The substantial, turned-ivory handle of this piece ends in a silver ferrule and disk, cut with a representation of the arms of the United States including the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM in deep intaglio carving, all in mirror image. The seal may have been used to verify official business transacted by our early consular representatives in England. It bears the mark of Peter and William Bateman, one of the best-known silvermaking firms of the period in England.1The seal is marked on the back “PBIWB” in block letters within a small rectangle with a leopard head, a lion rampant, and the date letter “N” for 1808–1809. Sincere thanks go to Milton Gustafson at the National Archives for researching the design of the seal.
Seven members of the Bateman family, starting with John, worked in silver and gold. John’s widow, Hester, the most famous of the Bateman family because of her success as a woman in a male-dominated field, first entered her mark as a “smallworker”— a jeweler and crafter of small silver items—in 1761, and continued to work as a spoon maker and silversmith until her retirement in 1790, when her sons, Peter and Jonathan, registered their mark.
When Jonathan died in 1791 his widow, Ann, worked with her brother-in-law, Peter, until 1800, when her son, William, entered the partnership. Ann retired in 1805. William and his uncle, Peter, worked together until Peter retired in 1815, and William carried on alone until he sold the business in 1840.
Jennifer F. Goldsborough
Excerpted from Jonathan L. Fairbanks. Becoming a Nation: Americana from the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State. New York: Rizzoli, 2003.