The bouillabaisse of design influences on an early American silver soup tureen

David Zimmermann

David Zimmermann Magazine

Here is the full version, with endnotes, of an article that appeared in a condensed version in our May/June 2017 print edition.

In every part of Europe the tureen has for centuries always held pride of place as the most important piece of silverware on the table. Its form and decoration have evolved with the passage of time, and it is easier to measure the evolution of taste from the tureen than from almost any other piece of shaped silver table-ware.

Alain Gruber, Silverware[1]

On March 15th, 1811, Thomas Gibbons’ agent in Philadelphia was, “at last,” [2] able to ship to Gibbons, at his plantation outside of Savannah, the “two Sterling silver terrins” [3] he had ordered earlier from Chaudron’s & Rasch. A few years ago, one of the two tureens came on the market (Fig. 1 & 2), having remained for one hundred and ninety-six years in the possession of descendants of Thomas Gibbons and his wife and treasurer, Ann Heyward [4]. At a hundred and thirty-two ounces and ten pennyweight,[5] it is one of the largest known surviving pieces by Chaudron’s & Rasch, and powerfully manifests “the fine design and outstanding quality that characterized their very rare work together”.[6] The scale of the tureen allows for the expanses of smooth curving metal that set off the cast and chased ornament, and even on the bottom, the soldering is meticulously finished. This stylish masterpiece of design and craftsmanship was made possible by the patronage of one bold man.

Fig. 1. Sterling silver soup tureen made for Thomas Gibbons by Simon Chaudron and Anthony Rasch, 1811. Height 11, width 8 1/2, length across handles 14 3/8 inches. Weight 132 ounces. Descended in Gibbons’ family until purchased by current owner. Private collection, photo courtesy Allen Smith.

Fig. 2. Marks on bottom of tureen shown in Fig. 1.

A planter, a lawyer, and an entrepreneur, Thomas Gibbons was a man of substance in every way, weighing about three hundred pounds at a time when that was noteworthy. Born at Mulberry Hill Plantation near Savannah in 1757, he lived to be one of the wealthiest men in the United States.  His first fortune was made from rice grown by slave labor and he chose sheaves of rice to ornament his initials on some of his carriages and silver. As the mayor of Savannah, he welcomed George Washington to the city in 1791.  Gibbons later made another fortune operating ferries across the Hudson River.  With Daniel Webster as one of the lawyers to argue his case before the Supreme Court in 1824, he prevailed in Gibbons v. Ogden, which established the power of the federal government as the sole regulator of interstate commerce.  Cornelius Vanderbilt, the captain of one of Gibbon’s ferries, said of him near the end of his life, “I think he was one of the strongest minded men I ever was acquainted with.” [7]

Living on a grand scale, Gibbons ordered carriages and silver with an open but careful hand, seeking and obtaining discounts when and where he could. Like other wealthy Southerners, he ordered silver from London [8] where he patronized Rundell, Bridge & Company. Other than the soup tureens, all of Gibbons’ known hollowware is English, made between 1792 and 1807, in a variety of styles from the chaste Adam to the exuberant Regency, each apparently the “very latest” at the time the order was filled. [9] Much of Gibbons’ English silver was made by relatively unknown silversmiths probably employed by Rundell, Bridge & Co. His purchases included four silver sauce tureens, hallmarked London 1806-7, with oval, half-ribbed bodies on oval pedestal bases [10] (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Sterling silver hollowware, various English silversmiths, c. 1792-1807. Originally owned by Thomas Gibbons, including four sauce tureens, 1806-7. Photo courtesy of Silver in Savannah, (Sammons, 2010,) p. 58.

It was probably because of the Embargo Act of 1807, the “Jefferson Embargo”, strengthened in 1809, that when he ordered his soup tureens, Mr. Gibbons did not turn to London. These tureens were the culminating silver purchase of his life, each costing more than his most expensive, custom-made coach, luxurious and strongly-built to accommodate his weight. [11] The embargo had interfered with trade between the United States and Britain and had left Gibbons, ordinarily an exporter of crops, with three years built-up profit in this country, a substantial portion of which he spent with Chaudron’s & Rasch. These tureens, thus, would be an example of what Thomas Jefferson had been trying to encourage: American Arts and Manufacture.

Gibbons chose American and he chose not to have his soup tureens made to match the sauce tureens he already owned, though Rasch could certainly have done so, as in the tureen Chaudron’s & Rasch made for the Tayloe family of Virginia [12]  (Fig. 4) or the oval, half-ribbed, pedestal-based tureen Rasch made later for the Graff family of Philadelphia [13] (Fig. 5). The years around 1810 were ones of fluidity and change in taste and style in silver and at that moment, for soup tureens, some rococo elements were in style, again.[14] Just as he chose the latest style, Gibbons chose the most fashion-conscious silversmiths working in Philadelphia at the time.[15]

Fig. 4. Silver tureen made by Simons Chaudron and Anthony Rasch in Philadelphia, c. 1809-1812. Height 13, diameter 10 1/2, length across handles 16 inches. Made for the Tayloe family of Virginia. Photo courtesy Virginia Historical Society.

