Myer Myers, one of America’s finest silversmiths, was born in New York City in 1723, the eldest son of Solomon and Judith Myers, who had emigrated from Holland. His master is unknown. Myers became a freeman of the city on April 29, 1746, and was a leading member of his synagogue, the congregation Shearith Israel. Through his leadership there, he became closely involved with Jewish congregations in other colonies and made silver Rimonim (scroll bells) for the Pentateuch for Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, about 1765 and for the congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia in 1772. He also made silver for all of the most prominent families in New York and became one of the city’s leading artisans.1Rosenbaum, 25–41. See also Barquist 2001; no tulip-shaped tankard by Myers was included in this exhibition.
When the British occupied New York in 1776, Myers moved his family to Norwalk, Connecticut, where he worked until at least 1780. He removed to Philadelphia sometime before 1782, when his name begins to appear in the records of the congregation Mikveh Israel. Myers remained in Philadelphia until the end of the Revolutionary War, returning to New York in 1783. He resumed his prominent position in synagogue and city affairs and was elected chairman of the Gold and Silver Smiths’ Society in 1786.2Ibid., 41–49.
Myers is famous for the sophistication of his elaborate objects in the rococo style and for the high quality of all his wares. Most of his tankards have the straight sides and flat tops typical of New York examples. This tulip-shaped tankard, however, is unusual for his work, and is a form more commonly associated with Philadelphia. It may have been inspired by objects that Myers saw during his sojourn in that city. The original engraved initials (C/RP in block letters on the bottom), and the later armorial engraving indicate that the tankard was owned by members of the Pelham family of New York. The style of the large engraved initials suggests that the tankard was made during the 1780s, probably after Myers returned to New York from Philadelphia.3Ibid., 131–34. For a related Philadelphia example, see Fales Joseph Richardson and Family, 118.
Jennifer F. Goldsborough and Barbara McLean Ward
Excerpted from Jonathan L. Fairbanks. Becoming a Nation: Americana from the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State. New York: Rizzoli, 2003.