A LANDMARK IN HISTORY

It is only by noting well-known landmarks in the social history of a country that we can arrive at the starting point of a new era. Such landmarks serve to fix dates just as the date letters of old silver tell definitely the time of its making, but such periods are often arbitrarily marked for their influence upon production, art, craftsmanship, and social customs do not always spread with equal regularity, indeed their influence would be felt in London or in the locality in which they occurred more than places further afield or more remote in their connections. Such a landmark occurred when George III came to the throne in 1760. His reign was eventful in that during the later part of it the styles already mentioned were being formulated, and the silversmiths and others altered their mode in accordance with the growing popular taste. The loss of our American Colonies must have come as a rude shock to commerce ; it caused a rupture in the continuity of trade with those Colonies, and gave an impetus to new industries in America, for such a break in commercial transactions, if only for a time, was not without its natural effect. The States were free and thrown upon their own re-sources. What mattered it if the workmen of the freed Colonies followed the old styles or instituted new ones. Their claim to British descent was sound, and American citizens were only following the same line as their ancestors in England, deviating, however, at the point of breakage, and gradually founding a new school of cosmopolitan art. In England science and the discovery of steam power and mechanical traction gave a great impetus to commerce. It was then that the old-world centres of trade, and many hitherto unassailed local occupations received a rude shock, and some rapid development was made in hitherto unknown localities. Birmingham was the new fast developing centre of the hardware trade. Sheffield,, hitherto celebrated for its cutlery - Chaucer wrote " Sheffield thytel bear he in his hose "- began to make much silver, and these growing centres wanted local facilities for hall-marking their wares, hence the grant of halls of assay to both Birmingham and Sheffield in 1773. The opening up of canals brought rural England in touch with these trading centres, and the increasing wealth of the middle classes operated in favour of silversmiths and others who made domestic house furnishings. The altered state of Society changed the order of trade, instead of very large and disproportionate articles of silver for the wealthy noblemen and massive sets of silver plate for the few, the silversmith began to make smaller cups and moderate sized dishes. The large standing salt had long disappeared, and very many varieties of smaller table salts made their appearance. The Georgian period, chiefly the latter half of the eighteenth century, brought with it great activity among the makers of silver spoons, chiefly of the size and type we still call " table " spoons. Very many sauce boats were fashioned ; the newer tastes for sauces requiring them. About the middle of the eighteenth century the late, dissolute habits of the aristocracy made bed pull in the morning when breakfast was usually taken about eleven o'clock, dinner came at five o'clock, and supper at eleven o'clock-tea and its silver accompaniments had not then become a regular institution. The common folk, however, breakfasted at seven, dined at twelve, and went to bed early.