Fig. 5. Oval silver soup tureen by Anthony Rasch, c. 1815. Height 13 3/8, width 9 7/16, length across handles 14 1/2 inches. Photo courtesy Helga Photographs, The Magazine ANTIQUES, October, 2007, p. 92.

In their partnership, Chaudron, the refined, literary Frenchmen, ran the elegant store where the silver and other goods were sold.  He had the financial connections, and business was conducted in his name. Rasch was the working silversmith, the master of the manufactory where the silver was produced, and likely the only silversmith in America born and raised beneath rococo ceilings [16]  Anthony Rasch von Taufkirchen was the second son of Count Maximilian von Taufkirchen. Rasch’s mother, Gertrude Obermaier, a commoner, was his father’s third wife. He was born about 1778-1780 at the Schloss Kleeberg (Fig. 6) in southern Bavaria.[17] This great house featured fresh, important rococo stucco work by, among others, Johann Baptist Modler, some commissioned by Rasch’s father and done as late as 1768.[18] About 1792, Rasch was apprenticed to a silversmith in nearby Passau,[19] a city with wonderful rococo public spaces, including the cathedral and the steps to the Bishop’s palace.   While no details are known of his training, he was born and raised at a time and in a place where the rococo was familiar and enjoyed.  When he immigrated to America in April 1804, Rasch dropped the “von Taufkirchen”. By the time of the 1810 census, he was the head of a household of twenty-seven on Andrews Street in Hamilton Village, on the West Bank of the Schuylkill River at Philadelphia. This “household” was the silver manufactory of Chaudron’s & Rasch, by far the largest in the country at the time.[20]

Fig. 6. Schloss Kleeberg in Ruhstorf, near Passau. The house where Anthony Rasch was born. Photo courtesy of Burgen und Schlosser im Passauer Land, Gottfries Schaffer and Gregor Peda.

Gibbons ordered his tureens in person some time well before February 1811, by which time their delivery was considered long overdue. [21]  This is the same period he was establishing another home in New Jersey. [22] He traveled between Savannah and Elizabethtown by carriage [23] and would have broken his journey in Philadelphia to rest and shop. In August 1810, the monumental covered urn that Chaudron’s & Rasch had made for presentation to Peter Dobel, with its markedly European flavor, was exhibited at Merchants’ Coffee House in Philadelphia. The drawing for it is thirty-three and three-eighths inches tall.[24]  If the piece itself was this size, it would have been the largest piece of silver made in this country up to that time (Fig. 7). Whether Gibbons saw it himself (and certainly August would be a time of year to be away from Savannah), or only heard about it, he decided that Chaudron’s & Rasch could make the tureens he wanted. Their letterhead, after all, features, in front of all the other silver, a covered rococo dish on stand, as if to say, “You want rococo, we do rococo.” [25] (Fig. 8)

Fig. 7. Drawing, black chalk on paper, 33 3/8 by 20 1/2 inches. © Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of Silversmiths to the Nation, Fennimore and Wagner, 2007 p. 82-84.

Fig. 8. Detail shot of of Fig. 9. Note: covered, rococo dish on stand, right foreground.

_______________________

In January 2008, this tureen failed to meet its reserve at Christies, where it had been offered with a description emphasizing its “German” character, Rasch described as “Hamburg-born”, an abbreviated family provenance, and no mention of a receipt or correspondence, and, where those present tended to dismiss it as “old-fashioned”, and “not like his (Rasch’s) other work”.[26]    The Christie’s catalogue directs the reader to the Drew University Archives [27] which house the Gibbons’ family papers. Among the papers are a receipt from S. Chaudron (Fig. 9) and two letters from Gibbons’ commission agent, Peter Graham & Company, about the tureens’ sale and shipment to Savannah. [28]

Fig. 9. Receipt to Thomas Gibbons from S. Chaudron, March 12, 1811. Paper and ink, 9 1/2 by 7 1/8 inches. Photo courtesy of Drew University Archives, Madison, NJ.

The earlier of Graham’s letters, dated 19th February 1811, states, in part:

Mister Chaudron who engaged to make your plate failed some time since which circumstance has of course retarded the execution of your order – He is again going on in his business, having exhibited a most satisfactory statement to their creditors, and we expect to get your Tureen, etc. by Monday next when it will be sent on to you by the very first vessel for your place.[29]

The Jefferson Embargo had encouraged American Manufactures, but it ended on May 1, 1810 and Chaudron’s & Rasch, whose sterling silver had to compete against English silver, began experiencing financial difficulties. In January 1811, probably as a part of the re-organization referred to above, Chaudron’s & Rasch moved their showroom location from Number 12 to Number 9 South Third Street in Philadelphia, the letterhead being altered by hand to reflect this change. If this move was one of financial necessity, they still advertised having in stock at this new location, “some two hundred pieces of sterling silver hollowware and a complete assortment of flatware from the manufactory”.[30] But the tureens Mister Gibbons ordered were not stock items and their production was delayed as outlined in Graham’s February letter.  Gibbons ordered no stands, liners, or engraving for the tureens and, when Graham picked them up, had two ladles added to the order. Apparently in-stock items, these were charged at $2.00 per ounce, the tureens at $3.00 per ounce, indicative of the specialized skills required in their making. [31]

