"The Modern American" cocktail Set

designed 1928; manufactured 1930
Designed by Erik Magnussen (Danish (active in the United States), 1884–1961), For Gorham Manufacturing Company (active 1865–1961)

Object Place: Providence, Rhode Island, United States


Shaker: 31.4 x 16.1 cm (12 3/8 x 6 5/16 in.) Cups (each): Overall: 13 x 8.6 cm (5 1/8 x 3 3/8 in.)/Weight: 113.4 gm (0.25 lb.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

John Axelrod Gallery (Gallery 326)


Americas, Europe


Silver hollowware

The spun cocktail shaker is in the form of a truncated cone, widening at shoulders; the narrowing shoulder angles inward, where it is soldered to a circular neck. A flat strap handle is attached at the neck and shoulder. A shallow, conical, friction-fitted lid with deep bezel has square strainer holes arranged in a triangular pattern matching those in the shaker spout. The shaker has a narrow border with vertical markings in the Neoclassical manner. The spun cups are broadly flaring, with slender, rod-like stems and stepped, circular feet. They have narrow borders with vertical markings in the Neoclassical manner.

Health to the Bride and Groom. Modern — sophisticated — luxurious — toast happiness to the bride and groom, and present them with a beverage set to return the compliment when other members of the young aristocracy marry and also are made the proud recipients of such sterling splendor.

At the height of Prohibition (1919 – 33) in the 1920s, the term “beverage set” became a euphemism for a cocktail set. Thus the above-mentioned toasts, published in Gorham’s promotional text, were meant to accompany alcohol consumption, despite the federal ban. Cocktails became popular during Prohibition, for the ancillary juices or seltzers masked what was often substandard bathtub gin. Due in part to the furtiveness of this social activity, cocktail services of the era were chiefly made of inexpensive glass, steel, or chrome-plated brass; only a small number were produced in silver, a particularly elite material for such a newly fashionable purpose.
The martini, a gin-based mixed drink popular at the time, lent its name to the broad cone-shaped drinking glass in which it was served. Glass was the most common material for drinking vessels; yet as with most manufacturers of metal drinking services of the period, Gorham chose to market martini glasses in silver, then an uncharacteristic material.
Due to the interchangeability of items in the Modern American line, this cocktail service was intended to be used with the tray shown in the coffee service (cat. no. 341).

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.




Incuse touchmarks "GORHAM" in roman letters; lion passant, anchor, and gothic letter "G", each in a device / "STERLING" in san serif letters / A14082 / [elephant] / 3 PINT / "EM." monogram.


Purchased by the donor from Lillian Nassau Antiques, New York City, in January 1986 and made a gift to the Museum in 1999.

Credit Line

The John Axelrod Collection