Time, Power, and Commerce: Building, Furnishing and Regulating 18th Century Philadelphia

Don Fennimore, Winterthur Museum

Tuesday, March 10, 2015Mini-exhibit: 7:15pmLecture: 8:00pmGould Theatre, Palace of the Legion of Honor
Legion of Honor
Detail of an eight-day clock, movement by Peter Stretch and case carved by Samuel Harding

Detail of an eight-day clock, movement by Peter Stretch and case carved by Samuel Harding, Philadelphia, 1730-1746

When William Penn founded Philadelphia, his “green country town,” in 1682 he could not have foreseen what an extraordinary success it would soon become. By 1750, Philadelphia was one of the most populated, wealthy and commercially active cities in the British Empire, reputedly second only to London in population.

The city’s success was built on trade, fostered by its deep-water harbor that allowed easy trans-Atlantic shipping to England and the Caribbean, as well as the westward-leading land routes to the burgeoning frontier. The merchants who engaged in Philadelphia’s trade and the politicians who oversaw the city’s development prospered greatly. They spent much of their wealth on grand public buildings such as Christ Church (built 1727–1744) and the State House (now known as Independence Hall, built 1732–1753), as well as numerous, impressive private houses both in and surrounding the city.

Philadelphia’s wealth attracted many talented artisans who designed and erected its public and private buildings. They also created much of the furniture and related amenities for these buildings. March’s speaker will focus on two of these men. Peter Stretch (1670–1746) made many of the clocks used by Philadelphians to regulate their lives. Samuel Harding (died 1758) was a carver who stylishly embellished a number of prominent buildings in the city as well as the furniture that stood in them.

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Social Networker, Silversmith, Patriot and Printer: Paul Revere's Untold Story

Jeannine Falino, Museum of Arts and Design

Tuesday, April 14, 2015Mini-exhibit: 7:15pmLecture: 8:00pmGould Theatre, Palace of the Legion of Honor
Legion of Honor
Silver teapot by Paul Revere, Jr. (1734-1818), Boston, Massachusetts, 1760-1765

Silver teapot by Paul Revere, Jr. (1734-1818), Boston, Massachusetts, 1760-1765, engraved with family crest of John Ross of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and “NOBILIS.EST.IRA. LEONIS” (The wrath of the lion is noble.), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Pauline Revere Thayer Collection

Studying silver, one of the most valuable of household goods in colonial America, provides a means of understanding the aspirations of colonists. Jeannine Falino will consider a broad cross-section of the Bostonians who purchased silver from the metalsmith and patriot Paul Revere, Jr. (1734–1818), son of silversmith Apollos Rivoire (aka Paul Revere, Sr.), to illustrate trends in silver ownership and taste in the mid-to-late 18th century.

Paul Revere was a silversmith and a printmaker with a keen sense of entrepreneurship. His success as a silversmith was partially attributable to higher-volume production of less expensive goods, i.e. , spoons and buckles, when many Bostonians of means preferred to buy their more substantial pieces from England. After the Revolution, while enjoying a newfound preference for American-made silver, Revere capitalized on the popularity of neoclassical forms by utilizing rolled sheet silver for fluted teawares. He also competed with “Liverpool” ceramic pitchers with silver, barrel-shaped water pitchers. Wealthier and middle-class citizens — tradesmen, lawyers and merchants — provided Revere with post-Revolutionary customers who could afford more costly tea sets. April’s speaker will offer some surprising insights into the taste of 18th century Bostonians, exactly which strata of society enjoyed Revere’s silver in their homes and how their taste for certain silver forms evolved over time.

Paul Revere’s multi-faceted activities brought him into contact with a wide range of prospective patrons. The survival of Paul Revere’s account book and a large body of Revere silver in museums and private collections permit Ms Falino to draw illuminating connections between Revere’s clientele and their participation within Boston’s spheres of religion, politics, public organizations and family and social relationships. Relatives, friends, neighbors, congregants of Paul Revere’s church, fellow Freemasons and members of revolutionary organizations all contributed to the well-connected entrepreneur’s success.

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