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Maker(s):Boulton, Matthew (attributed)
Culture:English (1728-1809)
Date Made:ca. 1790
Type:Food Service
Materials:base metal: fused plate (silver, copper); jasperware; horn
Place Made:United Kingdom; England; Birmingham
Measurements:overall: 18 3/4 x 9 x 7 1/2 in.; 47.625 x 22.86 x 19.05 cm
Accession Number:  HD 79.003
Credit Line:Gift of Oliver F. Ramsey
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Neo-classical or Adam-style fused or Sheffield silver-plated urn, often called a tea or hot water urn, with a removable oval lid with pointed modified pineapple finial, which is attributed to Matthew Boulton (1728-1809), but is unmarked (Boulton's registered mark is a sunburst). In 1762, 24-year-old Matthew Boulton set up a factory in Birmingham, England, and began making silver-plated objects with the Sheffield process, becoming the first really large producer of Sheffield plate. Fused plate, also known as Sheffield plate, combined a layer of copper between two layers of silver providing the look of silver at an affordable price, although when heavily polished the reddish copper appeared. When silversmiths raised legal objections to stamping hallmarks on the stuff, Boulton led a movement to require separate standards for Sheffield silver. During the early years of the fused plate industry from 1750-1770, makers used devices of their own as marks, some of which looked deceptively like silver marks, especially when marked three or four times in a row and then partially obliterated. The Act of 1773 established an assay office for silver in Sheffield, and provided that no article in which silver was used, if it were not solid silver, could bear a device resembling a mark on silver. In 1784, a further act decreed that the platers could register a device, but it was not to suggest a silver mark; however platers were not compelled to use marks and did not always comply. These large urns, which supplanted the teakettle and spirit lamp in teamaking the last quarter of the 18th century, were used to refill the teapot with hot water without calling a servant in. They were made in Sheffield plate from the 1760s, about the same time that they appeared in silver. The oval, blue jasper medallion insert over the horn-handled spigot depicts "Antonia with the Urn", and may be a later replacement; the style of the figure and the shade of blue indicate a probable 19th century date. Such medallions occasionally appear on Sheffield plate, and in this case, may have been the result of Boulton's business and social contacts with Josiah Wedgwood, to whom he supplied mounts in silver and plate for Wedgwood wares. The urn has chased and engraved decoration on the top, base, and fluted body in classical motives such a repeating borders, patera, ovals with festoons and bows; two closely arching handles with foliate terminals; and a round pedestal base with fluted edges on four ball feet. The interior is tinned, and the inside lid is double plated.

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