about 1770–80
Benjamin Tappan (1742–1831)

Object Place: Northampton, Massachusetts, United States


4.1 x 20.5 cm (1 5/8 x 8 1/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View




Silver flatware

The spoon has a slightly downturned round-handled tip, with feather-edged decoration, a sharp midrib on the back, and a thick stem that is rectangular in section. The back of the elliptical bowl has a long rounded drop and fifteen-lobed shell decoration. The bowl of the shell is dented and worn at its tip; three small sharp dents appear in the handle tip.

Northampton historians of the early twentieth century remembered Benjamin Tappan as a successful merchant whose portrait was painted by Gilbert Stuart, but they omitted any mention of his silversmithing activities. In fact, Tappan probably began to sell dry goods soon after 1768, the year he arrived in Northampton, and gradually abandoned his silversmithing trade as his business expanded. This spoon’s history of ownership among Tappan descendants demonstrates their knowledge and pride in his work as a craftsman whose accomplishments might otherwise have been forgotten.

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.




On back of stem, marked "B T" in a serrated rectangle.


This spoon was retained by Tappan and his wife, Sarah Homes (1748-1826), the daughter of silversmith William Homes, Sr., (1716/17-85), and descended in the family for five generations.1 The spoon was first inherited by the silversmith's son, Lewis (1788-1873), who married Susannah Aspinwall (1790-1853) in 1813.2 The couple removed to Brooklyn, New York, where the spoon was inherited by their daughter, Lucy Maria Tappan (1825-1863) and Henry Chandler Bowen (1813-1896), who were married in 1844; by descent to their son, Henry Elliot Bowen (b. 1845), who married Elizabeth White Plummer (b. 1848) of Roxbury, Massachusetts in 18693; to their daughter, Ethel Plummer Bowen (1879-1965), who married Dr. Franklin Warren White (about 1869-1950) of Charlestown, Massachsetts in 19044; to their son, the donor: Henry Bowen White (b. 1911) of Boston.

1Daniel Langdon Tappan, Tappan-Toppan Genealogy, Ancestors & Descendants of Abraham Toppan of Newbury, Massachusetts 1606-1672 (Arlington, Ma.: privately printed, 1915), pp. 24-5, 40-42.

2Algernon Akin Aspinwall, comp., The Aspinwall Genealogy: Peter Aspinwall & Descendants, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle & Co. Press, 1901), pp. 53, 76, 82-3, 124.

3Edward Augustus Bowen, Lineage of the Bowens of Woodstock, Ct., (Cambridge, Ma.: Riverside Press, 1897), pp. 154, 157; Sidney Perley, The Plumer Genealogy - Francis Plumer, who settled at Newbury, Massachusetts, and some of His Descendants (Salem, Ma.: The Essex Institute, 1917), pp. 199-200; Richard N. Gookins, comp. A History and Genealogy of the Gookin Family of England, Ireland and America (Salem, Oregon: typescript, 1983) [NEHGS library], pp. 372.

4Hon. Daniel Appleton White, The Descendants of William White of Haverhill, Massachusetts, Genealogical Notices (Boston: J. Wilson and Son, 1863), pp. 34, 44-6; correspondence, departmental files; twentieth-century birth and death records, Massachusetts Department of Vital Records.

Credit Line

Gift of H. Bowen White