Collections › MESDA Collection › Salver


Petrie, Alexander
Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
DIA: 7-1/8″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Silver salver with moulded and scalloped border decorated with shells, standing on three short cabriole legs terminating in hoof feet

INSCRIPTION: Engraved on face with a dragon’s head crest (formerly misidentified as a wolf’s head).

MARK: Struck three times (which seems to be characteristic of Alexander Petrie’s shop) on the back with and intaglio mark: “AP” in a rectangle.

MAKER: Alexander Petrie (c.1707-1768) was first identified as a Charleston, South Carolina silversmith in the December 1742 will of Richard Woodard but he had probably been working in the city for at least a few years. Petrie first advertised as a goldsmith in a 1745 Charleston newspaper. He was married three years later to Elizabeth Holland, “an agreeable Lady, of great Merit.” Petrie made silver wares at his bench and also imported silver goods from London, advertising in 1761 that he had just received a “neat assortment of the most useful goldsmith’s, silversmith’s, and jeweler’s work.” Petrie retired in July 1765, keeping his silversmithing tools but selling the stock of his shop to fellow Charleston silversmith Jonathan Sarrazin (w. 1754-c. 1790). Petrie’s retirement was most likely due to the wealth he had accumulated through his craft and land speculation. He had begun to purchase property on East Bay in 1750 and in 1767 he purchased the entire property between Broad and Tradd Streets known as the “Orange Garden,” broke it up into twelve parcels and developed the area. After Petrie’s death in 1768, Jonathan Sarrazin purchased an enslaved man named Abraham for the large sum of £810, who was identified as a silversmith in Petrie’s estate sale. The fact that Petrie had kept his silversmith’s tools at the time of his retirement in 1765 may indicate that the tools were being used by Abraham, who could have been maintaining Petrie’s shop or was hired out to other silversmiths such as Sarrazin. A rare but not unique southern artisan, Abraham was among a small number of other enslaved silversmiths have been documented working in Charleston, Richmond, and Annapolis during the eighteenth century. See Brandy S. Culp, “Artisan, Entrepreneur, and Gentleman: Alexander Petrie and the Colonial Charleston Silver Trade” (MA Thesis, Bard Graduate Center, 2004) and E. Milby Burton, “South Carolina Silversmiths 1690-1860 (Charleston, SC: Charleston Museum, 1967).

FORM: Footed salvers are an early and less-common form of American silver. In the early eighteenth century this form replaced similar objects comprised of a flat circular plate and a central pedestal, called “tazzas,” as the latter tipped more easily than trays with feet. Salvers, also called “waiters,” were used like a tray to carry glasses, bottles, and other vessels containing food and drink, and were an important ornament of the dining room or parlor when not in use.

At the time of acquisition, recorded family history provided that the salver bears a wolf’s head crest for the Bailey family of Edisto Island and descended in the Peronneau-Finley branch of the family. Peronneau Finley Seabrook (1847-1902) and his wife, Hess Marion Bailey (1855-1910), of Edisto Island and Charleston, were both descendants of Charles Bailey (1792-1836) and his wife, Sarah Grimball Clark (1796-1847).

Upon closer inspection, the crest does not match the wolf’s head description, and a wolf’s head crest is not recorded for any Bailey family. In fact, the engraving appears to be a dragon’s head, which is a crest recorded for the Clark family of Northumberland, England. Therefore, the salver might have belonged to the family of Sarah Grimball Clark Bailey. Sarah’s father, James Clark (1768-1819) of Edisto Island, owned at the time of his death a large plantation with 202 slaves, a “Lot of Silver” valued at $135, and “Waiters & Decanter Stands” valued at $20.

Credit Line:
Gift of Frank L. Horton