American Silver Tankard
This sauceboat is a fine example of a form associated with fashionable dining. When entertaining, wealthy Bostonians, like the original owner of this sauceboat, served a variety of dishes at each course. The first course generally consisted of one or two soups, fish, several roasts as well as other cuts of meat, fowl, game, vegetables, stews, and boiled puddings, while the second course included a similar list of dishes complemented by a sweet pudding or a tart. Lavish dinners required two dessert courses, one consisting of creams, cakes, and preserved fruit and jellies, and the other of fresh fruit and nuts. Sauces were an important part of the first three courses. Puddings made of eggs, sugar, milk, and meal would be served, for instance, with a sweet sauce made from melted butter, wine, and sugar that was served from a ceramic or silver sauceboat.1Belden 1983, 19–23, 208. The English traveler Dr. Alexander Hamilton, in his Itinerarium of 1744, mentions that in Boston he was served codfish “elegantly dressed with a sauce of butter and eggs.”2Dr. Alexander Hamilton, Itinerarium, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (1907, reprint New York: Arno Press, 1971), 132.
The sauceboat form seems to have come to the colonies in delftware examples by the 1660s.3Cary Carson, “The Consumer Revolution in America: Why Demand?” in Cary Carson, Ronald Hoffman, and Peter J. Albert, eds., Of Consuming Interests: The Style of Life in the Eighteenth Century, (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia for the United States Capitol Historical Society, 1994), 600. Ceramic sauceboats were probably always more common than costly silver examples such as this one in the Queen Anne style, which is one of a pair. Its cabriole legs, pad feet, scalloped rim, and broad lip are characteristic of Boston-made sauceboats of this period, including at least eleven surviving examples by the maker of this sauceboat, Jacob Hurd, who was the most prolific Boston silversmith of his generation.4Kane 1998, 598–615 (Barbara M. Ward entry on Jacob Hurd). Sauceboats were generally made in pairs and even sometimes in sets of four. Kathryn C. Buhler observed that they often seem to be engraved on the same side, indicating that they were meant to be displayed facing in the same direction.5Kathryn C. Buhler, manuscript notes, Department of the Art of the Americas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This sauceboat and its mate, also in the Collection, are engraved with a crest of a demilion, but their original owner cannot be identified.
Barbara McLean Ward
Excerpted from Jonathan L. Fairbanks. Becoming a Nation: Americana from the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State. New York: Rizzoli, 2003.