_______________________________

The Anthony Rasch sauce boats, acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1959, first brought to popular attention the fact that great silver was made in this country after the year 1800. The sauce boats are in the French Empire style that flourished in the years following the war of 1812, when a profound distaste for the British, who had burned the White House and Capitol, brought all things French to the fore. Much of Rasch’s work, after his partnership with Chaudron, is in this style and he is now well known for it.  These tureens, however, were ordered in 1810, when fashion in silver soup tureens shifted away from the Adam style and did not flow seamlessly into the style of the French Empire. Stephen Decatur summarizes this change in “The Return of the Soup Tureen.” Of the Adam style he says, “This fashion persisted until approximately 1810 after which there was a return to the earlier, rococo forms.” [32] Gerald Taylor uses more technical language: “At the turn of the century the Adam forms persisted, but in the first decade there began to appear a rounded oblong bowl constricted just below the rim above bulged sides and moulded covers:  the stem and base were replaced by four substantial cast feet.” [33]  While the Gibbons tureen clearly matches this description, previous to its re-emergence, no example was known in American silver. The very small number of American silver soup tureens from before the War of 1812 makes for a paucity of examples in any one style.  Documented, as it is, in the career of its makers and the collection of its original owner, this surprising object presents itself as proof that this moment in the continuum of style did occur, in this country, and dateable to the day of delivery.

___________________________

The design chosen by Gibbons, and made for him by Chaudron’s & Rasch, closely follows the late rococo/early neo-classical design of a tureen made in Paris in 1787 by the little-known French silversmith, Louis Francois Delassus (Fig. 10 & 11).[34] The same design elements are present in both the Delassus and the Chaudron’s & Rasch tureens, but interpreted differently in each.  The Delassus tureen with its strong horizontal axis, long shallow cover, thin upright legs and tapered body has the “clear, disciplined and restrained nature of the true French rococo.” [35] Whereas, the Chaudron’s & Rasch tureen, with its thicker, slightly splayed feet, emphatically bombe’ body and higher domed cover shows “French rococo motives” handled with “German plasticity and lack of inhibition”.[36] Born to an aristocratic father and patron of the rococo arts, Rasch grew up in the Francophile kingdom of the Wittlesbachs, patrons of Nymphemburg porcelain and the Belgian dwarf genius, Francois Cuvielles, by whom they commissioned important works at Munich, including the Residenz Theatre and his masterpiece, the Amelienburg, “by general consent one of the supreme examples of rococo architecture and decoration in Europe” [37].  Anthony Rasch von Taufkirchen was comfortable interpreting a French rococo design in a free-spirited Bavarian manner.[38]
Rasch interpreted, but the intriguing question remains:  how was this design chosen? Why did a superficially fashion-conscious planter from Savannah, shopping in Philadelphia in 1810, choose a design that had last been popular twenty-three years earlier in Paris? Possibly because this may have been the same design as the one chosen by Thomas Jefferson when, in October 1808, he ordered a pair of silver soup tureens for the President’s House.[39]

Fig. 10. Silver soup tureen, c. 1787. Maker’s mark LFD (probably Louis-Francois Delassus). Photo courtesy French Silver, Frank Davis, 1971.

Fig. 11. Alternate view of Chaudron’s & Rasch tureen, made for Thomas Gibbons. Note: Same angle as Fig. 10 for comparison.

Jefferson had first become familiar with silver soup tureens, when as Minister of the United States to France from 1784 to 1789, he was a popular dinner guest in the great houses of Paris: practically the only time and place where silver soup tureens could be said to have been common and where the Delassus design and its variants were the most common of all.[40] In 1787, Jefferson was in Paris shopping for silver.  His most important purchases were “the four silver vegetables dishes with their plates and covers.” [41] Seen together these demonstrate the same combination of rococo base and neo-classical top as the Gibbons’ tureen, the lids having the same profile (Fig. 12 & 13). Jefferson might have bought silver soup tureens for himself in Paris, could he have afforded them. Years later, spending the taxpayers’ money to complete the furnishing of the President’s House in a grand manner, a pair of silver soup tureens were considered both possible and necessary. The LeTellier tureens were delivered early in 1809 and may, like Jefferson’s vegetables dishes and Gibbons’ tureens, have shown the same “combination of rococo and Federal motifs often found in late 18th and early 19th century Philadelphia architecture.” [42]

Fig. 12. Vegetable dishes, two of four, by Antoine Boullier, c.1786-87. Height 5 1/4, diameter 8, weight (for four) 139 ounces. Photo courtesy of The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, Susan R. Stein, 1993, pp. 322-323.

