Pair of Salt Spoons
INSCRIPTION: Engraved with script initials, possibly “HJL” on face of handle.
MARK: Struck on reverse of handle with and intaglio “W.H.CALHOUN TY.” in a rectangular reserve.
MAKER: William Henry Calhoun (1815-1865) was born in Pennsylvania and trained as a silversmith in Philadelphia. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1835 and became one of the city’s most prolific silversmiths. It may be noteworthy that Calhoun was not among the men who signed the membership agreement of the “Association of the Watch-Makers, Silversmiths & Jewellers of Nashville” in 1836. The association established price guidelines for the manufacture and repair of clocks, watches, silver, and jewelery (recorded in fellow silversmith John Campbell’s ledger book, now at MESDA as part of the Thomas A. Gray Rare Book and Manuscript Collection [call number TAG.096.1]). Perhaps his exclusion from the association reflected Calhoun’s recent arrival in Nashville; or perhaps he disagreed with their attempt to regulate his trade through price controls. Four years later he formed a partnership with Joshua Flowers (b.c.1816) and the firm of Calhoun & Flowers was still in operation until at least 1844. The Davidson Co., Tennessee census for 1850 recorded a $3,400 value for Calhoun’s household assets. The 1850s mst have been a prosperous decade for him because ten years later the 1860 county census recorded him as owning $84,300 in real property and $40,000 in personal property. Calhoun’s success in business and civic standing is also reflected in a bulding at Vanderbilt University, named William H. Calhoun Hall, erected through a large bequest from his daughter, Mary Ella Calhoun. See Benjamin H. Caldwell Jr., “Tennessee Silversmiths” (Winston-Salem, NC: Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, 1988).
FORM: American silversmiths began producing salt spoons during the middle of the eighteenth century. Only a few inches long, salt spoons had handles that were shaped similarly to teaspoons but their bowls were usually much rounder. Sometimes salt spoon bowls were shaped like a shell or shovel.