Tea and Coffee Service, 5 piece set, ca. 1815

  • Fletcher and Gardiner, American, active 1814 - 1838

Silver and ebony

  • various dimensions

Museum Purchase, Lucy Waterman American Art Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Conrad H. Smith Memorial Fund, Mrs. Charles Theron Van Dusen Fund; and gifts from Robert Kingsbury, Euphemia Holden, Mrs. Albert de Salle, City of Detroit, Detroit Historical Commission, American Art Archives by exchange


The Fletcher and Gardiner tea and coffee service, consisting of a coffeepot, teapot, creamer, covered sugar bowl, and waste bowl, is distinguished by its high-styled neoclassical trappings, crisp casting, and exceptional condition.1 To appeal to the early nineteenth-century taste for design inspired by ancient cultures, classical elements, such as acanthus leaves, rosettes, and decorative finials, were skillfully incorporated in this silver service. The neoclassical style is evident in every detail of this grouping, from each piece’s eagle-talon feet to the acorn finials on the pots and sugar bowl. The pots also have spouts that terminate with eagle heads with open beaks. The creamer’s scrolled handle terminates with the eagle’s beak clamping down on the far end of the rim. On each vessel, the bulbous body contains an unidentified coat of arms portraying three birds inside a shield, above which rests a gazelle flanked by two plums. Below the engraved cartouche reads: “My word is my bond.” The sugar and waste bowls stand out among the group, having ancient Roman-inspired masks adorning the short sides of each. In 1808, the New Hampshire-born Thomas Fletcher partnered with silversmith Sidney Gardiner in Boston. Although successful, the ambitious firm relocated to Philadelphia in 1811 in hopes of finding a larger market. There, they flourished by obtaining many commemorative commissions after the victorious War of 1812. Outside of Philadelphia, Fletcher and Gardiner’s reputation grew, and their patronage spread across the eastern seaboard. Their achievements are documented in the following quote: “No silversmith working in America during the late Federal period exceeded either the ambition or the quality of the Philadelphia partnership of Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner.1” Gardiner died in 1827, and the firm continued under its original name until 1836, when Gardiner's name was dropped. Michael E. Crane Adapted from Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 81, nos. 1­–2 (2007): 12–13. Notes 1. Another Fletcher and Gardiner tea service of average quality (not nearly as elaborate or as ambitious in design) entered the collection in 1938 as a gift of Oliver Phelps (38.4.1–5). Periodically, museums acquire works by an artist that they already have represented in their collection as a way to strengthen their holdings by either adding depth or improving the quality. Both services have typical ornamental bands and foliated elements, but what separates them is the superior embellishment, condition, and fabrication of the service acquired in 2002. 2. S. P. Feld and P. Talbott, Boston in the Age of Neo-Classicism, 1810–1804 (New York, 1999), 77.

Stamped: 41 | 11 | 5 | 3 | 03

Engraved: top, a sheild decoarted with three birds with feather plumes and gazelles; below, MY WORD IS MY BOND

2002-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

"American Decorative Arts Acquisitions 1985-2005." Bulletin of the DIA, 81, 1-2 (2007): pp. 12-13, 69.

Fletcher and Gardiner, Tea and Coffee Service, 5 piece set, ca. 1815, silver and ebony. Detroit Institute of Arts, Museum Purchase, Lucy Waterman American Art Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Conrad H. Smith Memorial Fund, et al., V2014.12.