about 1724–30
John Burt (American, 1692/93–1745/46)

Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts


19.9 x 18.5 x 10.4 cm (7 13/16 x 7 5/16 x 4 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View




Silver hollowware

The raised tankard has tapering sides, a drawn molded base and lip, and one midband slightly below center. The domed and stepped lid with button finial bears two pairs of scored lines at lip. A cast scrolled thumbpiece is atttached to a five-part hinge that descends to short split-baluster decoration on the seamed scroll-shaped handle. A long rounded drop connects the handle to the upper section of the body, while an oval disk connects the lower portion to the handle. A grotesque mask appears at the terminus, with an oval air vent below.

The reason is unclear for Burt’s placement of a small “IB” mark inside the hinge of this conventional Boston tankard. The English assay office required silversmiths to place their touchmarks on each element of a finished piece, such as the lid and handle, but colonial silversmiths were guided by no such rules. When two marks were used by such silversmiths as John Coney or Jacob Hurd — an infrequent occurrence — they were usually of the same scale. The tiny size of this “IB” mark was usually intended for jewelry, and this example is the only one that appears with the larger and more common “John Burt” mark. It helps substantiate marks found on a pair of sleeve buttons made about 1725 – 30.

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.


In roman letters on handle is engraved "G / P + M / 1724 / . . . / G / J + T / 1828 / . . . / A.T.G.E. / 1848 / . . . / C.G.E. / 1904 / . . . / J.W.N. / 1911 / to / R.M." February 21 st 1911." Inscribed on bottom of vessel is scratch weight of "24 [oz above] - 16 [Dw above] - 0."


To left of handle is stamped " JOHN / BURT" in roman letters within an ellipse. A small "IB" mark in roman letters within a rectangle is located on the hinge plate.



Descent of the tankard in the Gilman family has been ascertained through the inscriptions and significant marriage and death dates engraved on the handle of the tankard. According to the initials "G/P & M," the vessel was probably made for Peter Gilman of Exeter, New Hampshire, and Mary (Thing) Gilman, the widow of John and of the same town, who were married in 1724. It passed to Ann Taylor (1732-1783), one of many stepchildren belonging to Gilman's second wife, Dorothy (Sherburne) Rogers Gilman (1712-1761), whom he married in 1751. Ann Taylor (1732-1783) was the child of Elizabeth Rogers (m. 1730-d. 1735) and Rev. John Taylor (1704-1749/50) of Milton, Massachusetts. The tankard passed to Governor John Taylor Gilman (1753-1828), the first-born son of Ann Taylor and her husband Nicholas Gilman (1731-1783) of Exeter, New Hampshire. Governor Taylor married Deborah Folsom (1753-1791) in 1775, and upon his death, the tankard was inscribed with his initials and death date and inherited by his daughter, Ann Taylor Gilman, who married the Hon. Nicholas Emery (1776-1861) of Portland, Maine in 1807, as noted with the initials "ATGE / 1848." Upon her death in 1848, the tankard passed their daughter Charlotte Gilman Emery (1817-1904), died unmarried. [1] The tankard was inherited by her niece Julia Webster (1848-1884), wife of Edgar H. Nichols (b. 1856). [2] Having no issue, the tankard was given to their niece, Ruth Morison (1877-1924), of Montclair, New Jersey, on the occasion of her marriage in 1911 to Philip Price Sharples (1873-1965) and inherited by their daughter, the donor: Abby Sharples Niss (Mrs. William U. Niss) (1917-1991) of Portland, Maine.[3]

1. Arthur Gilman, comp., A Genealogical & Biographical Record of that Branch of the Family of Gilman Descended form the Hon. Counsellor John Gilman of Exeter, NH (Albany, New York: J. Munsell, 1863), pp. 17, 26, 104, 151; Arthur Gilman, The Gilman Family Traced in the Line of Hon. John Gilman of Exeter, New Hampshire (Albany, New York: Joel Munsell, 1869), p. 67; "Notes and Queries," NEHGR 30 (1876):221-223; NEHGR 32 (1878):424; Major Lemuel Abijah Abbott, comp., Descendants of George Abbott of Rowley, Massachusetts, of his joint descendants with George Abbott, Sr. of Andover, Massachusetts, (no city: published by the author, 1906), Vol. 2, p. 679, #797; Milton Records, Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1662-1843 (Boston: A. Mudge and Sons, 1900), p. 178; NEHGR 69 (1915): 67-9; Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume 1607-1896, (Chicago: A. N. Marquis Co., 1963), p. 379; Maine Vital Records to 1892 (microfilm reel no. 40).

2. Willard A. Nichols, Ancestors of Willard Atherton Nichols (Privately printed, 1911), pp. 49-51.

3. Correspondence, departmental files, Arts of the Americas.

Credit Line

Gift of Abby S. Niss, in memory of Ruth Morison Sharples