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Sugar Basket

Holland, Littleton
Place Made:
Baltimore Maryland United States of America
Date Made:
HOA: 7-13/16″; WOA: 4-5/16″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Silver urn-shaped sugar basket in the neoclassical style with a swinging loop handle. Beaded border on top of basket rim and at top of the oval, moulded base where it joins the body. Bright-cut engraved border of strawberries and vines at top of body with a shield-shaped cartouche at both sides. A nearly identical basket by the same maker, but without engraved initials in the cartouche and the addition of reeded moulding at the base, is in the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art (Acc. 1933.54.69).

INSCRIPTION: Engraved in cartouches on the sides of the body with cypher initials, possibly “RID”.

MARK: Struck on bottom of base with an intaglio script “LHolland” within a conforming reserve and splayed eagle mark. Eagle marks are found on many pieces of Baltimore silver, beginning shortly after 1800 and continuing after 1814 when the city’s official Assay Office was established. It is believed that the mark was first used in the city by a group of Baltimore silversmiths to signify the quality of their silver. It was through the efforts of this group that the Baltimore Assay Office, the first of its kind in America, was established. Eagle marks are found on silver made in cities throughout America during the Federal period and may also have been used by large manufacturers selling their wares to be retailed by other silversmiths and jewelers. Alternatively, eagle marks could simply have served as an informal national mark, similar to the lion’s head, thistle, and harp used, respectively, by British, Scottish, and Irish guild halls. See Catherine B. Hollan, “Eagle Marks on American Silver” (McLean, VA: Hollan Press, 2015).

MAKER: Littleton Holland (1770-1847) was one of the leading silversmiths in Baltimore, Maryland during the first half of the nineteenth century. Many examples of his work, particularly tea sets, survive in public and private collections. He first appears in the 1802 Baltimore Directory as a jeweler located at 122 Baltimore Street. Peter Little (1775-1830), a clock- and watchmaker, was listed at the same address from 1799 until 1814. It has not been determined whether or not Holland and Little were partners or simply shared space in the same building. Holland was listed in the city directories on Baltimore Street until 1822, and by 1833 he had relocated to 13 St. Paul’s Street and seems to have conducted business there until his death in 1847. See Jennifer Faulds Goldsborough, “Silver in Maryland” (Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1983) and Jacob Hall Pleasants and Howard Sill, “Maryland Silversmiths, 1715-1830” (Baltimore, MD: Lord Baltimore Press, 1930).

FORM: There were several eighteenth- and nineteenth-century variations of silver baskets meant for use at the table, each distinguished by the types of foodstuffs they was designed to hold. Sugar baskets were the smallest form, with bread baskets being the largest and fruit and cake baskets falling between. Sugar baskets were used to hold sugar for tea or sweetening foods. The form seems to have been unusual in American silver, where the sugar bowl was more popular.

Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund