Collections › MESDA Collection › Beaker


Wilson, R & W (Robert & William Wilson)
Place Made:
Philadelphia Pennsylvania United States of America
Date Made:
HOA: 3-3/4″; DIA (rim): 3″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Silver agricultural fair premium in the form of a beaker with applied ring molding at rim and around base. The body of the beaker tapers slightly from the rim to base.

INSCRIPTION: Engraved on side of body: “Premium / Davidson Co. A & M Association / to / G W Hanner / for / Henry Grant /  best pacing gelding in harness / May 1856”. The pitcher was a premium awarded at the 1856 Davidson County Agricultural & Mechanical Association’s fair held in Nashville, Tennessee.

MARK: Struck with an incuse “R&W.WILSON.” and “PHILADA” marks on underside of base.

MAKER: Robert and William Wilson were manufacturers of silver items in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1825 into the 1850s. The firm was succeeded by William Wilson & Son.

FORM: Agricultural fair prizes, or premiums, were often engraved silver pitchers, goblets, cups, and beakers rather than cash money. The silver premiums, it was hoped, would become treasured family mementos and foster continued innovation in farming communities because agricultural experimentation and adaptation were paramount to the success of American farmers of the nineteenth century. During that period, as lands in the American Deep South, Midwest and Far West were settled, the unique soils and unfamiliar climates of those new regions required experimentation with crops, farming practices, and tools in order to establish a thriving agricultural economy. Agricultural and mechanical societies fostered and encouraged such innovations. By the 1850s, considered the golden age of the movement, there were nearly 1,000 agricultural and mechanical societies in America. The Civil War severely curtailed their growth, especially in the South, and by the late nineteenth century nearly all privately operated agricultural and mechanical societies had ceased to function. By the final decades of the nineteenth century the encouragement of agricultural innovation largely became a role for governmental agencies, many of which began to sponsor state and county fairs similar to those still operated today. See Gary Albert, “Of Troughs and Trophies: A Collection of Silver Agricultural Premiums,” The Magazine ANTIQUES, May/June 2017, 110-117.

The beaker was awarded to a G. W. Hanner at the 1856 Davidson County Agricultural & Mechanical Association’s fair held in Nashville, Tennessee. The beaker’s owner may have been the G.W. Hanner, age 25 years old and born in North Carolina, llisted in the 1850 Federal Census as living in the City Hotel, Nashville. In 1870 Hanner was recorded as a farmer living in Quitman, Wood Co., Texas.
Credit Line:
Loan courtesy of Hank and Mary Brockman