The Farm Antiques, Wells Maine

About The Author: Hannah Crouthamel

Hannah Crouthamel
It seems like I have been an antique dealer forever, but in fact the first 18 years The-Farm-Antiquesof my life I was just the child of an Air Force officer, moving from one place to another (over 16 moves, in fact). In 1960 my parents, Tom and Jeannette Hackett, purchased a decrepit farm on 150 acres in southern coastal Maine. They were planning for their eventual “retirement” in 1967.

They were blessed with energy and a huge work ethic that apparently is inherited, as I too have those traits. They rehabbed “The Farm” and in 1967, they opened it as an antique shop. I was about to enter college at George Washington University and needed tuition money. So, inspired by my parents, I became involved in studying, buying and selling antiques. It was huge fun, a great challenge and proved to be profitable, as well.

In 1971 after graduating from G. W. with a degree in biology, I spent a year building my business and then married a bright PhD student, David Crouthamel. I spent the next three years doing research at the University of Georgia, School of Veterinary Medicine, while still pursuing the development of my antiques business…. (more…)

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Tea Caddies of the 18th and 19th Century

Tea, Status and Storage Part Two – Tea Caddies of the Late 18th and Early 19th Century

This blog continues to explore tea and the development of tea caddy design from the late 18th through the 19th century.  By the early 18th century, tea had become an important part of English social life.  So it is not surprisng that by the last half of the 18th century important designers were including boxes for tea storage in their design books.  Both Thomas Chippendale and George Hepplewhite had a page devoted to tea chest design; Hepplewhite also had a page of tea caddy designs.  (As you will remember from my previous blog, tea chests had removable containers for tea, tea caddies were containers in their own right.  By the 19th century the terminology had changed so that tea caddy described both type of boxes.)  Throughout the 19th century tea caddy design evolved to reflect the changing tastes and attitudes of the era. 

The difference between the 1762 designs of Chippendale’s The Gentleman & Cabinet-Maker’s Director (see my earlier blog) and the 1788 designs from Hepplewhite’s Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide parallel the trends in style. The shapes of the  tea chests were generally similar, but Hepplewhite Teacaddyreplaced metal mounts with neoclassical inlays. His tea caddies boasted more varied shapes and sizes.

There were single, double and triple sizes. The tea chests were double or triple
sized. The double size had two compartments for two different types of tea; or one tea compartment and one recessed area which contained a glass bowl for sugar storage. The triple size usually had two compartments for tea and one for a sugar bowl, though occasionally there were three tea compartments, presumably because the owners were protesting the use of slaves in the production of sugar and were thus boycotting sugar.

The Hepplewhite style was marked by having no feet, being of square, oval, oblong, polygonal or elliptical shape. The tea caddies have straight sides, generally flat lids, though occasionally domed or concave lids are utilized. In tortoiseshell or ivory caddies the tops are sometime pyramidal. Sometimes you will find a small handle or finial on the top; keyholes are inlaid with ivory, bone or boxwood. They are enhanced by inlays of contrasting woods and sometimes embellished with engraved lines. Often the boxwood inlays are shaded by use of controlled burning in hot sand. (more…)

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Silver, Old Sheffield Plate & Silverplate

How to Differentiate Between Silver, Old Sheffield Plate and Silverplate

In Part I, I gave a brief history of the development of the British silverplating industry in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Now I would like to offer some tips on how to determine whether a given object is silver, Old Sheffield Plate or silverplate.

In England silver has been marked in some manner since the 12th century when it was first regulated by Parliament.  The marks made it possible to trace the maker and the place of manufacture.  This helped to protect the consumer, for if it was determined that the silver object was not actually pure enough to be marked as silver, the culprit could be found and punishment could be meted out.  As silver objects made before 1700 are quite rare, I shall restrict my comments to those made after that date.

In 1719 Parliament established the standard for purity for sterling silver and instituted a mark indicating that an item is of sufficient purity to be deemed sterling.  That standard means an item is made of 92.5% pure silver.  The mark is a Lion Passant-the image of a lion walking, facing left.  You may be sure that an object bearing this mark is English sterling silver made after 1719.

