Tablespoon (set of three spoons)

about 1803
George Hendel (1776–1842)

Object Place: Carlisle, Pennsylvania, United States


Other: 23.7 x 4.5 cm (9 5/16 x 1 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View




Silver flatware

The spoon has a pointed-end downturned handle and a slight midrib on back. Undecorated except for the owner’s initials, it has an oval bowl with long rounded drop and, on the back, a swaged form of a bird holding a branch in its beak; the bird faces left.

George Hendel was the son of the Rev. Johan William Hendel (1740 – 1798) and Elizabeth Leroy of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who were married about 1766. He was born in 1776, probably in nearby Tulpehocken, where his German Reformed clergyman father was minister. In 1789 George Hendel enrolled in Franklin College (now Franklin and Marshall College) in Lancaster, where the elder Hendel was a founder and vice president. How young Hendel obtained his silversmithing skills is unclear, since he should have begun his apprenticeship about this time. It is possible that he learned from his elder brother Jacob, a clockmaker and merchant who had established himself in Carlisle in 1796. By 1799 George Hendel had also moved to Carlisle, where the brothers probably worked together until 1806, when George Hendel acquired a residence and shop. A third brother, Bernard (b. 1777), joined Jacob as a clockmaker in 1811. George Hendel’s marriage to Rosanna Jumper in 1807 was followed by his participation in the War of 1812.
Following his military service, George Hendel built a large three-story brick building in the center of town, where presumably he practiced his trade. At this time, Carlisle was home to several other silversmiths, including John D. Haverstick and Robert Guthrie, and it is unclear whether the town could support three craftsmen. Hendel suffered financial pressures and briefly gave up silversmithing between 1817 and 1818 to run a tavern called the “Sign of General Washington,” presumably at the same location. In 1826 he mortgaged his real estate, including his household goods and tools, although he was allowed to continue using them. He died in 1842.
Surviving silver by Hendel and the assortment of tools that he mortgaged in 1826 indicate that he was well equipped to fashion a variety of goods. In addition to spoons, surviving works bearing his mark include a sugar bowl, teapots, a cream pitcher, and an ear trumpet. Clockmaking equipment listed below was perhaps a vestige of Hendel’s early work with his brother Jacob. The “eight punches to make spoons” were probably among those used to make these teaspoons and tablespoon. At the time of his mortgage, Hendel owned the following shop tools:

Two Ingots
one Rolling Mill
8 Hammers, 2 Vises
2 Anvils, 2 Stakes
8 punches to make spoons & Ladles
13 hollow punches
27 do. to make breast pins & lockets
Apparatus for melting silver
1 pair Bellows
2 Small desks
1 wire Bench and apparatus
1 Bick [?] iron
1 set of thimble tools
1 large Reamer
Apparatus for clock making
Apparatus for brass founding

The spoons, engraved “TRF,” were made for Thomas Foster and Rebecca Crawford of Carlisle, who were married in 1778. Foster owned the “Sign of the Sorrel Horse,” the most fashionable tavern in the area. Next door was the home and possibly the shop of Jacob Hendel; thus he was near the clockmaking and silversmithing family at the time of his purchase.
The spoons were probably part of a larger service that Foster purchased about 1803, when he and his wife would have celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Surviving pieces in the service include a coffeepot, two teapots, a sugar bowl and creamer, and spoons. The ornamental bird and branch design on the bowl of the spoon was popular in the Mid-Atlantic states. For a similar example, see spoons by Baltimore silversmith Abraham Dubois.

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.


Engraved "TRF" in entwined script on end of handle.


Marked "GH" in roman letters within an oval, twice on back of handle.
Ada Mark E12390


The spoons were made for Thomas Foster (1753 – 1829) and Rebecca Crawford (1756 – 1812) of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, m. 1778. By descent to their children, Henrietta Foster, m. Jesse Castor of Philadelphia, in 1820; and Crawford Foster (1787 – 1853) m. Elizabeth Pattison (d. 1821), in 1816; to the children of these siblings, Josephine C. Castor (b. 1828?) and Alfred Holmes Foster (1819 – 1884), first cousins who married each other.7 By descent to their daughter Jessie Crawford Foster (d. 1907) and her husband, William Theodore Furness (d. 1929), who placed them on loan to the MFA in 1919. They then descended to her brother Thomas C. Foster. By descent to the children of William and Jessie Furness: Thomas F. Furness (1892 – 1976); Emily D. Furness (1896 – 1970); George Abbot Furness (1896 – 1985). By descent to the donors, the children of George Abbot Furness and his first wife, Eleanor Winslow Williams, and second wife, Yasuko Kimio Suzuki: Anne Winslow Furness (b. 1926); George Abbot Furness Jr. (b. 1930); Jessie Caroline Furness (b. 1957).

Credit Line

Gift of Anne, George and Jessie Furness