Pair of Beakers
INSCRIPTION: Engraved on the side of bodies with script initials “DSM” for Dudley Mitcham (Mitchum) (1754-1831) and his wife Susannah Allen Mitcham (Mitchum) (1760-1833) of Woodford Co., Kentucky.
MARK: Struck on underside of bases with “A•BLANCHARD” intaglio mark within a rectangle with 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: Asa Blanchard is early Kentucky’s most prolific and successful silversmith. His shop and product are significant to the state’s material culture during its formative period and reflect the east-to-west migration of craftsmen in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. Asa Blansett (Blanchard) was born circa 1770, probably in Dumfries, Virginia. His surname was variously spelled “Blanset(t),” “Blancet(t),” “Blanchet,” “Blanchit,” or “Blanchard,” often multiple ways within a single document. It is not known under whom he received his training as a silversmith, but he could have trained locally in Dumfries or in nearby Alexandria or Fredericksburg, Virginia. He worked in Dumfries from about 1789 until 1806, using touchmarks of “A•B,” “AB,” and “A•BLANSETT.” At some time before moving West to Kentucky he may have worked in New York and Philadelphia, a claim he made in his first advertisement in Lexington (28 December 1807, “Kentucky Gazette and General Advertiser). No documentation has been found to support Blanchard’s claim of working or even living in either of those cities. Upon his move to Lexington, Kentucky, in 1806, he began using marks with variations of “BLANCHARD” and “A•BLANCHARD.” Over the next thirty-two years, Asa Blanchard worked in Lexington. When he died in 1838, his estate was valued at $40,000. Dozens of pieces of silver hollowware and scores of spoons and ladles survive with Asa Blanchard’s mark, most from his career in Kentucky. See Catherine B. Hollan, “Virginia Silversmiths, Jewelers, Watch- and Clockmakers, 1607-1860: Their Lives and Marks” (McLean, VA: Hollan Press, 2010) and Gary Albert, “Pioneer Refinement: Kentucky’s Mitchum Family Silver Purchased from Asa Blanchard,” MESDA Journal, Vol. 35 (2014); online: http://www.mesdajournal.org/2014/pioneering-refinement-kentuckys-mitchum-family-silver-purchased-asa-blanchard/ (accessed 28 May 2017).
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.