Fig. 13. Plate, one of four, by Pierre-Jacques Lamine, c. 1786-87. Diameter 10 ¼, weight 74 ounces (for four). Photo courtesy of The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, Susan R. Stein, 1993, pp. 320-321.

Elements of the design of the Delassus and Chaudron’s & Rasch tureens appear in a 1775 Parisian tureen by Charles-Louis Auguste Spriman (Fig. 14). James Bowdoin III, whom Jefferson had sent to Europe in the diplomatic service, brought this tureen back with him from Paris when he returned between February and June of 1808, along with a large amount of other French silver [43]. Jefferson and Bowdoin had an unusual acquaintance that included Bowdoin giving Jefferson the reclining sculpture of Ariadne in the entrance hall at Monticello, and offering to shop for art for Jefferson in Paris.[44] Any awareness of Bowdoin’s tureen may have influenced Jefferson’s choice of design, bringing to mind the tureens he had seen in his years in Paris. The 1787 design, transformed by a hinged lid, was a choice much more likely to have originated with Jefferson, the ingenious Francophile, than with Gibbons, a rich man of conventional tastes who had never been in France, had no known interest in French silver or retro design, and who, one might reasonably conclude, in the summer of 1810, as always, wanting the very latest style, ordered a pair of tureens to match those in the President’s House.[45]

Fig. 14. Silver soup tureen by Charles-Louis Auguste Spirman, 1775. Brought back from Paris by James Bowdoin III, early in 1808.

____________________________________

Rasch, both on his own and in his partnerships, is known to have used emerging technologies in his innovative and unusual work.   In this tureen, the new rolled sheet silver [46] was used for the lid, to keep it light, while the body was raised by hand and, with its cast handles and feet, is heavy enough to balance the open lid even when the tureen is

empty. This tureen and its mate, should it be found, are the earliest known silver soup tureens with hinged lids. Hinging the lid facilitated the self-serve approach to dining favored by Jefferson, and may have been his idea. Many of his ingenuities were designed to provide freedom from the presence of servants in the dining room during meals. In use, the tureens sat one at each end of the table [47] and when the lids were open for the soup to be served, they stood fourteen and a quarter inches tall, facing down the table towards the guests, the lids hanging in the air like Roman shields, transformed from steaming, dripping inconveniences, for which places must to be found while the soup was being served, into spectacles for the beginning of the meal (Fig. 15).

Fig. 15. Alternate View of tureen shown in Fig. 1.

The hinge has sagged slightly in two hundred years, but still works well, and holds the open lid nearly vertical. The lugs are rhythmically, bilaterally symmetrical except that the outside lug on one side is three-sixteenths of an inch longer than the other outside lug, as if someone were afraid the hinge would not be strong enough and so made it slightly larger. Organic, almost anatomical, the flange attaching the lid is reminiscent of Pennsylvania German Folk Art [48] and gives to the whole a charm, it would not, without it, have had. The reeding across the base of the flange makes the reeded band encircling the rim of the bowl appear continuous to the eyes of the dinner guests (Fig. 16).[49]

Fig. 16. Alternative view of tureen shown in Fig. 1.

The flat chased calyx of acanthus leaves surrounding the large and hollow berry finial, the focus of attention when the lid is up, was the most expensive part of the decoration, the hand work of an expert chaser. The soldering and finishing of the berry finial are so well done that the seam is detectable only in the base. The leaves on the finial of the Delassus tureen are diagonal to the axis. On the Gibbons’ tureen, the leaves are four-square with the body, giving a slightly less sophisticated feel. When Daniel Webster, who had been Gibbons’ lawyer, bought his own tureens from Fletcher and Gardiner in 1833, the lids came with calyx and berry finials similar to those on the Gibbons’ tureens, with the same leaf placement (Fig. 17).

Fig. 17. Silver soup tureen by Fletcher and Gardiner, c. 1833. Height 14, width 11 1/2 in, length 14 inches, weight 122 ounces. Ruth J. Nutt Collection of American Silver. Photo courtesy of Fennimore & Wagner, Silversmiths to the Nation, pp. 228-229.

On the Delassus tureen the handles curve inward, conforming to the shape of the tureen. The handles on the Chaudron’s & Rasch tureen are more hoop-like, rising upward and outward in a more exuberant, Regency manner that had the practical benefit of allowing more room for the hands that carried it to and from the table (Fig. 18 & 19). Otherwise, the handles and asymmetrical joins are nearly identical to those on the Delassus tureen, cast and chased to represent intertwined oak branches, acorns, and oak leaves: “a Regency predilection,” according to Judith Banister, who also wrote of the English market at this time, “Tureens likewise showed all the many styles of the Regency. But as with so many silverwares during the period, nothing remained in fashion for long.” [50]

Fig. 18. Alternate view of tureen shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 19. Alternate view of tureen shown in Fig. 1.

Like the few other known American silver soup tureens made before the war of 1812, this is a piece of purely domestic silver, different in character from the tide of patriotic, presentation silver, with its lions and eagles and snakes, which came with that war, sweeping away much that had come before, including, apparently, any further examples of the rococo. Thomas Gibbons and his wife, Ann, owned a great deal of splendid silver. [51] But even on that grand table, this tureen and its mate would have stood out: lustrous reminders of the peaceful, prosperous years just before the War of 1812.

