SILVERSMITHS

With all this historic interest attached to the silver of the country we cannot wonder at the great interest Americans take in the collection of old silver plate and at their desire to obtain pieces made from the silver taken from their mines and hall-marked in foreign countries as well as in England. Their interest too, is still greater in the work of American silversmiths, although there are few examples of really ancient plate known to have been made in the States. Wealthy millionaires have gathered together great stores of plate from all parts of the world and have often been the purchasers of historic specimens when they have come under the hammer. It has often been a matter of regret in Great Britain when rare pieces have passed into the hands of American collectors ; and those who desire to conserve the national stores of British antiques are sorry to lose touch with such treasures. We are, however, indebted to the American buyer for many interesting loan collections, and in America there have been many exhibitions of American plate besides the private displays of collectors. One of the most interesting collections of American plate was that shown at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1906-it was essentially representative of American silver. The catalogue issued on that occasion contained much interesting information about the special objects shown. One of the most striking features about that exhibition in which there were so many pieces representing the work of purely American craftsmen was that in the older specimens there was the strongest resemblance to the taste and design of English silversmiths of that particular period. That was of course to be expected, considering that the owners of those silver tankards, beakers and tea-table appointments were English, or English emigrants, or the sons and daughters of those who had then but recently left England for that new land in which the great nation then being formed was in the early stages of the making. Yet in many of the early examples of American domestic plate there were indications of the future prosperity of the nation by the massive solidity and weight of the pieces. The author of the introduction to the Boston catalogue, in which there were many illustrations of domestic plate, tells of the " whistling tankard in cans with ear-shaped handles " ; these, he tells us are " a vivid reminder of early America's great social vice of tippling." He further points out that heavy drinking was so common and intruded itself upon the social and commercial life of the people to such an extent that in the early years of the seventeenth century " no business transactions were consummated, marriage celebrated, or funeral ceremony performed without lavish consumption of liquor."