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Gaither, John
Place Made:
Alexandria Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
HOA: 4-1/2″; DIA: 10-1/8″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Silver bowl with ribbed molding around rim and a straight-sided circular base. A wrigglework border circles the outside and inside of rim as well near the bottom of base’s face. Base also features a simple punch border near the top.

MARK: Struck twice on face of base with an intaglio “J.GAITHER” mark in a rectangular reserve.

MAKER: Although no apprenticeship records for John Gaither (1786-1819) survive, based on his age and where he was raised, it is most likely that he was trained in Georgetown, District of Columbia, under either Charles A. Burnett (1769-1849) or George W. Riggs (1777-1864). Upon reaching the age of 21, and probably completing his apprenticeship, in 1807 Gaither formed the Alexandria, Virginia partnership of Griffith & Gaither with Greenberry Griffith (1787-1848), who had trained under Riggs and was Gaither’s second cousin. Their firm was located at the corner of Prince and Fairfax streets, where Griffith continued to work independently after the partnership of Griffith & Gaither was dissolved in 1812 when Gaither moved to across the Potomac River to the District of Columbia. He worked in the capital city until 1817 when he advertised in January that he was “very desirous of closing his business”–probably due to ill health–and by August had secured debts of $4,440.44 with his shop on Pennsylvania Avenue. In December 1817 Gaither sold his stock in trade to silversmith Jacob Leonard (1787-1829), who would continue the business at Gaither’s store. Two years later Gaither had sold all of his assets, settled his debts, and in May 1819 returned to his mother’s home in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland, where he died a month later. See Catherine B. Hollan, “Virginia Silversmiths, Jewelers, Watch- and Clockmakers, 1607-1860: Their Lives and Marks” (McLean, VA: Hollan Press, 2010).

FORM: Silver bowls were used for all manner of activities, from the consumption of food and drink to being the centerpiece of a formal dining table.

HISTORY: This bowl descended in the Marsteller family of Alexandria, Virginia, most likely from Philip G. Marsteller (1770-1842) to his son Samuel Arell Marsteller, to Samuel’s daughter Llera Marsteller Milburn, and then to her daughters Llera Milburn and Celeste Milburn Monroe. The bowl was probably made between 1809 and 1812 when silversmith John Gaither was working in Alexandria.