Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mason Family Beakers

By Lydia Blakemore

The silver beakers on the card table in the Palladian room likely never touched the lips of George Mason IV. The beakers have slightly tapered bodies made from rolled silver and applied molded bands at the top and bottom. Each of the four beakers bears a bright-cut engraved “M” on the face. However, the four pieces were not all made at the same time or even by the same silversmith. Two of the beakers (1982.78 and 2007.8) bear the mark “C.A. Burnett” on the bottom and a third (1982.14) is marked “C.A.B.” Both of these marks were used by Alexandria silversmith Charles Alexander Burnett throughout his career. Burnett worked in Alexandria from 1793-1796, and then Georgetown from 1796-1840. Burnett probably produced these beakers in his Georgetown shop in the early 19th century.

The first beaker (1982.78) was included in the exhibit “In the Neatest, Most Fashionable Manner: Three Centuries of Alexandria Silver” held at the Lyceum in 1994. This cup was presented to Anna Maria Mason, John Mason’s wife, as a prize for the best weaving from the Columbian Horticultural Society of Washington in 1811. She won again in 1812, when she may have received a second beaker. The two “C.A. Burnett” beakers have the same engraved “M” on their face. The second beaker (2007.8) was recently acquired by Gunston Hall from descendents of John Mason.

The fourth cup bears the mark “B.Barton.” This mark was used by Benjamin Barton, Sr. and his son Benjamin Barton, Jr. The senior Barton worked mostly as a clock and watch maker in Alexandria from 1801-1816. Barton, Jr. trained as a clock maker in his father’s shop and then kept a watch-making business in John Adams’ shop from 1823-1834. In 1834, he moved to his own shop, where he produced silver goods alongside clocks and watches until his retirement in 1878. It is more likely that Benjamin Barton, Jr. produced this beaker, as there are very few known pieces of silver created by his father. A very similar beaker, with the same “M” engraving, was included in the Lyceum exhibit, attributed to B. Barton, Jr.

Catherine B. Hollan. In the Neatest, Most Fashionable Manner: Three Centuries of Alexandria Silver (Alexandria: The Lyceum Company, 1994).
Catherine B. Hollan, Virgina Silversmiths, Jewelers, Watch- and Clockmakers, 1607-1860 (Hollan Press, 2010).

No comments:

Post a Comment