Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Silver and Silverplate in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Boston: Obadiah Rich, Newell Harding, and Roswell Gleason
by Joy, Catherine Lanford, Ph.D., Yale University, 2019, 345; 13806361
Abstract (Summary)

Boston's silver trade was transformed in the mid-nineteenth century. The advent of new manufacturing techniques and new materials diversified production methods and shop organization. The ownership of silver increased and the forms taken by silver objects multiplied. While silver consumption did not peak until the turn of the twentieth century, after the discovery of silver in the United States, its expansion began several decades earlier. This study starts at the end of the War of 1812, when Boston's leaders expressed concern for their city's diminished stature within the greater nation and hoped to improve manufactures through a series of mechanics fairs. It explores the rise in demand for consumer goods, in general, and the functions of silver, specifically, at that time. It provides an overview of Boston's silver trade, its primary characters and trends, and it offers case studies of three metalsmiths who differed in their approaches to the trade. Obadiah Rich focused on elite consumers. Newell Harding was a flatware specialist. Roswell Gleason worked in the more affordable silver alternatives, britannia and silver electroplate. While colonial silversmiths had produced a wide variety of objects, by the 1820s, the silver trade was fragmenting. Workshops became separated from retail stores, flatware from hollowware, and silverplate from coin silver. Analysis of Boston silver in terms of both production and consumption provides greater understanding of the pivotal years before the Gilded Age and makes it possible to understand the design, purchase, and use of household objects through the lens of broader cultural themes.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cooke, Edward S., Jr.
Commitee: Barringer, Tim, Gordon, John S.
School: Yale University
Department: History of Art
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 81/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art history, American studies
Keywords: Newell Harding, Obadiah Rich, Roswell Gleason, Silver, Silverplate
Publication Number: 13806361
ISBN: 9781085787765
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