Edward Webb (American, born in England, 1666–1718)
Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts
13.5 x 16.3 x 8.7 cm (5 5/16 x 6 7/16 x 3 7/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Manning House (Gallery LG36)
The raised tankard has a slightly tapered straight-sided body with center point evident in base. A center point is also visible on the inside of the raised, gadrooned, flat-topped lid. The wide crenate lip displays one pair and one single scored line at its edge; a flange is underneath the lid. The corkscrew thumbpiece descends to a five-part hinge with flanking meander lines on the hingeplate. The cast and seamed scroll handle with attenuated rattail drop at its upper joining has an additional tightly rolled scroll above the cherub terminal and an oval air vent below.
Elizabeth (Sheafe Gibbs) Corwin, the original owner of this magnificent tankard, was a woman of means. The eldest daughter of Jacob and Margaret (Webb) Sheafe of Cambridge, she inherited £500 from her maternal grandfather, Henry Webb (d. 1660), along with his mansion house, land at Fort Hill, and one-third of a sawmill at York, Maine. She married wealthy merchant Robert Gibbs in 1660 and, after his death, wed Judge Jonathan Curwin of Salem. Financially independent, she commissioned this fine tankard for a granddaughter.
The year in which the tankard was made is difficult to ascertain since no date accompanies the inscription to Mary Gibbs from her “honoured Grandmother Eliz Corwin.” A conjectural date ranges from 1699, the birth date of Mary Gibbs, to 1718, the death date of its maker, Edward Webb, and of Corwin. The earlier date, if deemed acceptable, would precede Webb’s earliest documented presence in Boston in 1704, when he “served as security” for Peter Patey’s admittance as an inhabitant of the city.
Elizabeth Corwin’s personal collection of English and American silver is well documented in her will of 1717, which includes items that had been given to her by her father-in-law, Sir Henry Gibbs, a knight from Homington, county Warwick. Mary Gibbs, the recipient of this tankard, was about eighteen years old at the time the will was written. She received a silver caudle silver cup and a sucking bottle, both symbolizing the duties of motherhood and care for family members that lay in her future.
This tankard was not among the bequeathed items, and because of its small size and early style, it is possible that Corwin purchased it sometime after 1699 to celebrate her granddaughter’s birth. There is also the possibility that it was intended as a dowry gift, perhaps in anticipation of Mary Gibbs’s marriage to the Rev. John Cotton in 1719. That the tankard received no mention in Corwin’s will demonstrates how easily such gifts could be passed along the matrilineal line during the life of the donor.
During his time in Boston, Webb employed several types of cast elements and forged forms for tankards, and he was among the first to experiment with domed lids. His early flat-lidded tankards are ornamented with corkscrew, scrolled, and dolphin-and-mask thumbpieces. They all display long rattails below the hinge, a small curl on the outer edge of the handle, and a variety of termini. When Webb progressed to domed lids, he continued to decorate these new forms with the same old-fashioned casts. One example in the Museum’s collection shows an attempt to update the form with a domed lid and midband, yet the vessel still retains a long rattail beneath the handle joining and a curl on the outer edge of the handle, two elements that point to Webb’s lingering preference for a style that would soon be outmoded. This tankard, with its gadrooned lid, finely cast elements, and delicate proportions, is one of the finest examples Webb produced in Boston.
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 bottom in script: "The gift of her honoured / Grandmother Eliz : Corwin. / to Mary Gibbs." A crudely incised letter "H" appears on base near molding.
Marked twice, "EW" in roman capitals within a rectangle, on lid in front of thumbpiece, and to left of handle.
The tankard was acquired by Elizabeth (Sheafe Gibbs) (1644 – 1718), m. second, about 1675/76, Jonathan Corwin (Curwin, Curwen) of Salem, Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature, Province of Massachusetts Bay. It was made a gift to her granddaughter Mary Gibbs (1699 – 1761), m. the Rev. John Cotton (1693 – 1757) in 1719.6 The tankard passed to their daughter Elizabeth Cotton (1722 – 1782) and Jonathan Hastings (1708/9 – 1783), m. 1750. The initial “H” was probably engraved for him or one of his descendants; to their son John Hastings (1754 – 1839) and Lydia Dana (1755 – 1808), m. 1783; to their son Edmund Trowbridge Hastings (1789 – 1861) and Elizabeth Spring, m. 1815; to their daughter Harriet Elizabeth Hastings (1818 – 1887) and John Bryant Hatch (1817 – 1890), m. 1841; to their son George Stanley Hatch (1855 – 1931), Mary Kidder Whiting (b. 1861), m. 1891; to their son Francis Whiting Hatch (1897 – 1975), and Katherine Marjory Kennard, m. 1922; to their son Francis Whiting Hatch Jr. (b. 1925), the donor.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Francis W. Hatch