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The tureen and stand are both engraved with the seal of the Bank of the United States and the arms of Thomas Willing, the inscription reads, "At a Meeting of the STOCKHOLDERS of the BANK of the UNITED STATES, January the 8th: 1799. ON MOTION RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY, That the Sum of FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS be appropriated to be laid out subject to the Order of the DIRECTORS, for the Purchase of a Piece of Plate, to be presented to, THOS. Williamg ESQR.: PRESIDENT of the BANK of the UNITED STATES, in Behalf of the STOCKHOLDERS, as a Testimony of their high Sense of his Services and Exertions for the Benefit of the Institution, during the Prevalence of the late EPEDEMIC in the CITY of PHILADELPHIA. H.G. Otis, Secretary. Jacob Read, Chairman."
This majestic silver tureen was presented to Thomas Willing, President of the Bank of the United States, by the stockholders on January 8, 1799. As detailed by the engraving, Willing’s service is recognised during the recurring yellow fever epidemics that plagued Philadelphia throughout the last decade of the 18th century.
Thomas Willing (d. 1822), probably to his brother
Richard Willing (d. 1858), to his son
Edward Shippen Willing (d. 1906), to his daughter
Susan Ridgway Willing, m. 1899 Francis C. Lawrance, Jr., to their daughter
Frances Alice Willing Lawrance, m. 1919 Prince André Poniatowski Jr., and by descent
Thomas Willing (1731-1821) was born into Philadelphia aristocracy, the eldest son of Charles Willing (1710-1754) and Anne Shippen. His father served twice as mayor of Philadelphia and was one of the first trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, while his mother was daughter to Philadelphia’s second mayor. At age nine, Willing was sent to England for his formal education, returning home to Philadelphia only in 1749. Willing, in partnership with Robert Morris, founded the firm of Willing, Morris, and Company in 1754, the most powerful commercial credit, trade, and transport enterprise of the American colonies. After serving the City in a variety of offices throughout the 1750s, Willing was elected mayor of Philadelphia in 1763 and in 1767 was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania by Governor Thomas Penn. Like his father, Thomas also served as a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, from 1760 until 1791.
Willing was chosen to act as a representative from Philadelphia to the Second Continental Congress in 1776. Though he was present when the vote of independence was passed, he voted against its resolution due to his reluctance to break irrevocably with Great Britain. On the basis of his esteem as merchant and businessman, Willing was selected as the first president of the Bank of North America when charted in 1781. He worked alongside Alexander Hamilton to reduce national debt through the creation of a central bank, and was appointed President of the first Bank of the United States in 1791. Willing died in Philadelphia in 1821.
Willing And The Yellow Fever Epidemic:
Upon his death in 1821, Thomas Willing bequeathed to his son this silver tureen. Emphasizing the property’s personal significance, the tureen is the first item that Willing addresses in his will, directly following his decision of estates and land. Willing wrote: “I give to my son Thomas my silver Tureene with all its appurtenances made in London and given to me by the stockholders in the United States Bank as a testimony of their approbation of my conduct as President of that institution.”
Willing had strong personal connections with the epidemic, as it caused his father’s death in 1754. During Charles Willing’s second term as mayor, the yellow fever broke out in Philadelphia: “And Charles Willing, his strength undermined by his exertions in his official capacity to combat that dreaded disease, fell one of its victims.”The city of Philadelphia fell victim to the plague on numerous occasions through the late 18th century, upon its striking in 1793, 1797, 1798, and 1799. With an official death toll of 5,000, in addition to residents abandoning the city, Philadelphia’s population dwindled from 50,000 at the start of 1793, to 8,000 by the close of 1798.
The role of the Philadelphia banks was crucial in combating the epidemic, as their credit support was needed to support the city’s citizens and build protective infrastructure. Commissions were formed voluntarily among individual citizens to superintend the poor, aimed at raising donations from the city’s government, banks, and wealthy individuals. Commissioner records from 1797 indicate a $100 donation from Thomas M. Willing, $130 received from the Clerks of the Bank of the United States, and $300 from Willing’s son-in-law William Bingham. Furthermore, the Bank of the United States was closely affected by the crisis—by August 1798, the porter had died and two clerks were missing. The monetary donations and public efforts of Willing and those associated with him are commemorated with the presentation of the offered lot.
A Philadelphia Gentleman:
Willing was not merely politically prominent but also extremely well-respected for his character: “He was possessed in a high degree of those sterling qualities of probity, fidelity, and stability, that go to the making up of a model official and business man, and he had and held the public esteem throughout his long career.”In his diary from 1774, Founding Father and Second President of the United States John Adams wrote of Willing that, “he is the most sociable, agreeable man of all.” The Willings travelled in prominent social circles, often hosting important politicians and foreign dignitaries for supper at their Philadelphia townhouse and country mansion.In his diary while attending the Convention of 1787, George Washington recorded many dinners at the Willings’, in addition to his frequent visits at the home of Willing’s daughter Anne and her husband William Bingham.In fact, the 1795 wedding of
Willing’s Philadelphia house was “one of the brilliant social functions of the Washington administration.”Guests in attendance included the Washingtons, Alexander Hamilton, General Henry Knox, and General Benjamin Lincoln.
Pennsylvania Founding Families, 1681-1911
Thomas Willing (1731-1821): Philadelphia Financier and Forgotten Founding Father, Robert E. Wright. Pennsylvania History, Vol. 63, No. 4 (Autumn 1996), pp. 525-560
Anne Hollingsworth Wharton, Washingtons in Official Life
Anne Hollingsworth Wharton, The Salon in Old Philadelphia
|Width||52.10 cm||(20.51 inches)|
Koopman Rare Art
Ground Floor Entrance
London Silver Vaults