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Brown, John
Place Made:
Baltimore Maryland United States of America
Date Made:
HOA: 2-7/8″; WOA: 3-3/4″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Silver handled cup with ring molding at top and bottom.

INSCRIPTION: Engraved with script initials “NP” on side of body, for Ninian Pinkney (1811-1877), above the arms of the Pinkney family and later engraving beneath the coat of arms that reads: “Helena L.M. Pinkney.”(b.1894).

MARK: Struck twice on bottom of base with an intaglio “JB” mark in rectangle reserve.

MAKER: A young man named John Brown was apprenticed to Baltimore, Maryland silversmith George Aiken in February 1795. This could be John Eden Brown, who was listed as a silversmith in the directories of Baltimore from 1810 until 1816. During 1810, he was located at 62 Harrison Street. Four years later he is listed on Liberty Street in “Old Town” Baltimore and in 1816 his “dwelling” is recorded as 38 Green Street. No other information about John Eden Brown is known. See Jacob Hall Pleasants and Howard Sill, “Maryland Silversmiths, 1715-1830” (Baltimore, MD: Lord Baltimore Press, 1930).

FORM: Small drinking cups were popular throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Earlier examples usually have handles while nineteenth-century examples often did not. Like most silver hollowware created after the late eighteenth century, beakers were most often 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 disc.

This cup was almost certainly made for Ninian Pinkney Jr. (1811-1877) while he was a child and later engraved with the name of his adopted granddaughter, Helena L. Pinkney (b.1894). Ninian Pinkney Jr. was born in Annapolis, Maryland to Ninian Pinkney (1771-1824) and Mary “Polly” Gassaway (1774-1805). He graduated from Jefferson Medical College in 1833 and entered the United States Navy as an assistant surgeon. Dr. Pinkney was promoted to the rank of surgeon in 1841 and from 1863 to 1865 was fleet surgeon to the Mississippi Squadron. In 1871 he was named the navy’s medical director with the rank of commodore. A circa 1840 officer’s sword worn by Dr. Pinkney was loaned to the United States National Museum (now the Smithsonian Institution) in 1928 by his granddaughter Helena L. Pinkney. See Theodore T. Belote, “American and European Swords in the Historical Collections of the United States National Museum (Washington, DC: United States Government, 1932), plate 23 and page 93.
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frank R. Liggett III