MARK: Struck on outside of bowl near handle socket with an intaglio “W.BALL” mark in a broken rectangle reserve. This touchmark is the earliest of five that William Ball used in his shop.
MAKER: William Ball was born in England in 1763 and was working in Baltimore, Maryland at least by 1789, when the Maryland Orphans’ Court Proceedings recorded the indenture of an apprentice to the silversmith (Vol 2, 1787-1792, p. 119, 13 August 1789). The Maryland Journal (25 September 1790) announced the dissolution of a partnership of between Ball and Israel H. Johnson (working 1786-1790). In 1812 Ball appears in another partnership as Ball & Heald; Heald is probably John S. Heald. Documented apprentices to Ball include Cantwell Douglas [b.1774], David Pluright [b.ca.1780], Thomas Murphy [b.ca. 1781] and Alfred White [b.ca. 1783]. Like his contemporary George Aiken (1765-1832), Ball suffered financial reverses during the 1810s and in 1814 took advantage of the insolvency laws; for a time he ran a packet line between Baltimore and Alexandria. Ball was a member of a local Abolitionist organization, and there is some evidence that he may have aided in the escape of a runaway slave via his packet line. Ball worked at his trade up until his death in June of 1815. See Jacob Hall Pleasants and Howard Sill, “Maryland Silversmiths, 1715-1830” (Baltimore, MD: Lord Baltimore Press, 1930) and Jennifer Faulds Goldsborough, “Silver in Maryland” (Baltimore, MD: Maryland Historical Society, 1983).
FORM: Toddy ladles were designed to scoop warm servings of hot alcoholic drink into cups. Such ladles, with small bowls and delicate handles of carved or turned wood, horn, or whalebone (baleen), were popular in the eighteenth century and differed from contemporary sauce ladles, which featured shorter handles and were intended to serve cream, gravy, or bullion. Toddy ladles preceded the larger neoclassical punch ladles with silver handles that came into vogue in America during the 1790s and remained in fashion through the nineteenth century. The bowls of toddy ladles formed different shapes and often had more than one pouring spout. Silversmiths often included the face of one of the coins from which a toddy ladle was hammered to decorate the bottom of the bowl.