Purchase made possible through the generosity of Frank L. Harrington, Class of 1924; M.987.43
This example’s “grotesque” cast ornaments and “rat-tail” extension at the upper handle joining are common features of Boston tankards from this period. The vessel enjoyed several years of domestic service before it was presented in 1761 to the First Church in Medford, Massachusetts. It initially commemorated the union of John Parker and Mary Hancock, as noted by the three partially rubbed initials in the engraved cartouche. It was given to the Medford church by Mary Parker’s second husband, John Francis Whitmore, and Mary Whitmore (in name, as she had died the previous year). Thus the tankard performed various social functions over time. It commemorated two marriages, served as a domestic drinking vessel for several decades, and later had a ceremonial role in communion services. The adoption of an obviously domestic form for sacramental use in a reformed church would appear to be an intentional rejection of the consciously elaborate ritual style of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. This aversion to lavish ecclesiastical tradition was also evidenced by the humility and starkness of conventional meetinghouse architecture. Henry Hurst was born in Sweden and probably trained in Stockholm before working as a journeyman in London and immigrating to Boston in 1699. Perhaps because of his foreign birth and lack of social connections, he seems to have worked primarily as a jobber for other silversmiths rather than as an independent producer and merchant, despite his considerable talent. Only three pieces bearing his mark are known.
Last Updated: 4/29/09