Silver Cream Pitcher

The NYSHA collection includes a small silver cream pitcher.  It is from London (we know this because there is a London hallmark on it), and it dates from 1778 to 1779.  It is marked with a lion and a crown, and on the bottom are two boxes, one with WN in it and the other with a c and a lion and crown.  We don’t know very much about the creamer, but we can ask a few questions of it: How did a London cream pitcher end up in Cooperstown?  Why is it important?  Why am I writing about it?  Why should you care?

The cream pitcher is in Cooperstown because of collector William Festus Morgan Jr.  Morgan (1895-1970) and his family were Coopertonians, and NYSHA holds the family’s papers as well as objects that were donated to the museum’s collection.  The collection of papers includes ephemera, accounts, and family history.  From his records it is apparent that Morgan liked collecting things; in addition to his silver creamer, he also collected stamps.  While we don’t know what his motivations for collecting were, he obviously felt strongly about his collection being preserved for the future because he donated it to the museum.

While collectors can be a funny breed, without them it is possible that objects (and history) would be lost.  I don’t collect anything right now, but if I had my druthers I would be collecting Art Nouveau jewelry. Unfortunately you need more than a grad school budget for that project.  Many vintage lovers are collecting bakelite now and by doing that they are helping to preserve the story of changing technology.  Does Morgan’s silver creamer tell a story?  Without more information about why Morgan acquired it, we can’t tell a great deal about why he had it or why he would have wanted it.  But silver would be expensive, and buying an imported object could denote status.  So perhaps Mr. Morgan was collecting objects that would show off his money and taste?  Perhaps he was trying to associate himself with English habits, such as afternoon tea, that he encountered during his time in the military during World War I.

Do you collect anything?  Do you think your collections say anything about you?  What about the objects you collect, what does your collection say about the individual objects?

-C. Wolf