In addition to the Lion Passant there are other marks which give more information about the sterling silver object.  There is a mark which will tell you in what city it was assayed (i.e. its purity measured):  e.g. London, Birmingham, Chester, Sheffield, Dublin, Edinburgh, etc.  There is another mark  – generally the sovereign’s head – which will certify that duty was paid on the piece.  Another mark will give the year that the item was assayed (generally speaking the year it was made) -these are letters in a shield device.  Each year is represented by a different letter of the alphabet.  The shape of the shield changed over time; the facetype of the letter changed over time; whether the letter was capitalized or not changed over time.  All of these details enable one to determine date of manufacture.  Then there are makers marks, usually only letters which will identify the maker.   See Figure 1.

Fig. 1.  Sterling silver marks (left to right).  F&S = Maker's  Mark (Fattorini & Sons); Crown:  Assay Mark for city of Sheffield; Lion Passant:  Sterling silver  92.5% silver;  "o" :  year mark for 1906
Figure 1. Sterling Silver Marks (left to right)
F&S: Maker’s Mark (Fattorini & Sons)
Crown: Mark for the city of Sheffield
Lion Passant: Certifies of sterling silver purity
Letter “o”: Year mark (1906)

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Old Sheffield Plate, Silverplate and Society Part 1

My mother always contended that if one serves food using beautiful utensils and serving pieces, one can be a much poorer chef and no one will notice.English Silverplate Breakfast Server  She was right, moreover it is immensely gratifying to put together a meal and have everything look elegant.  Many of our younger clients are enjoying purchasing fine silverplate and Old Sheffield plate and using it on a regular basis, as they too have discovered it makes entertaining easier and more fun.  The history of Sheffield plate and silverplate reflects the changes in society from the mid-18th through the 19th centuries.

Originally a luxury that only the super rich could afford, silver expanded by the mid 19th century into a huge cutting edge industry that produced elegant items which discriminating individuals from the middle class could also afford.  In this blog, I will summarize the differences between Sheffield plate and silverplate.  I will build on this knowledge in Part Two of this series, where I will explain how to tell what type of silver one is looking at  – sterling, Sheffield plate or silverplate.

In the 18th century, silver was only used by the very wealthy, as it was an expensive commodity. In 1742 Thomas Boulsover of Sheffield invented a new process that became known as Sheffield plating. The name was derived from the town in which it was developed (this process soon spread to other towns such as Birmingham and London, but it is still called Sheffield plating regardless of where it is done). Sheffield plated objects were significantly less expensive than solid silver ones. Always seeking value for money, the aristocracy (later including the Prince of Wales), gentry and professional classes quickly embraced this new technology.

Items made in Sheffield plate could be about one third the price of pure silver ones, but looked the same. In fact there is no simple formula for determining what a plated object versus a silver object should cost; much depends on the intricacy, size, weight and the type of silver (cast or stamped) one is considering. For example, in the 18th century a pair of Sheffield plated candlesticks could cost three pounds versus nine pounds for a stamped silver pair and thirty five pounds for a cast silver pair; a silver soup tureen could cost between fifty and one hundred pounds, while the Sheffield plated one could sell between ten and fifteen pounds

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Tea, Status and Storage Part One 17th to Mid 18th Century

Tea, Status and Storage    Part One   17th to Mid 18th Century
By Hannah Crouthamel

Brief History of Tea in England
Tea, originally used in China in the 4th century as a healing beverage, found its way to Europe in the 16th century, and to England by the early 17th century. In 1639 the “Garraways” opened by Sir Henry Garraway, governor of the East India Company, was Tea Caddythe first coffee house to serve tea. By 1664 the English East India Company was importing tea and hailing its efficacy for curing “colds and defluxations”. By the early 18th century tea was being sold in liquid as well as leaf form in coffee houses, apothecaries, as well as in shops that catered to the female market.

Tea was very expensive. In 1665 it sold for 16 to 50 shillings a pound, that at a time when the average skilled workman earned less than 20 shillings a week. Tea was touted as a delicious beverage with therapeutic properties. It was taxed heavily and as a result came to be smuggled extensively. In 1700 only 70 pounds of tea was imported to England; by 1730 that had risen to about a million pounds. The lure of tea was extreme and by the 1730’s poor working people were partaking of the beverage, though it had been “recycled”. Servants often dried the tea leaves after they had been used and then sold them in the underground economy as did workers in tea shops. This resulted in even wider dissemination of the brew. By the middle of the 18th century, recycled tea had found its way into most corners of society, and tea could be bought by the “pinch” which made it more accessible to all classes and wove this beverage into the very fabric of English life. (more…)

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