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Benjamin Burt and Family Silversmiths Boston Massachusetts

Salt (one of a pair) made by silversmith Benjamin Burt (American, 1729–1805) about 1760–70

Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts Gift of Rosamond G. Heard Accession Number 1991.671

All information below is furnished Museum of Fine Arts Boston Small footed salts such as these were commonly made during the mid-1700s; they succeeded the low circular trenchers of the early 1700s. The cast trifid-foot arrangement found on the salts is also typical of creampots and chafing dishes made during the same period. The cast cabriole legs with “molded pads” and “pad feet” described by Kathryn C. Buhler are similar to those produced by Jacob Hurd during the 1740s and 1750s and bear a close resemblance to those made by Paul Revere (cat. no. 113). The Burt salt bowls are more rounded than the broad flat-bottom salts by Hurd. Despite an active career in Boston, Benjamin Burt made few salts; only about five are known. This text has been adapted from "Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000," edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication. Description: The salt is a shallow, raised, circular vessel with convex sides and scored rim, supported on three cast, cabriole-style legs with hooflike feet. Accompanying box for the salt, made in the nineteenth century, displays silk fittings with gilt block letters that read “JOSEPH WARREN TO SUSANNAH SUMNER 1771.” Marks "B [pellet] BURT" within a rectangle on base, over center point. Inscriptions Engraved "R * W / to / S* S " with "to / E * S " engraved in another hand. At a later date, names were added to fill out the initials as follows: Rd * Warren / to / Sh Sumner. / to / E * S / to / Elizabeth Sumner Lewis. / to George Lewis / 1771." Provenance Despite the prominence of the Boston families whose names grace these salts and their custom-made cases, the original owners of these salts remain elusive. The apparent ownership is through Susannah Stevens Sumner (1709-1733), whose sister Mary Stevens (about 1710-1800/03) was the mother of Joseph Warren (1741-1764) the patriot. Later engravings offer more secure information regarding the descendants of John Sumner (1705-1787) and Susannah Stevens (1709-1733), m. 1729, beginning with their great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Sumner Doggett (1791-1874) and Elijah Lewis (1773-1858), m. 1819;2 to their son, George Lewis (1820-1887) and Susan Minns Wheelwright (1827-1876), m. 1850; to their daughter Adeline Wheelwright Lewis (1858-1939) and John Heard (1859-1895), m. 1887;3 to their son, John Heard, Jr. (1889-1949) and his wife, the donor, Rosamond Gregor Marshall, m. 1939. 1n.a., "Genealogy of the Sumner Family," NEHGS 8 (April 1854):128j, 128m-128o; Richard Frothingham, Life and Times of Joseph Warren (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1865), pp. 545-46; William Sumner Appleton, Record of the Descendants of William Sumner, of Dorchester, Mass. 1636. (Boston: David Clapp & Son, Printers, 1879), pp. 13, 31.

Resource Links on Burt Silversmith

From Description on EBAY Here is an example of the importance of maintaining the chain of provenance on an early item. This little cream pot is a rare surviving example of the earliest form made in the colonies - it is essentially an early 18th Century form, and possibly one of the last of its style to have been made. While it is unsigned, it is engraved "Elizabeth White / 1743." Our resident Silver Genealogist has uncovered three women named Elizabeth White who could possibly be associated with the cream pot -- one was born in this year, another married in this year, and a third married to Samuel Burt, son of John Burt, and brother of Benjamin Burt, silversmiths all. Samuel finished his apprenticeship in 1745, married his Elizabeth in 1747, and took over his father's shop on the latter's death in 1749.

The pot is of a shape typical of a number of somewhat larger surviving canns made by all three of the Burts (and at least one or two other Massachusetts silversmiths). A cream pot in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts by Samuel has a handle that looks identical to the one on this pot, but is of the next earliest form (a bellied pot on three legs).

There is no way of determining with certainty which of the three Elizabeths (or even yet another) owned this pot. It seems unlikely it was the bride who married that year, because wedding gifts generally had initials of both bride and groom; it also seem unlikely (but not impossible) that it was the infant born that year, as the pot is a bit more pretentious a christening gift than the usual spoon; but it does seem possible that Samuel could have made this pot as an apprentice (hence its being unsigned) and given it to his intended, perhaps as betrothal token (this Elizabeth married Samuel at age 19; she would have been only 15 in 1743, but in those days things were done differently than they are today). Had provenance been maintained on this object, we would know whether or not it was owned by Samuel's Elizabeth, and these questions would not even have arisen.

American Silversmith ancestry---

Ad 1924 Boston Herald Sunday, Nov 09, 1924 Boston, MA Page: 66

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