The teapot and two beakers also in the MESDA collection (Acc. 5779.2-3) are part of a larger service owned by the Mitchum family. The 1831 probate inventory of Dudley Mitchum’s estate listed “1 doz silver tumblers, 2 silver tea pots, 1 pitcher, 1 sugar dish, 1 cream jug, 1 tankard,” with a combined valued of $400.00 (Woodford County, County Clerk, Will Book I, 1830-1834, 19 August 1831, pp. 128-132). Eight of the eighteen pieces of silver have been identified. The other teapot is in the collection of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (Acc. 2013-26), the sugar bowl was purchased by an unidentified buyer at the same 2013 auction at which Colonial Williamsburg acquired their teapot. The pitcher is owned privately and recorded by the Speed Art Museum’s Kentucky Online Arts Resource (KOAR). Another pair of beakers from the service reside in a private Lexington, Kentucky collection. See Gary Albert, “Pioneer Refinement: Kentucky’s Mitchum Family Silver Purchased from Asa Blanchard,” MESDA Journal, Vol. 35 (2014); online: http://www.mesdajournal.org/2014/pioneering-refinement-kentuckys-mitchum-family-silver-purchased-asa-blanchard/ (accessed 28 May 2017).
INSCRIPTION: Engraved on the side of body with script initials “DSM” for Dudley Mitcham (Mitchum) (1754-1831) and his wife Susannah Allen Mitcham (Mitchum) (1760-1833) of Woodford Co., Kentucky.
MARK: Struck on underside of base with “A•BLANCHARD” intaglio mark within a rectangle with an intaglio, open-winged eagle within a conforming reserve struck above, possibly the manufacturer mark for John McMullin (1765-1843) of Philadelphia. Eagle marks are found on silver made in cities throughout America during the Federal period and may 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), 11-12, 69.
MAKER: Asa Blanchard is early Kentucky’s most prolific and successful silversmith. His shop and product are significant to the state’s material culture during its formative period and reflect the east-to-west migration of craftsmen in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. Asa Blansett (Blanchard) was born circa 1770, probably in Dumfries, Virginia. His surname was variously spelled “Blanset(t),” “Blancet(t),” “Blanchet,” “Blanchit,” or “Blanchard,” often multiple ways within a single document. It is not known under whom he received his training as a silversmith, but he could have trained locally in Dumfries or in nearby Alexandria or Fredericksburg, Virginia. He worked in Dumfries from about 1789 until 1806, using touchmarks of “A•B,” “AB,” and “A•BLANSETT.” At some time before moving West to Kentucky he may have worked in New York and Philadelphia, a claim he made in his first advertisement in Lexington (28 December 1807, “Kentucky Gazette and General Advertiser). No documentation has been found to support Blanchard’s claim of working or even living in either of those cities. Upon his move to Lexington, Kentucky, in 1806, he began using marks with variations of “BLANCHARD” and “A•BLANCHARD.” Over the next thirty-two years, Asa Blanchard worked in Lexington. When he died in 1838, his estate was valued at $40,000. Dozens of pieces of silver hollowware and scores of spoons and ladles survive with Asa Blanchard’s mark, most from his career in Kentucky. See Catherine B. Hollan, “Virginia Silversmiths, Jewelers, Watch- and Clockmakers, 1607-1860: Their Lives and Marks” (McLean, VA: Hollan Press, 2010) and Gary Albert, “Pioneer Refinement: Kentucky’s Mitchum Family Silver Purchased from Asa Blanchard,” MESDA Journal, Vol. 35 (2014); online: http://www.mesdajournal.org/2014/pioneering-refinement-kentuckys-mitchum-family-silver-purchased-asa-blanchard/ (accessed 28 May 2017).
FORM: For most of the eighteenth century the accouterments of the tea ceremony 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.