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An american silver coffee pot, paul revere, jr., boston circa 1770-75

About the object

Baluster form on fluted and gadrooned foot, high-set swan-neck spout cast with acanthus, stepped domed cover with spiral-fluted bud finial, finely engraved on one side with contemporary arms in a rococo cartouche, marked  Revere on base near center, scratch weight 32  3  18.\nThe arms are those of Dudley.\nThe best-known Dudleys in colonial Boston were the descendants of Governor Thomas Dudley, including his son Governor Joseph Dudley.  However, the arms borne by Thomas and his family were Or, a lion rampant azure, with the crest of a lion's head erased and motto Nec gladio, nec arcu, as on a teapot by Jospiah Austin at Winterthur (Quimby 1995 no. 2, pp. 52-3, as John Allen).  The arms of Dudley as on this pot appear in the heraldry of England for several branches of the family, one of whom presumably was Revere's patron.\nThe motto on this pot, Frangas non flectas, is shared by many families other than the Dudleys, including a rather obscure Welsh branch of the Jones family, whose arms differ greatly from those engraved on this piece.  This may have given rise to a highly romantic story regarding this pot, already in place less than a century after its making.  A letter from John Marshall Phillips to Walter Jeffords (November 14, 1946) cites two clippings discussing this coffee pot from the Providence Evening Press, Feb. 17 and Mar. 20, 1868:\nWe were yesterday shown a rare specimen of antiquity.  It was a quaint shaped old Coffee Pot, of solid silver, and very heavy, beautifully emblazoned on one side with the coat of arms of the Earl of Selkirk [sic.], with the Lions rampant, and the expressive old family motto: 'Frangas non Flectes.' \n"It was presented by [John Paul] Jones to his friend, Commodore Hopkins, who bequeathed it to his brother, John Hopkins; to his widow; then her niece Miss Mehitabel Greene, who married William Simons; and in 1868 was owned by the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Simons."\nAs the arms are not those which Jones adopted; as described in Bolton’s American Armory, John Paul Jones’ arms (as impressed by a seal on a letter from the Commander) are quite different, with the motto “Pro Republica.”  Thus, at least part of this story can be dismissed.  No connection of the Hopkins family, of Providence, RI, with the Dudleys of Boston has been found.\nStill, in 1949 John Marshall Phillips printed the John Paul Jones story:\nRevere fashioned [this pot] for Commodore John Paul Jones under the following romantic circumstances.  In 1778 when Scottish-born Jones raided the coast of Scotland his men carried off the ancient family plate of the Earl of Selkirk, which was sold in France in May 1778 for prize money.  Jones purchased the plate and returned it to the Countess of Selkirk with a latter in which he declared: `Though I have drawn my sword in the present generous struggle for the rights of men, yet I am not in arms merely as an American, nor am I in pursuit of riches… I profess myself a citizen of the world, totally unfettered by the little mean distinctions of climate, or country, which diminish the benevolence of the heart and set bounds to philanthropy.’ The Earl’s gratitude to Jones was memorialized in this coffee pot bearing on its side the arms and motto of the `Father of the American Navy’ (Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords)\n[Phillips 1949, pp. 103-04]\nJones did indeed land on St. Mary’s Isle, when his crew carried off some of the Selkirk plate.  Jones opened a correspondence with the Countess, and in 1784 was finally able to redeem the silver and return it.  However, the idea of the Earl ordering a coffee pot in “gratitude” from a Colonial craftman in a rebel-held town is beyond credit.  By 1784, this form would have been quite out of date.   When the coffee pot was sold at Parke-Bernet in 1946, the arms were merely listed as unidentified, but Phillips, based on his newspaper clippings, told Jeffords the story and persuaded him to buy the piece.\nSilver coffee pots were rare and expensive items in Colonial America, particularly when enriched with armorial engraving.  Even for Revere, who drew his patrons from Boston’s wealthiest class, Patricia Kane records only two other armorial coffee pots from before the Revolution.  The total for the career of this prolific smith is only fifteen coffee pots.  