reticulated arms embellished with a double row of serpentine piercing, shell-shaped hollow grips, and a chased border on the shoulders and bow.

In the federal period, the luxury craft of silversmithing spread from the established colonial urban centers of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia to growing cities such as Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where these high-quality sugar tongs were made. Samuel Drowne, a minister’s son, was a member of that seaport community’s small but active group of silversmiths, which included his brother Benjamin (1759 – 1793) and his two sons, Daniel Pickering Drowne (1784 – 1863) and Thomas Pickering Drowne (1782 – 1849).1 Samuel, although known as a craftsman and the owner of a house on State Street, near the Piscataqua River, was perhaps better known for his activities as a patriot during the Revolution and for his service to the town in the years after independence.
Elegantly pierced, with multiple voids resembling those of a high-style Federal chair back, these tongs are perhaps the most beautiful example of the form fashioned by Drowne. His shop produced primarily flatware, but some hollowware by him is known.

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.


"M.W." in script engraved on inside of bow; "E C" on outside of bow.


"S x Drowne" in a rectangle with shaped ends struck on inside of bow at joint with arm


Made for Eleanor Clark (1765 – 1830), m. Edmund Wingate in 1788. Descended in the family to one of their daughters, probably (based on the initials) Mary Ann (b. 1789) or Maria (b. 1795). Acquired at an unknown date by Mrs. Kathryn C. Buhler, Boston, and given to the Museum in 1984.

Credit Line

Gift of Kathryn C. Buhler