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Pair of Casters

Place Made:
London Great Britain
Date Made:
1730-1740
Medium:
silver
Dimensions:
HOA: 6-1/4″
Accession Number:
5794.5-6
Description:
DESCRIPTION: Pair of silver casters with baluster bodies, removable pierced lids with urn finials, and sitting on round molded base. The casters are unmarked but their style and construction suggest a London silversmith working in the 1730s.

INSCRIPTION: Engraved with the Eyre family crest on one side of the bodies and on the other side with the initials “E / L / B” with the “E” centered above for Littleton Eyre and his wife Bridget Harmanson Eyre (1706-1768) of Northampton Co., Virginia.

FORM: Silver casters became popular among the English with the growth of West Indian sugar plantations during the mid-seventeenth century. With sugar much more widely available and plentiful to Britain and the rest of Europe, highly sweetened foods and baked confectionaries became fashionable. By the end of the seventeenth century other seasoning such as cayenne and pepper were being used in England, and they too became commonly available, eventually finding their way to the dinner table during meals alongside sugar. As people were already familiar with the concept and shape of the sugar caster, it logically followed to create casters for these seasonings too. Three types of caster were manufactured: a large one for sugar, and two smaller ones, one for pepper and one for dry mustard. The sugar and pepper casters were fitted with domed, pierced decorated covers. The mustard caster however was fitted with an unpierced cover, as before the eighteenth century mustard powder was spooned from the caster and mixed with vinegar to create a mustard paste of the desired consistency. See Andrew Campbell, “History of the Sugar Caster”; online: http://www.acsilver.co.uk/shop/pc/sugar-caster-history-d106.htm (accessed 29 September 2017).

History:
Most likely first owned by Littleton Eyre (1715-1768) of Eyre Hall plantation in Northampton Co., Virginia. On 15 January 1733/34, Littleton Eyre married Bridget Harmanson (1706-1768) and these casters with their initials and the Eyre family crest may have been a wedding present. Descended through their son, Severn Eyre (1735-1773), then onto their grandson, William Littleton Eyre (1772-1808), and great-grandson William Littleton Eyre Jr. (1806-1852), who in 1828 married Mary Burton Savage (1804-1866) of Cherry Grove plantation in Northampton Co., Virginia.
Credit Line:
Gift of DeCourcy E. McIntosh