INSCRIPTION: Engraved with gothic initials “E.T.B. / to / J. H. B” in the cartouche on side of the body opposite the handle.
MARK: Struck on underside bottom of body with intaglio “S.KIRK & SON” (double struck) and “11 oz” marks rectangular reserves. Baltimore was the only American city to establish an assayer’s office to ensure the purity of silver sold by local smiths. Established in 1814 under the Silver Purity Act, the Baltimore assay office is the nearest any early American community came to creating a guild system similar to those found in Britain and Europe. The assay office marks from 1814 to 1830 follow provisions set forward by the act and include the state of Maryland’s shield of arms, a date letter, and a mark for the city’s assayer. There were three men whom served as official assayers: Thomas Warner, from 1814 to 1823; LeRoy Atkinson from 1824-1829; and Samuel Steele from 1830 to 1843. The Silver Purity Act of 1814 was amended in 1830, removing the compulsory assaying of silver produced by Baltimore’s silversmiths but required silver not assayed by the office to bear a numerical quality mark that indicated the amount of silver contained per troy pound of twelve ounces (i.e., “11/12” or “11OZ” for 11 ounces of pure silver to 1 ounce alloy metal, or 91.66% silver; another common quality mark is “10.15” for 10 ounces 15 pennyweight silver to 1 ounce and 5 pennyweight of alloy metal, or 89.6% silver). See Jennifer Faulds Goldsborough, “Silver in Maryland” (Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1983), 26-37.
MAKER: In 1846 Henry Child Kirk (1827-1914) joined his father Samuel Kirk (1793-1872) to form the partnership Samuel Kirk & Son. Fifteen years later, in 1861, two other sons (Charles Douglas Kirk [1840-1880] and Edwin Clarence Kirk [1842-1876]) joined to form Samuel Kirk & Sons. The firm reverted to the singular Samuel Kirk & Son after 1868. Silver produced by Kirk is best known for its extensive use of repousse, which had fallen out of fashion in America with the arrival of neoclassical style in the 1790s. Kirk’s revival of repousse was so innovative, both stylistically and technically, that it set the style for fine silver all over the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. The firm Samuel Kirk & Sons remained in operation through the mid twentieth century, eventually being purchased by the Stieff Company in 1979 and branded as Kirk-Steiff. Ten years later Kirk-Stieff was purchased by the Lenox division of the Brown-Forman Corporation, which also acquired the noteworthy silver brands Gorham, Whiting, and Durgin. In 2007 Lenox sold its silver holdings to Lifetime Brands, Inc., which produces silver flatware under brand names including Kirk Stieff. See Jacob Hall Pleasants and Howard Sill, “Maryland Silversmiths, 1715-1830” (Baltimore, MD: Lord Baltimore Press, 1930), Jennifer Faulds Goldsborough, “Silver in Maryland” (Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1983) and Scott Perkins, “The Stieff Company,” online: http://www.thestieffcompany.com/The_Stieff_Company/Historic_Overview.html (accessed 5 July 2017).
FORM: Silver pitchers in Colonial America were most often small cream pitchers in the rococo fashion that were used as part of the tea ceremony to serve milk. Large wide-mouthed pitchers in the neoclassical and empire styles became popular after the American Revolution. Such pitchers were used to serve water or wine and provided silversmiths with abundant flat surface area for engraving everything from simple monograms to armorials to lengthy presentations. The term “pitcher” is most commonly used in the United States and can be applied to any container with a spout for pouring liquids. In other English-speaking countries, the term “jug” is use more prevalently. A “ewer” is a vase-shaped, handled pitcher, often decorated, with a base and flaring spout.