INSCRIPTION: Engraved on front with the initial “M” within a bright-cut shield cartouche featuring swags, stars, and sprigs.
MARK: Struck twice on bottom of base with intaglio “W•BALL” mark in a conforming rectangle reserve.
MAKER: William Ball was born in England in 1763 and was working in Baltimore, Maryland at least by 1789, when the Maryland Orphans’ Court Proceedings recorded the indenture of an apprentice to the silversmith (Vol 2, 1787-1792, p. 119, 13 August 1789). The Maryland Journal (25 September 1790) announced the dissolution of a partnership of between Ball and Israel H. Johnson (working 1786-1790). In 1812 Ball appears in another partnership as Ball & Heald; Heald is probably John S. Heald. Documented apprentices to Ball include Cantwell Douglas [b.1774], David Pluright [b.ca.1780], Thomas Murphy [b.ca. 1781] and Alfred White [b.ca. 1783]. Like his contemporary George Aiken (1765-1832), Ball suffered financial reverses during the 1810s and in 1814 took advantage of the insolvency laws; for a time he ran a packet line between Baltimore and Alexandria. Ball was a member of a local Abolitionist organization, and there is some evidence that he may have aided in the escape of a runaway slave via his packet line. Ball worked at his trade up until his death in June of 1815. See Jacob Hall Pleasants and Howard Sill, “Maryland Silversmiths, 1715-1830” (Baltimore, MD: Lord Baltimore Press, 1930) and Jennifer Faulds Goldsborough, “Silver in Maryland” (Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1983).
FORM: Although silver goblets had been made in America since the seventeenth century, the form is uncommon. Most were intended for use in churches (communion chalices); however, in the nineteenth century many were made for domestic purposes. Domestic goblets were often ornamented with either the owner’s initials, surnames, or more lengthy inscriptions. Both communion chalices and domestic goblets were sometimes elaborately decorated with cast, die-stamped, engraved, or repousse ornament. Most goblets are lined, as is this one, with a gold wash; though the wash is often worn away.