WILLIAMSBURG, VA.- The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
has added to its renowned American and British silver collection a rare tankard made ca. 1795 by Americas best-known colonial silversmith, Paul Revere (1734-1818) of Boston, Massachusetts. Originally used as communal drinking vessels, tankards are among the largest forms produced in Reveres shop. Approximately three dozen Revere tankards are known, and this one is typical of those from the 1790s, with tapering sides, midband, tall domed lid and pinecone form finials.
Colonial Williamsburg has long sought a significant example of Reveres work, said Ronald L. Hurst, the Foundations Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president for museums, preservation and historic resources. With its impressive size, fine detail, and excellent condition, this tankard fills a significant void in our American silver holdings.
A beloved American patriot, Revere is well known for his activities during the Revolutionary War. Widely recognized as an exceptional colonial silversmith, Revere also engraved prints and bookplates, ran an import business, established a bell and cannon foundry and started the first successful copper rolling mills in the new nation. Many of the objects made in his silver shop are well documented today due to the survival of his record books.
Colonial Williamsburgs Revere tankard stands nearly 10 inches tall and holds 48 ounces of liquid (usually wine, ale or cider), making it weighty to lift when full. Its apparent size is enhanced by a stepped domed lid and an elongated finial. The tankard has a lighter appearance thanks to its scrolled openwork thumbpiece. It lacks engraving, which leaves the identity of the original owner a mystery. Details such as the decorative features and the substantial weight (nearly 34 troy ounces) may one day provide ownership clues through careful study of Reveres shop records.
Paul Revere is the best-known and most celebrated American silversmith, said Janine E. Skerry, Colonial Williamsburgs senior curator of metals. A large, eye-catching object such as this tankard is a great way to connect with the public and draw both children and adults into the story of this amazing material and its role in our early history.
This Revere tankard was acquired entirely through the generosity of The Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections. It is now on view along with a ca. 1765 Revere silver porringer, another recent acquisition from the Joseph H. and June S. Hennage bequest announced earlier this year. Both objects are found in the exhibition Silver from Mine to Masterpiece in the Margaret Moore Hall Gallery at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, one of the newly expanded Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.