With its vigorous form, outstanding craftsmanship, and up-to-the-minute style, this is one of Chaudron’s & Rasch’s finest works. In it, the newly fashionable rococo was interpreted by a silversmith trained in Bavaria at the end of the eighteenth century, working to a design from Paris in the 1780’s, for a gentleman from Savannah, whose family enjoyed it for many years, evoking both its European antecedents and the hospitable abundance of low country life in its prime.

[1] Alain Gruber, Silverware, (New York: Rizzoli, 1982) 147.

[2] Peter Graham to Thomas Gibbons, Esquire, March 15th, 1811, Gibbons’ family papers, Drew University Archives, Madison, NJ

[3] S. Chaudron receipt for Thomas Gibbons, Esquire,” March 12th, 1811, Gibbons family papers Drew University Archives, Madison, NJ

[4] E. Axel Larsson, “Thomas Gibbons”, ed. Jennifer Heise, Drew University Archives, July 15, 2009, https://uknow.drew.edu/confluence/display/DrewHistory/Thomas+Gibbons. The title of treasurer implies her active participation in their financial affairs.

[5] Important American Silver, Thursday 17 January, 2008 (New York, Christies, 2008), 120-21.

[6] Stuart P. Feld, “Making an uncollectable collectable: American Silver 1810-1840,” The Magazine ANTIQUES, CLXXII, no. 4, October 2007, 91.

[7] Larsson, “Thomas Gibbons.”

[8] Chaudron receipt for Gibbons, March 12th, 1811:  Rundell Bridge and Company receipt for Gibbons as reproduced in Sammons, Silver in Savannah, 52.  The two receipts offer a comparison of packing and commission costs for silver from London as opposed to silver from Philadelphia.  A baize-lined iron bound chest and a strong packing case were thought necessary for shipment from London, at a cost of eight pounds, eight shillings for the chest and one pound eighteen shillings for the case, whereas the box and packing charged for the shipment of the tureens from Philadelphia to Savannah totaled one dollar and fifty cents.  The London agent charged a five percent commission, Peter Graham and Company two and a half percent.

The only discount on the English bill is a “Drawback (a part of the excise tax refunded because the silver was exported). Based on the weight of the silver, it came to five percent of the total cost.  S. Chaudron receipt to Gibbons.  Perhaps this gave Gibbons the idea for the form of the 25 cents per ounce discount Graham obtained for him at the time of delivery, in addition to the original ten percent discount for cash payment.  The two discounts totaled fifty-five cents per ounce, bringing the cost of the tureens down from the original $3.00 per ounce to $2.45 per ounce, still more than the 1808 Jefferson tureens for which the government paid $2 per ounce.  LeTellier receipt of January 27, 1809 in the National Archilves.  Chaudron receipt for Gibbons, March 12, 1811.

[9] Tania June Sammons, The Story of Silver in Savannah:  Creating and Collecting since the 18th Century, (Savannah:  Telfair Books, 2010), 52.

[10] Sammons, Silver in Savannah, 58.

[11] Copy of agreement Elias Wade, September 3, 1802, Gibbons Family Papers, Drew University Archives.

[12]  Donated by a descendant of the original owner to the Virginia Historical Society in 1959, this tureen incorporated a wide milled band and has handles similar to those on Gibbons’ four English sauce boats. It is 13 inches, the diameter is 10 ½ inches, the width across the handles is 16 inches.  It is not engraved.  Telephone conversation with Heather Beattie, Museum Collections Manager, Virginia Historical Society, August 21, 2015.

[13] Feld, The Magazine ANTIQUES, 92.

[14] Judith Banister, English Silver, (Feltham, Middlesex: Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited,  1969), 137.  Elizabeth de Castres, The Observers Book of Silver (London, Frederick Warne, 1980), 132.  Stephen Decatur, “Flashback: The Return of the Soup Tureen,” The American Collector, May 1940, Archived by Collector’s Weekly, (San Francisco: Market Street Media, March 13, 2009), http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/the-return-of-the-soup-tureen/.

Beatrice B. Garvan, Federal Philadelphia, 1785-1825, The Athens of the Western World, (Philadelphia; Philadelphia Museum of Art, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987) 14, 15. An example of rococo silver from Philadelphia in 1811, a two-handled cup by James Black, is described and illustrated on these pages. Gerald Taylor, Silver, (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1963), 245.

[15] Christina L Keyser, “Fashionable Goods from a Credible Source:  Anthony Rasch, Silversmith and Merchant,” (M.A. dissertation, University of Delaware, 2007), 25, 28.

“Throughout his career, Rasch determined what was fashionable and what was not by deciding what to import from Europe or which European design elements to reproduce in his own silver.  His customers benefited by being able to purchase these fashionable wares in an American context.  They did not have to travel abroad because they could buy what they wanted in the United States.”

