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Vogler, John __Attributed to
Place Made:
Salem North Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
LOA: 2-3/4″; WOA: 1-3/4″; HOA: 1″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Silver snuff box with a lid hinged near one end. A border of bright-cut engraved swags and bellflowers surrounds the lid with similar bright-cut engraved, egg-shaped border around the inscription. The box has a gold wash interior.

INSCRIPTION: Engraved with the number “50” within a circle above the words “E Pfohl / Decr 2 / 1825” on face of the lid. Elisabeth Fockel Pfohl (1775-1850) was the wife of Christian Thomas Pfohl (1759-1838) and this box was presented on her fiftieth birthday.

MAKER: One of the most prominent artisans in the North Carolina Moravian community in the nineteenth century was John Vogler (1783-1881). Born in Friedland, North Carolina, a Moravian settlement near the central congregation town of Salem, he was trained as a gunsmith in Salem by his uncle, Christoph Vogler (1765-1827), and learned the craft of silversmithing from his uncle as well as from Moravian silversmiths in Pennsylvania. A versatile craftsman, Vogler also repaired watches and clocks, made jewelry, a variety of tools, and a physiognotrace (Acc. M-6) for tracing profiles or silhouettes. His inventiveness and skill made John Vogler a successful businessman as well as one of Salem’s most well-known and respected artisans. Late in life he wrote of himself: “Industry was never a burden to me, and my hands could generally perform what the mind dictated.”

In 1809 Vogler moved into the Single Brothers’ House where he operated a watchmaking and silversmithing shop. Even as a young man he was an astute businessman, importing watches and clocks for resale. He sought permission to marry on seven different occasions between 1814 and 1818 but each time was denied through the Moravian practice of putting marriage proposals to the Lot (one of the women being proposed declined herself). During this time Vogler continued to live and work in Salem’s Single Brothers’ House. The Moravians abandoned the use of the Lot for deciding marriages between lay church members in 1818 and Vogler made a second request to marry Christina Spach, his first choice from four years earlier, and this time his proposal was approved and Christina accepted. The couple was married on 7 March 1819. Vogler designed and made her wedding ring (Acc. 366.1) consisting of three delicate circles of gold with two clasped hands that parted to reveal a double heart engraved with the words “With God and Thee My Joy shall be.” The couple had three children: Lisetta (1820-1903), Louise (1822-1854), and Elias Alexander (1825-1876).

An artist as well as a craftsman, Vogler was responsible for several exterior details on his house including the brass doorknob shaped like a fist holding a rod that graces the front door. He also designed the pedimented hood over the front door with its decorative glass fan and the painted clock face that advertised his trade. In his silversmith shop in a front room of his house, Vogler’s business grew far beyond what he had achieved in the Single Brothers’ House. Part of his success lay in his versatility. He worked with different metals, making and selling a wide array of objects. See John Bivins and Paula Welshimer, “Moravian Decorative Arts in North Carolina: An Introduction to the Old Salem Collection” (Winston-Salem, NC: Old Salem, 1981), George Barton Cutten and Mary Reynolds Peacock, “Silversmiths of North Carolina, 1696-1860”, 2nd rev. ed. (Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History, 1984), and Penelope Niven and Cornelia Wright, “Old Salem: The Official Guidebook,” 3rd rev. ed. (Winston-Salem, NC: Old Salem, 2011).

FORM: Inhaling snuff, or powdered tobacco, was introduced to Europe in the 1500s and by the second half of the seventheenth century, ornate boxes were being produced to keep the precious powder dry. In the eighteenth century snuff boxes were often made of silver and more elaborate examples were gold set with gemstones. The shapes of these snuffboxes was most commonly rectangular but oval and even shell-shaped boxes were produced.

This box was given to Elisabeth Fockel Pfohl (1775-1850), wife of Christian Thomas Pfohl (1759-1838), on the occassion of her fiftieth birthday.
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles I. Bedford