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Gaskins, James
Place Made:
Portsmouth Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
HOA: 15-1/8″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Silver ladle with hemisherical bowl and single rounded drop on underside. Tapered handle terminates in a pointed end.

INSCRIPTION: Engraved with script inititals “BGC” on face of the handle.

MARK: Struck on reverse of handle with an intaglio “JG” mark in a rectangle reverse.

MAKER: James Gaskins (1761-1827) was the son of Henry Gaskins (d.1765) and Ann Banister Gaskins (d.1776). Nine-year-old James was apprenticed in 1770 to Norfolk, Virginia silversmith James Murphree (w.1752-1782). Gaskins served against the British during the American Revolution and in 1779 married Nancy “Ann” Morris. By 1780 he was a silversmith in his own right, working in Portsmouth, Virginia, when he took on as an apprentice Jacob Mills, orphan son of Littleton Mills. Over the years, Gaskins interacted with a large number of Tidewater Virginia silversmiths, and some of the younger ones may have apprenticed in his shop. He also invested quite heavily in real estate during his lifetime and purchased slaves, including a woman named Betsy and her four children in 1816. His wife died between 1797 and 1801 and he remarried in 1801 to Mary Hurt (1763-1851). Gaskins continued working in Portsmouth until 1804 when he advertised his shop’s relocation to 21 Main Street, Norfolk. Apparently he was only in business in Norfolk for a short period, being referred to as a resident of Portsmouth from 1808 onward. His death in 1827 at age 66 was recorded as far away as Charleston, South Carolina. See Catherine B. Hollan, “Virginia Silversmiths, Jewelers, Watch- and Clockmakers, 1607-1860: Their Lives and Marks” (McLean, VA: Hollan Press, 2010).

FORM: Large silver ladles were popular for serving punch or soup. Most had plain hemispherical bowls, others were round, and a few had scalloped or shaped bowls. Smaller ladles of silver were most often designated for serving sauces and gravy.

The ladle descended through the family of Pulaski Cowper (1832-1901), who was born in Murfreesboro, North Carolina (about sixty miles southwest of Norfolk, Virginia) and whose mother, Anice Collins Cowper (1807-1885) was born and raised in Portmsouth, Virginia, where silversmith James Gaskins lived and worked.
Credit Line:
Purchase Fund