Gift of Judge Bailey Aldrich in commemoration of a warm friendship with Frank L.
Harrington, Class of 1924; M.975.80.1-6
Daniel Webster (1782-1852), Dartmouth Class of 1801, enjoyed a distinguished career as a lawyer and a statesman, serving as a congressman and a senator and as secretary of state under President Millard Fillmore. Webster purchased this tea service toward the end of his life, possibly for the new house he erected in 1846 on his Franklin, New Hampshire, estate, where he frequently entertained. Although he did not keep regular accounts, existing records from 1847 to 1849 indicate that he purchased numerous household furnishings, including several items from Jones, Ball & Poor (now Shreve, Crump & Low), which retailed this tea service. A small Boston silversmith firm, Woodward & Grosjean, actually made the set, and their initials are stamped on each piece together with the retailer’s mark. Though probably not a special order, the service is personalized by the engraved “W” and the Webster crest of a horse’s head on each piece. The exuberant ornamentation of this tea service reflects the popularity of rococo design motifs in American decorative arts of the mid-nineteenth century. Rather than merely adopting the curvilinear outlines of the style, nineteenth-century craftsmen frequently covered the entire surface of an object with elaborate naturalistic design elements. Note here, for example, the rustic handles cast in the shape of tree branches, the stylized raised, or repoussé, floral design, and the applied trailing vines and leaves. Of particular interest are the curious agrarian figures—perhaps Native Americans—that serve as finials on the four lidded pieces. The pear-shaped bodies of the vessels and convex fluting on the upper section of each piece are reminiscent of the earlier empire style.
Last Updated: 6/9/09