Six have armorial engraving, and four of these are in museums: three in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with the Warren, Sargent, and Flynt arms, and one in the Williamstown Art Museum with the Orne arms.  Revere’s account book records the cost of the Sargent pot in 1781: £12:0:0 for making the 39-ounce pot, and another £1:4:0 for engraving the elaborate arms in their elaborate cartouche of reeds and foliate sprays (Buhler, no. 367, pp. 418-19).\nThis pot shares the low-bellied form of Revere’s earlier pots, such as the Flynt pot of circa 1760 and an unengraved pot of the same period, both in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Buhler 1972 nos. 339 and 341).  This form is derived from English examples, such as that by William Shaw and William Priest, 1751, imported for Benjamin Faneuil (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, illustrated in Paul Revere’s Boston:1735-1818, no. 58, p. 54).  Revere's unengraved pot in the Boston museum displays the same widely-arching and ruffled-base cast spout as the offered example, and it shares the unusual placement of this spout quite high on the body of the piece.  By the time he created the coffee pot for Louis Orne in 1773, Revere had introduced a double-bellied form which gave a taller, more neoclassical silhouette.  Most of Revere’s pots have one of two models of fluted shell spout, more vertical in their curves and placed lower on the body.\nThis coffee pot is contemporary with Revere’s activity as a printmaker for Colonial rights.  After British troops arrived in Boston in 1768, tensions escalated.  In 1768 Revere made his famous Liberty bowl, and in 1770 he issued his well-known engravings of the Boston Massacre and the 1768 landing of the British troops.  The Boston tea party of December, 1773, occasioned Revere’s June, 1774 engraving of “American swallowing the Bitter Draught.”  Leslie Greene Bowman, in American Rococo, 1750-1775: Elegance in Ornament (p. 83), has noted that between 1769 and 1773 Revere’s books record only two teapots.  Before this period, he normally records one or two a year.  Coffee, though, was presumably free from the political overtones occasioned by the Townshend duties and the Tea Act.\nRevere made his famous ride on April 18-19, 1775, then lived in Watertown during the British siege of Boston.  In a letter to his cousin, Revere explained that he stopped working as a silversmith in 1775, as “From that time till May 1780 I have been in the Government service as Lieut. Col. Of an Artillery regiment” (Kane, p. 796).  After the British evacuation on March 17, 1776, Revere served as the commander of Castle William in Boston Harbor.\nThe Revere of this period is the craftsman pictured in John Singleton Copley’s 1768 portrait (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).  In February, 1770 the silversmith and his family moved to a house on Clark’s Square.  His wife Sarah Orne died May 3, 1773, and on September 23 of that same year he married Rachel Walker.\nNor was Revere's silversmithing business lax, despite the political climate.  In 1772, the order of six tankards to be donated by Mary Bartlett to the Third Church in Brookfield (now at Winterthur Museum) came through the jeweler Jonathan Trott.  The wedding service ordered in 1773 by Dr. William Paine for his bride Lois Orne was Revere’s largest single commission, counting 45 pieces.  The same year saw important ecclesiastic commissions: a baptismal basin donated by Joseph Lemmon to the church in Marblehead, and a flagon given by Zachariah Johonnot to the Hollis Street Church.  With the rising hostilities and the British evacuation, though, many of his Tory clients like Dr. Paine would leave Massachusetts, and Revere’s military duties would hamper his workshop production.  This coffee pot, with its elegant rococo form and elaborately engraved arms, belongs to the final flowering of aristocratic culture in pre-Revolutionary Boston.


Height 11 in.


Boston 1956, no. 120, p. 67


Phillips 1949, plate 24a Kane 1998, p. 813


Dudley family ?Mr. and Mrs. John Hopkins, to her niece Mehetibel Greene (Mrs. William Simons), to her daughters The Misses Simons, Providence, RI (1868) Mr. Arons of Ansonia (probably Harry Arons; 1937) James Graham & Sons, inc., New York W.T.H. Howe Lena D. Howe / Heirs of the late Hattie E. Cheney Sold Parke-Bernet Galleries, November 9, 1946, lot 58, for $7,000

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.