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Ewan, John
Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
__HOA: 2-3/8″ __LOA: 4-3/16″ __WOA: 4″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Silver chamberstick with circular base and decorative three-ringed rim; a short, stepped pedestal; and a slightly bulbous socket flaring widely to form the drip pan with decorative ringed rim. A circular handle is attached to rim of base with an angular hole to hold conical candlesnuffer; linked chain attaches to top of snuffer and base of handle. Assay completed at Colonial Williamsburg in 2012 revealed consistent alloy among components (candle stick, drip pan, snuffer, and chain) reflecting that all are original to the chamberstick (Janine Skerry, curator of metals, CWF).

MARK: Struck on underside of base with intaglio “J.EWAN” mark in a rectangular reserve.

MAKER: From the amount of his silver still in existence, John Ewan (b.c.1786-1852) must have been one of the most prolific of the silversmiths working during the first half of the nineteenth century in Charleston, South Carolina. Although born in New York, there is a possibility that Ewan arrived in Charleston by way of the West Indies. This latter supposition is based on the fact that some silver with his mark has been found in Jamaica. The first knowledge that we have of Ewan’s presence in Charleston comes from an advertisement that appeared in 1823 stating the Ewan and Peter Mood Jr. (1796-1879) were in business together under the firm name of P. Mood & Co. Doubtlessly he was associated with Mood before they formed this partnership. Two years later Ewan was advertising under his own name at 203 King Street as a gold and silversmith, adding that he had jewelry for “Freemason’s Lodges and Knights Templars… .” In addition to being a silversmith, Ewan seems to have operated a rather extensive jewelry business, for he frequently stated in advertisments that he had just received a fine shipment of jewelry and watches. His shop was destroyed in a 1838 fire, but he seems to have saved much of his stock for he reopened at 38 Queen Street. See E. Milby Burton, “South Carolina Silversmiths 1690-1860” (Charleston, SC: Charleston Museum, 1967).

FORM: Few American-made silver candlesticks from the nineteenth century are known to have survived, and the chamberstick form is even more rare. The reasons for their limited numbers are two-fold: firstly, silver and brass candlesticks imported from England, France, and elsewhere were affordable alternatives available in almost every silversmith’s shop; and, secondly, candlesticks were portable, utilitarian household objects that were used daily and thus vulnerable to damage and theft.

Once owned by Milly McGehee in 1982 (when it was recorded by MESDA, MRF 11,420). Seller reported that the chamberstick was sold at a Skinner auction later in the 1980s or 1990s (could not be verified).

Credit Line:
James H. Willcox Jr. Silver Purchase Fund