Collections › MESDA Collection › Mug, Cann

Mug, Cann

Pearce, Walter
Place Made:
Norfolk Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
HOA: 4-1/2″; WOA: 4-1/2″; DIA: 3-1/4″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Silver cann featuring a double-scrolled handle with acanthus leaf and a stepped circular base. An incised line circles the rim.

INSCRIPTION: Engraved “Ella W. Tazewell” in script on side of the body for Ella Waller Tazewell (1826-1885) of Norfolk, Virginia.

MARK: Struck on underside of body with an intaglio “W. PEARCE / VA / NORFOLK” mark in a pointed oval reserve and an intaglio, open-winged eagle within a conforming reserve struck above, possibly the manufacturer mark for John McMullin (1765-1843) of Philadelphia. Eagle marks are found on silver made in cities throughout America during the Federal period and may have been used by large manufacturers selling their wares to be retailed by other silversmiths and jewelers. Alternatively, eagle marks could simply have served as an informal national mark, similar to the lion’s head, thistle, and harp used, respectively, by British, Scottish, and Irish guild halls. See Catherine B. Hollan, “Eagle Marks on American Silver” (McLean, VA: Hollan Press, 2015), 11-12, 69.

MAKER: Walter Pearce was born in 1805 to Benjamin Pearce (b.1780) and Esther Hazard (1772-1809) of Newport Co., Rhode Island. He was living in Norfolk, Virginia by 1831 when he married Sarah Ann Slack Clarico , the widow of Norfolk silversmith Joseph Clarico (d.1828). The following year Pearce placed a newspaper notice for his own shop on Main Street, advertising jewelry and watches. Pearce and his family moved to Mobile, Alabama by 1844 when he was listed in the city directory as a silversmith with a shop on Water Street. In 1859 he was doing business as Walter Pearce & Co., a firm that remained active in Mobile through the 1867. See Catherine B. Hollan, “Virginia Silversmiths, Jewelers, Watch- and Clockmakers, 1607-1860: Their Lives and Marks” (McLean, VA: Hollan Press, 2010).

FORM: A “cann” is an eighteenth-century term for a handled drinking vessel that is larger than a cup and features a tulip-shaped body and circular foot. The form is similar in size to a mug, but mugs have straight-sided bodies rather than the tulip shape of a cann. Tankards are differentiated from canns as tankards have lids. The term “cann” lost popularity toward the end of the eighteenth century as handled drinking vessels larger than a cup became called “mugs” regardless of the shape of their bodies.

This cann is one of a pair both engraved for Ella Waller Tazewell (1826-1885), the youngest child of Littleton Waller Tazewell (1774-1860) and his wife Ann Stratton Nivison (1785-1859). The other cann is in the Colonial Williamsburg collection (Acc. 2010-14.1). Ella Tazewell apparently did not marry. Her father was born in Williamsburg, Virginia, attended the College of William and Mary, and studied law in Richmond. He was admitted to the bar in 1796 and represented James City Co. in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1798 to 1800. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1800 until 1801. The following year he moved his law practice to Norfolk and represented that city in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1804 to 1806 and in 1816. He served in the United States Senate from 1824 until 1832, and was governor of Virginia from 1834 to 1836. Tazewell returned to Norfolk where he spent the remainder of his life running his plantations in Northampton County. Littleton Waller Tazewell died 6 May 1860 in Norfolk.
Credit Line:
James H. Willcox Jr. Silver Purchase Fund