[16] Gottfried Schäffer and Gregor Peda, Burgen und Schlösser im Passauer Land (Munich: Simhart & Company, 1981), 34-35.

[17] Crescent City Silver, ed., Rosanne McCaffrey, Dode Platou, John H. Lawrence, John A. Mahê II, (New Orleans: Historic New Orleans Collection, 1980), 76.

[18] Schäffer and Peda, Burgen und Schlösser, 34-35.

[19] Crescent City Silver, 76.

[20] Donald L Fennimore and Ann K. Wagner, Silversmiths to the Nation, Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner: 1898-1842 (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Antiqne Collectors’ Club, 2007), 26-28. The other members of the “household” are not named in the 1810 census, but court records survive from a trial on June 18th, 1810, in which Rasch was convicted of assaulting two of his apprentices, William Hilton and Thomas Hill.  For a master in 1810 to have some of his own employees testify against him, and to be convicted of assaulting two apprentices, the assaults must have been serious. This is Rasch’s only know criminal conviction. His violent behavior may have been triggered by the financial stress he and Chaudron began to experience after the Embargo was lifted on May1, 1810.  The court records list some witnesses whose names match those of silversmiths known to have been working in Philadelphia at the time.  Besides William Hilton, these include John Harwood or Hardwood, Samuel Tyler or Taylor, George Snyder, Jacob Kucher, and D. Parke, possibly a member of the Parke family of Philadelphia silversmiths.  Ralph M. and Terry H. Kovel, A Directory of American Silver, Pewter and Silver Plate, (New York: Crown Publisher, July 1975), 38, 61,131,165,166,205,253,265.

Chloe Lackros and An (sic) Lifwene were witnesses, as was Mrs. Lefevere, possibly the wife of John or Theodore Lefevere, both working in Philadelphia at the time. It is possible these women also worked in the manufactory.  There were some American women silversmiths, and besides the three hundred and fifty known women silversmiths working in Britain between 1685 and 1845, the larger manufacturers of sterling silver and Sheffield plate in Britain often employed women and girls as burnishers or polishers. Chaudron’s & Rasch may have as well. While we will likely never learn who at the manufactory did what part of the work, these tureens would have required expertise in carving, casting, chasing, raising, and hinge making.  If any commission would have received the hands-on attention of Rasch himself, the master of the manufactory, and then a man in the prime of his life, it would have been these tureens “Philadelphia: Quarter Sessions Court Docket,” June, 1806 to Dec. 1810, June 1810, 406, as quoted in Keyser, 143-44.  Philippa Glanville and Jennifer Faulds Goldsborough, Women Silver Smiths 1685-1845, (Thames and Hudson, 1990), 17-18

[21] Graham to Gibbons, March 15, 1811

[22] Larsson, “Thomas Gibbons”

[23] Memorandum of Agreement between Thomas Gibbons and William Churchward, Gibbons Family Papers, Drew University.

[24] Fennimore and Wagner, Silversmiths to the Nation, 82-84.

[25] S. Chaudron receipt, March 12th, 1811.

[26] Important American Silver, (Christies), 120-21. Telephone conversation with Ulysses Dietz, summer 2012.  Telephone conversation with Stuart Feld, summer 2012.

[27] Important American Silver, (Christies), 120-21.  Larsson, “Thomas Gibbons”.  Mead Hall, the old main building at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, had been built as a house by Thomas Gibbons’ son, William.  His son, William Heyward Gibbons, an impoverished ex-confederate, sold the property after the Civil War to the man who established Drew University there.  Around 1900, the librarian at Drew rescued the Gibbons’ family papers from the attic of Mead Hall and archived them in the university library.

[28] Graham to Gibbons, March 15th, 1811. The tureens were shipped on the Brig Hetty, under Captain William Fountain.  The Hetty, bound for Savannah, was the fifth of eight vessels to clear the port of Philadelphia on Saturday, March 16, 1811.   National Archives, at Philadelphia, Record Group No. 36, Philadelphia, Entry 1057, Records of Arrivals and Clearances, 1789-1903 Vol. 62, Entry for March 16, 1811.  The twenty-first of forty-six entries in the cargo manifest of the Hetty lists Peter Graham and Co. of Philadelphia as the shipper of one unmarked box of merchandise to the consignee, Thomas Gibbons of Savannah.  National Archives, at Philadelphia.  Region, Record Group 36. Customs, Philadelphia: Entry 1059C Outward Coastwise Manifests, 1789-1889 Box 63: Hetty March16, 1811. The Hetty had arrived at Savannah by April 1, 1811.  Columbia Museum and Savannah Advertiser, Volume XVI, Number: 9, Page 3, Column: 4. Date 1 April, 1811,, as cited in Ships of Sea Maritime Museum, Ships’ Registry.   Later that same year, the crew of the Hetty was involved in the ambush at Anciaux’s wharf in Savannah, one of the incidents that helped trigger the war of 1812. A.J. Morrow, “The Ambush at Anciaux’s Wharf”, accessed: April 21, 2012, http://hsgng.org/legacy/pages/anciaux.htm

[29] Graham to Gibbons. 19th February, 1811.

