INSCRIPTION: Engraved on side of body (opposite the handle), “Premium / Ky. State Agr. So’ty. / 1859” in script lettering.
MARK: Struck on underside of body with incuse marks: “P.L. KRIDER / PHILADA / STANDARD” and “JOHN B. AKIN / DANVILLE / KY.”
MAKER: John Brent Akin (1824-1871) was a retailer of silver, jewelry, and watches in Danville, Kentucky from 1856 until about 1861. He was born in Danville and after his Army service during the Mexican War he returned to Danville, practiced law, and served as the County Clerk for Boyle County (from Akin’s obituary in The Kentucky Advocate, 16 June 1871). In 1849 he married Ann Shelby Nichols (1828-1852) in Garrard County (“Kentucky, County Marriage Records, 1783-1965,” Garrard County, 1797-1861, 25 April 1849, p. 48 [image 40 of 608], available with subscription online: Ancestry.com). For at least two years he fulfilled the role secretary for the Central Kentucky Stock, Agricultural, and Mechanical Association (The Kentucky Tribune, 22 July 1853). Beginning in 1852 he engaged in a variety of activities as a merchant, offering goods from carriages to saddles, tobacco to sugar, and glassware to china (see The Kentucky Tribune, 13 June 1854, for examples of goods offered). After his wife Ann died in April 1853, Akin married Eliza E. Snail (1834-1909), late of Clay County, Missouri (“Kentucky, County Marriage Records, 1783-1965,” Boone [Boyle] County, 1852-1907, 6 December 1853, p. 2 [image 35 of 46], available with subscription online: Ancestry.com).
In June 1856 Akin first advertised a new business at the corner of Main and Second streets (nearly opposite the Branch Bank of Kentucky), offering watches, jewelry, and silver and plated wares (The Kentucky Tribune, 13 June 1856). In his advertisements he makes note that silversmith George Nichols (b.1822-1875), “well known to be an experienced workman,” would supervise the repair department in the shop. Akin’s store was frequently advertised over the following five years. Much of the surviving silver bearing Akin’s mark was manufactured by Peter L. Krider (w.c.1845-1895) or the partnership of Krider & Biddle (1858-c.1870) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Akin’s last known advertisement of his jewelery store was placed in February 1861, when he announced intent to reduce his stock (The Weekly Kentucky Tribune, 1 February 1861). In April 1864 he was still living in Danville but no mention was made of his jewelry store or any other type of business (The Weekly Kentucky Tribune, 8 April 1864). A year later it was reported that he had taken over management of the Capitol Hotel in Frankfort (The Frankfort Commonwealth, 14 April 1865). The 1870 United States Census recorded Akin as an attorney living in Danville. He died the following year.
Peter L. Krider (1821-1895) was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and began his apprenticeship in 1835 under silversmith John Curry (b.c.1798-1868). He finished his apprenticeship with the Philadephia firm of Robert & William Wilson (in partnership 1825-1846). About 1842 Krider moved to Boston where he worked as a journeyman with Obadiah Rich (1809-1888) and returned to Philadelphia in 1846 to serve as the R & W Wilson shop foreman. Krider first appears under his own name as Krider & Co. in the 1851 Philadelphia city directory. His firm would become one of the city’s most important in the second half of the nineteenth century. Krider specialized in beakers, and partnered with retailers throughout the United States, but also made holloware for prominent local and regional retailers. From 1859 to 1870 he partnered with John W. Biddle (1835-1916) under the business name Krider & Biddle. See Catherine B. Hollan, “Philadelphia Silversmiths and Related Artisans to 1861” (McLean, VA: Hollan Press, 2013).
FORM: Agricultural fair prizes, or premiums, were often engraved silver pitchers, goblets, cups, and beakers rather than cash money. The silver premiums, it was hoped, would become treasured family mementos and foster continued innovation in farming communities because agricultural experimentation and adaptation were paramount to the success of American farmers of the nineteenth century. During that period, as lands in the American Deep South, Midwest and Far West were settled, the unique soils and unfamiliar climates of those new regions required experimentation with crops, farming practices, and tools in order to establish a thriving agricultural economy. Agricultural and mechanical societies fostered and encouraged such innovations. By the 1850s, considered the golden age of the movement, there were nearly 1,000 agricultural and mechanical societies in America. The Civil War severely curtailed their growth, especially in the South, and by the late nineteenth century nearly all privately operated agricultural and mechanical societies had ceased to function. By the final decades of the nineteenth century the encouragement of agricultural innovation largely became a role for governmental agencies, many of which began to sponsor state and county fairs similar to those still operated today. See Gary Albert, “Of Troughs and Trophies: A Collection of Silver Agricultural Premiums,” The Magazine ANTIQUES, May/June 2017, 110-117.
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.