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Beaker

Artist/Maker:
Blansett, Asa __Maker ||Blanchard, Asa __Maker
Place Made:
Dumfries Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
1786-1806
Medium:
silver
Dimensions:
HOA: 3-1/2″; DIA (at rim): 2-7/8″
Accession Number:
6003
Description:
DESCRIPTION: Silver beaker with tapered sides and an applied band at base.

INSCRIPTION: Engraved on side of body with “MATTHEW HARRISON / 1763-1807” in block letters (engraving post dates the creation of the cup).

MARK: Struck four times on underside of base with an intaglio “A•B” mark in a conforming reserve.

MAKER: Asa Blanchard (c.1770-1838) is early Kentucky’s most prolific and successful silversmith. His shop and product are significant to the state’s material culture during its formative period and reflect the east-to-west migration of craftsmen in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. Asa Blansett (Blanchard) was born circa 1770, probably in Dumfries, Virginia. His surname was variously spelled “Blanset(t),” “Blancet(t),” “Blanchet,” “Blanchit,” or “Blanchard,” often multiple ways within a single document. It is not known under whom he received his training as a silversmith, but he could have trained locally in Dumfries or in nearby Alexandria or Fredericksburg, Virginia. He worked in Dumfries from about 1789 until 1806, using touchmarks of “A•B,” “AB,” and “A•BLANSETT.” At some time before moving West to Kentucky he may have worked in New York and Philadelphia, a claim he made in his first advertisement in Lexington (28 December 1807, “Kentucky Gazette and General Advertiser). No documentation has been found to support Blanchard’s claim of working or even living in either of those cities. Upon his move to Lexington, Kentucky, in 1806, he began using marks with variations of “BLANCHARD” and “A•BLANCHARD.” Over the next thirty-two years, Asa Blanchard worked in Lexington. When he died in 1838, his estate was valued at $40,000. Dozens of pieces of silver hollowware and scores of spoons and ladles survive with Asa Blanchard’s mark, most from his career in Kentucky. See Catherine B. Hollan, “Virginia Silversmiths, Jewelers, Watch- and Clockmakers, 1607-1860: Their Lives and Marks” (McLean, VA: Hollan Press, 2010) and Gary Albert, “Pioneer Refinement: Kentucky’s Mitchum Family Silver Purchased from Asa Blanchard,” MESDA Journal, Vol. 35 (2014); online: http://www.mesdajournal.org/2014/pioneering-refinement-kentuckys-mitchum-family-silver-purchased-asa-blanchard/ (accessed 28 May 2017).

FORM: These beakers are gracefully shaped, making them much more difficult to manufacture and less common than straight-sided beakers. Like most such objects created a the time, the beakers were made from a rolled sheet of silver and seamed vertically up the side, in contrast to earlier examples that were raised (hammered up) from a disk. Small drinking cups were popular throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Earlier examples usually have handles while nineteenth-century examples often did not.

History:
Matthew Harrison (1763-1807) was an attorney who lived in Dumfries, Prince William Co., Virginia. He was born in Prince William County on 19 September 1763 to Burr Harrison (1734-1790) and his wife Mary Anne Barnes (1734-1803). The beaker descended in the Harrison family to Matthew’s great-grandson Charles Fauntleroy Harrison (1877-1947) and his wife Mary Arthur Fendall Harrison (1877-1961).
Credit Line:
Partial gift in memory of William Y. W. Ripley; James H. Willcox, Jr., Silver Purchase Fund.