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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

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Richard Lee Sr., American, 1747-1823, Richard Lee Jr., American, 1775-after 1816

1795-about 1816
Gift of Katharine T. and Merrill G. Beede, Class of 1929; M.991.39.1


Richard Lee was an itinerant pewterer who, like many craftsmen, combined his trade with other vocations. According to his own account, he also served at various times as a preacher, a tanner, a merchant, and an herb doctor. In his later years in Springfield, Vermont, Lee peddled pewter and brass for his son, Richard Jr. The various touchmarks used by the Richard Lees are yet to be firmly attributed to father or son, since it is possible that they exchanged dies. The mark on the inside bottom of the basin, however, is believed to have been used primarily by Richard Lee Sr. Although fairly rare survivals today, basins, like plates, were sometimes termed “sadware,” indicating that they were one-piece vessels of mediocre alloy cast in two-part molds and sold by the pound. The Lees made many small porringers that may have been used as toys or wine tasters. The handle designs on Lee porringers are unusually varied, suggesting that they made their own handle molds of soapstone rather than brass and replaced them frequently. Especially noticeable on the example to the left is the linen mark inside the bowl at the handle joining, which is evidence that the handle was cast onto the finished body rather than cast as one. To cast a handle, molten metal was poured through a mold shaped to match the contours of the bowl exactly, while fabric-covered metal tongs held the bowl in place and prevented the hot metal from melting through the vessel’s walls. An impression from the linen generally remained where the metal walls had softened.

Last Updated: 5/1/09