Collections › MESDA Collection › Tea Service

Tea Service

Artist/Maker:
Young & Veal __Retailer ||Fletcher, Thomas __Manufacturer
Place Made:
Retailed in Columbia, South Carolina Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Date Made:
1837
Medium:
silver
Dimensions:
Coffepot: HOA: 13″, WOA: 12″; Teapot: HOA: 11-1/2″, WOA: 11″; Sugar Bowl: HOA: 11-1/2″, WOA: 10″
Accession Number:
5793.1-3
Description:
DESCRIPTION: Silver tea service (partial) consisting of a coffeepot, teapot, and sugar bowl. The original service also included a hot water urn, waste bowl, and a cream pitcher. All three surviving elements of the service have round bodies that sit atop attached swelled pedestals and round molded bases. The bodies are encircled with applied ornament cast in the form of leaves, vines, and berries. The lids, pedestals, and bases feature applied leaf-and-berry banding. The coffeepot and teapot have hinged lids with acorn finials and leaf-and-berry repousse ornament. Their spouts include acanthus, floral, and shell decoration and their silver handles have acanthus decoration, bone or ivory insulators, and attach to the body with leaf-decorated silver sockets. The sugar bowl has an unattached lid with an acorn finial and leaf-and-berry repousse ornament. The bowl has two cast handles that are soldered at opposite sides of the body.

MARK: Coffeepot struck on underside of base with an intaglio “T. FLETCHER / PHILDAD.” mark in a oval reserve overstruck with an intaglio “YOUNG & VEAL” mark in a rectangular reserve. Teapot and sugar bowl struck on undersides of bases with intaglio “YOUNG & VEAL” marks in rectangular reserves.

MAKER: Thomas Fletcher (1787-1866) was born in Alstead, New Hampshire. His name first appears in a Boston, Massachusetts, city directory in 1809 as a jeweler in partnership with Sidney Gardiner (1787-1827), a silversmith. In 1808, Fletcher, Gardiner, and Gardiner’s brother, Baldwin Gardiner (1791-1868), formed a partnership in Boston and in 1811 they moved to Philadelphia. By 1812 Fletcher and Gardiner were so well known that they were chosen to make a large number of trophies commemorating American victories in the War of 1812. Subsequently, Fletcher began traveling to England and France, while Sidney Gardiner managed the manufactory and tended shop. Baldwin Gardiner left the partnership in 1814. Fletcher took care of financial matters and selected the imported goods that constituted the mainstay of the business. As additional apprentices and journeymen were added to the shop, Gardiner was able to develop business ties in Mexico. He died in Vera Cruz in 1827. Shortly after Gardiner’s death, the name of Calvin W. Bennett (1808-1851) appears in personal and business correspondence and Bennett eventually became a partner in the company and it operated as Fletcher & Bennett from 1835 to 1839. Bennett’s brother, Jacob Bennett (1804-1867) worked as a traveling salesman for Fletcher. Although Fletcher’s silver was in demand during the 1830s, he had severe money problems. By 1842, his creditors had put his manufactory in the hands of an assignee. In May 1842, his business was auctioned at a considerable loss. Fletcher continued to live in Philadelphia until 1850, when he was forced to sell his boarding house. He moved to Delanco, New Jersey where he lived until his death in 1866. See catalog entry for “Thomas Fletcher Papers, 1815-1867”; online: http://library.winterthur.org:8001/lib/item?id=chamo:26838&theme=winterthur (1 July 2014).

Extant silver bearing the mark “YOUNG & VEAL” reveals that Alexander Young (1784-1856) partnered with John Veal Sr. (1793-1885) in Columbia, South Carolina, but little information about the business survives. It is known through the documentation of MESDA’s tea service (Acc. 5793.1-3) that the partnership was formed as early as 1837. Alexander Young was a silversmith and watchmaker born in Fifeshire, Scotland. He emigrated first to Baltimore and sometime before 1807 moved to Camden, South Carolina. As his business prospered he expanded his business to include jewelry, cutlery, and military and fancy goods. He most probably trained his son Edward (1816-1848) as a silversmith. While no record exists of Alexander Young living in Columbia, when Edward came of age he left Camden and established the firm of A. Young & Co. in Columbia, almost certainly with support from his father. Edward died in Columbia not long afterward. Alexander Young was listed in the 1850 Federal Census as a merchant living in Camden. He died there in 1856. John Veal Sr. was the son of North Carolina silversmith Richard Veal (d.1781) and probably trained in the trade under his father. He moved to Columbia sometime before 1827 and formed a partnership in 1838 with William Glaze (1815-1883). Veal retired in 1857 and died in Columbia at age 92. See E. Milby Burton, “South Carolina Silversmiths 1690-1860” (Charleston, SC: Charleston Museum, 1967) and “Palmetto Silver: Riches of the South:” (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press for the McKissick Museum, 2003).

FORM: For most of the eighteenth century the accouterments for tea and coffee were acquired separately and did not necessarily match in style and shape. By the 1790s, all elements of a tea service (coffeepot, teapot, sugar bowl, waste bowl, and cream pitcher) were made somewhat uniformly in style, with the smaller pieces following the form of the coffee and teapots. In the eighteenth century, coffeepots were taller than teapots for two reasons: function and economics. They are taller in order to raise the spout higher from the bottom to prevent the coffee grounds (which sink to the bottom) from being poured into teacups or bowls; conversely, tea leaves float and are less likely to flow out the spout when tea is poured. This difference in coffee/tea pot heights carried forward into the nineteenth century as tradition even after strainers and other means for preventing coffee grounds from pouring out the spout were made popular. The second factor, economics, was driven by the expense of tea in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Tea was so expensive that only a small amount would be brewed at a time to prevent waste. In 1662 London, a pound of coffee cost between 4 and 7 shillings; around 1680 a pound of tea cost 11 to 12 shillings. The price of tea continued in the eighteenth century to rise higher than the price of coffee. See Wolfgang Schivelbusch, “Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants” (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992), 83; Jane Pettigrew, “A Social History of Tea” (London: The National Trust, 2001), 140; and William H. Ukers, “The Romance of Tea: An Outline History of Tea and Tea-Drinking Through Sixteen Hundred Years” (London and New York: Knopf, 1936), 226, 226. All things considered, however, Charles Montgomery wrote an insightful summary of why we cannot be certain why coffeepots are larger than teapots in his book “A History of American Pewter” (New York: Knopf, 1936), 182-183.

History:
The coffeepot, teapot, and sugar bowl are the remnants of a six-piece silver tea service ordered in 1837 through Young & Veal by Wade Hampton II (1791-1858) and his wife Ann Fitzsimmons Hampton (1794-1833) for their plantation Millwood in Richland Co., South Carolina. The service also included a water pot, waste bowl, and cream pitcher (their current locations are unknown). The documentation of this silver service is unparalleled in the American South: its ordering, manufacture, and delivery is recorded in the “Thomas Fletcher Papers, 1815-1867” archived in the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur Library, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, Winterthur, Delaware.
Credit Line:
James H. Willcox Jr. Silver Purchase Fund