[30] Fennimore and Wagner, Silversmiths to the Nation, 27. Financial problems were not unique to Chaudron’s & Rasch, but plagued their careers, both together (their partnership lasted from the spring of 1809 to the summer of 1812) and separately.

[31] S. Chaudron receipt to Gibbons.

[32] Stephen Decatur, The American Collector, May 1940.

[33] Taylor, Silver, 245.

[34] This design had evolved in France from the rococo of the 1740’s, reaching its final form in the years just before the French Revolution of 1789.  The rococo body and cast feet remained essentially the same over the years.  The naturalistic finial and foliage on the cover evolved into the stiff berry on a pedestal and chased calyx of acanthus leaves seen on the Delassus and Chaudron’s & Rasch tureens.

[35] Michael Kitson, The Age of Baroque (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966), 135

[36] Kitson, Baroque, 133

[37] Kitson, Baroque, 133

[38] While the Gibbons’ tureen reflects eighteenth-century rococo style, it is also a precursor of the oblong tureen on four cast feet common by about eighteen-twenty. In at least one case, it is the direct antecedent. The carved pattern for the cast legs so beautifully fitted to this double-bellied tureen was rather awkwardly reused by Harvey Lewis on the single-bellied tureen he made for Elizabeth Powel in 1821. Sotheby’s Fine Americana, New York, January 28, 29, 30, and 31, 1993, (New York, Sotheby’s 1993), Lot104. The known facts surrounding the Powel tureen offer a glimpse into the role of silver soup tureens as aspired-for objects in the lives of wealthy Americans at the time. The Powel house at 244 South 3rd Street in Philadelphia is one of the finest surviving Georgian townhouses in the country.  Elizabeth Powel lived there with her husband Samuel, twice mayor of Philadelphia. Since 1799, her brother Thomas Willing had owned a Paul Storr tureen and ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­stand ordered for him from Rundell Bridge and Company in recognition of his efforts during the yellow fever epidemic which swept the city in 1798.

Silver soup tureen by Harvey Lewis, c. 1820. Length 14 1/4, weight 80 ounces. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s, 1993.

In his will, this tureen was the first piece of personal property to be mentioned: “I give to my son Thomas my silver Tureen with all its appurtenances made in London and given to me by the Stockholders in the United States Bank as a testimony of their approbation of my conduct as President of that institution.” Thomas Willing Balch, WILLING LETTERS AND PAPERS edited with a biographical essay of THOMAS WILLING of Philadelphia (1731-1821) (Philadelphia: Allen, Lane & Scott, 1922), 181.

Much further along in his lengthy will, between legacies to a niece and the house keeper, one finds:  “I give to my sister Elizabeth Powell (sic) the sum of One hundred Pounds which I hope she will Accept and receive as a token of my affectionate remembrance in any other view it would be unnecessary to one whose commendable liberality has been so generously and so often extended to supply the wants and provide for the comfort of many very many others.” Balch, WILLING LETTERS AND PAPERS, 197. Elizabeth appears to have used this legacy to commission a tureen from Harvey Lewis which she had engraved in a manner that implies that the tureen itself, and not the money to pay for it, had been left her by her brother.  The inscription reads:  “A memento of affection from Thomas Willing in the 90th year of his age, to his Sister Elizabeth Powel, by his last will – dated December 2d 1820.” SOTHEBY’S Fine Americana, (1993), Lot 104.

Thomas Gibbons bought his tureens when he was 54 and lived for fifteen more years.  Thomas Willing was 67 when he received his Storr Tureen.  He died at the age of 89.  His sister was seventy-seven when she got hers, which she enjoyed for ten years.  Late in long, rich lives, silver soup tureens remained sought after status symbols, and useful objects of beauty, the silver keeping the soup hot longer than porcelain.

At the Rasch bankruptcy auction in 1819, Lewis must have bought the hand carved patterns from which Rasch had cast handles and feet.  The legs on the Powel tureen match those on the Gibbons tureen.  The handles match those on the tureen Rasch made for the Graff family. Feld, The Magazine ANTIQUES, 92.  Much of Lewis’ reputation for “French Silver” appears to be based on his re-use of the Rasch carvings.  The handles on the vase he made for presentation to Frederick Graff in 1822 appear to match those on the sugar bowl in the tea set Rasch made for presentation by the state of North Carolina to Udney Maria Blakely. Fennimore & Wagner, Silversmiths to the Nation, 24; David B. Warren, Katherine S. Howe, and Michael K. Brown, Marks of Achievement: Four Centuries of American Presentation Silver, (New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1987), 112. Rasch, while letting all these go at auction, did keep at least one small pattern.  The handle on the creamer in the Dallas family tea set, made by Chaudron’s and Rasch, re-appears on a piece Rasch made much later in New Orleans.  Record of Sales, Neal Auction Company, 2002, http://www.nealauction.com/toplots/silver/.

