American Silver Sugar Tongs
In design, this mug imitates the hooped and staved wooden barrels, buckets, mugs, and other products of the cooper’s craft. The form is not common in American silver and, when found, is most frequently the work of Philadelphia silversmiths.1A tankard in this style by the same maker is at Winterthur (Fales 1958, no. 11). Even the handle, with its rectangular section, imitates simple cooperage handles cut out of wood; the bands of applied, molded reeding recreate hoops. This type of mug was relatively easy and inexpensive to make from a sheet of rolled silver, which was bent around an anvil into a slightly tapering cylinder and seamed at the handle joint. The method was obviously far less labor-intensive than hand-raising the bellied or tulip-shaped cann or mug form, which had enjoyed popularity throughout most of the 18th century. This mug is quite small and unusually heavy. Its size was probably dictated by the client and the weight may have been determined by the gauge of the pre-rolled silver the smith had on hand.
Joseph Lownes was one of the best known and most competent Philadelphia silversmiths of the Federal era. His shop on South Front Street is listed in Philadelphia city directories from 1785 until 1819, occupying the premises of another silversmith, John David, who may have been Daniel Dupuy’s partner. Lownes’s work is notably similar to that marked by Daniel Dupuy, Jr. (1753–1826) seen in Acc. No. 85.39.2Six American Tablespoons Since Lownes advertised imported plated wares as well as solid silver of his own manufacture, he may have copied this piece directly from English goods stocked in his shop.
Jennifer F. Goldsborough
Excerpted from Clement E. Conger, et al. Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.