[39] Thomas Jefferson to John LeTellier, October 26, 1808. The Library of Congress, The Thomas Jefferson Papers, series 1, General correspondence 1751-1827.  Jefferson ordered the tureens from John LeTellier of Richmond, Virginia.  In Jefferson’s order he specified:  “two silver terrines of the ordinary size and of the form numbered 1505 on the drawing sent, being the uppermost of the two forms on the paper.”  These tureens, along with the rest of the President’s House silver, vanished at the burning of Washington in 1814. Simon Chaudron owned a library of over 400 volumes in French.  While he had literary interests, some of these volumes must have been design books, in one of which this same form may have been illustrated.

[40] Telephone conversation with Kevin Tierney of Sotheby’s.

[41] Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello (New York: Abrams, 1993), 43, 320-323. Jefferson was known to patronize Chaudron’s shop.

[42] Beatrice B. Garvan, Federal Philadelphia 1785-1825 (University of  Philadelphia Press), 15.

[43] Sarah Bowdoin Diary, 1806-08, and James Bowdoin III Letterbook, 1806-11, Bowdoin Family Collection, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives, Bowdoin College Library. Thanks to Laura F. Sprague, Consulting Curator of Decorative Arts, Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

[44] Katherine J. Watson (Introduction), The Legacy of James Bowdoin III (Brunswick, Maine: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 1994), 18

[45] S. Chaudron receipt, March 12th, 1811, National Archives, record group 217, Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of Treasury, entry 347, Settled Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts, 1790-1894, Account 21304 Voucher 5. The Gibbons’ tureens are heavier, weighing 263 ounces and 8 pennyweight.  The pair LeTellier made for Jefferson weighed 237 ounces and 19 pennyweight, a difference of about 10%. The Delassus tureen, about the same size as the Gibbons’ tureen, weighs 92 troy ounces.  In his letters to LeTellier, Jefferson was a bit vague, (“of the ordinary size”) and dependent on the silversmith’s judgment (“what would probably be the weight and cost of a terrine for soup.”)  The tureens he received may have been smaller or lighter than what Jefferson had wanted to uphold the dignity of the young republic.  Jefferson’s next order to LeTellier, in March 1810, was very specific about size and weight, perhaps a response to the tureens he had received for the President’s House.  This was an order for eight tumblers based on a French model supplied by Jefferson.   “But it is too thin and weak for common use.  I think those to be made should be of 5. oz. avoirdupoise weight nearly. They must also be about a half an inch higher, in order to hold a little more than the model does.”  Stein, Jefferson at Monticello, 333-335

[46] Coxe, “A Statement of the Arts and Manufactures,” xxxiv. Tench Coxe wrote of the American silver trade in 1810, “The use of rollers and other contrivances to save labor in some degree has been gradually introduced into the gold and silver manufactory.”

[47] The John Berkley Grimball Diaries, 1832-1883 (#00970), Southern Historic Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina Libraries, Box 3, folder 18. Pages 17, 20, 25, 51, 52, 53, 60, 61, 62.  Grimball describes six dinner parties given by and among some of the leading men (no woman was noted as present at any of these meals) of Charleston, South Carolina, between July 13 and November 1, 1832.  Given the similarities between Charleston and Savannah, and the slow-to-change, conservative nature of low country life, these dinners are probably similar to ones at which the Gibbons’ tureens were used.

These dinners ran from about four in the afternoon to about eight or nine at night, were attended by six to eleven men, and began with turtle soup at each end of the table, except for one dinner at which there were two separate kinds of soup for eight men.  The soup course also included turtle steaks and fins and sometimes vegetables and other meats, or macaroni pie.

The entry describing Grimball’s own dinner party gives some idea of the importance of the soup as part of the meal:  “Kit not having been practiced for some time in making turtle soup – I was afraid to risk a trial on the occasion of a dinner party – and therefore, had the thing dressed at the Coffee house – (Soup & Steaks & fins) and brought in the pot to my house about the dinner    hour  – The Soup was excellent & abundant – and the Steaks & fins also – And I paid Mr. Stewart $5. – And to Daniel the cook, who also came and dished it up – I gave – $1.-”

[48] Keyser, 25; Chaudron & Rasch’s “first advertisement in 1809 appeared in the Amerikanischer Boebachter in German, clearly utilizing Rasch’s connection to the German community in Pennsylvania as a marketing tool. Rasch’s connections in Europe helped him tighten his ties to contacts in England and France as well as discern the latest European tastes and styles.”

[49] Robert Morton, Southern Antiques and Folk Art, (Birmingham: Oxmoor House, 1976), 100, 248. This reeded rim was common on French tureens from about 1775 onward, and is very similar to the reeded border on the Boehme tureen in Baltimore, which, like the Gibbons’ tureen and Jefferson’s vegetable dishes, is not engraved.

Silver soup tureen by C.L. Boehme, c. 1800. Height 13 1/4, width 9 11/16, length 7 1/8 inches. Baltimore Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of Robert Morton, Southern Antiques, 1976 p. 100.

[50] Banister, English Silver, 137

[51] Sammons, Silver in Savannah, 56-58