Sunday, July 7, 2013

J. Conning Southern Silver and Inspired Sunday

I finally photographed one of the silver pieces I took to the Antiques Roadshow,  the coin silver christening cup from 1856. I stumbled upon this in an antiques/vintage items shop about 8 or 9 years ago, when I was just beginning to learn about early silver.  I didn't know if this was silver or pewter or tin at the time, but I felt it was good and for $18.00, just the date on the front was worth the price:
Archie Redwood, June 23, 1856

                                 The only marks on the bottom were J. Conning, Mobile:

Ever the consummate researcher, I couldn't wait to get home and see if it was anything special.  It's hard to imagine how much more information is available online now as compared to 9 years ago--do you ever think about that?  Back then, I really couldn't find much, except for an article in Silver magazine that I could only get by purchasing the paper  issue.  I learned that the silversmith, James Conning left New York after 1840 to open a new shop near the waterfront in Mobile, Alabama.  The only port in the state, Mobile was the center of commerce for the cotton brokers, financiers, and plantation owners.  

Once the cotton was sold and the accounts were all settled, the plantation owners would use their profit to buy supplies as well as luxuries that symbolized their wealth and prosperity.  My cup was a christening gift for Archie Redwood. (How I would love to know about that family!)  It was handmade, as you can see from the irregularity in shape:

                                                 and the turning lines on the bottom:

Before 1859 when the Comstock Lode was discovered, silver was scarce in America. Silversmiths made their goods from melted coins or silver bars, which were 90% silver and 10% copper. Silver in this period was termed coin silver.  Later, sterling, which is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, would become the standard.

It's crazy to think that this cup was made before the Civil War, which began in 1861.  Once war looked eminent, James Conning changed his business to reflect a pressing need: swords and metal items for soldiers, like cartridge boxes, gilt fringes, and uniform buttons, as you can see in the advertisement on the right.

After the war, the South was broke, but metal- smiths in Mobile fared better than most due to the influx of people to the port.  After 1865, sterling became the standard and most silver was no longer completely handmade.

How fortunate I was to stumble upon this rare and wonderful piece of history! The appraiser at the Roadshow estimated its auction value at $1000.00--it would be half that if it were not "Southern silver." I will have it appraised by a Southern silver expert one of these days, and I might sell it. For right now, it's a thrill just to own and enjoy it.

What inspired you this week?  SO much!  I had a difficult time choosing what to feature as everyone linked such meaningful, interesting, and beautiful posts!  Debbie and Penny found amazing yard sale treasures, and Brittany hit the jackpot on a wonderful hutch.  Jann, Debbie, Susan, and Penny shared beautiful 4th of July decorations.  Denise and Magali were hard at work transforming furniture and a ceiling with paint. Dawn, Sarah, and Amy shared festive food that looks delish, and resourceful Naush created an inventive cupcake stand from repurposed cardboard remnants.  If you haven't visited other blog party attendees this week, you can check them all out here!

I actually thought about featuring everyone, but I didn't have hours to give justice to everyone's loveliness.  So I chose two bloggers that are new to the party.  They both shared vintage paper, and since paper is my medium and vintage is my muse... 

Danielle at Blessed Serendipity found these amazing vintage playing cards at a thrift shop for $1.00!!!!!!  I am GREEN with envy! :-)  I don't think I'll be able to stop looking for some now.

Maureen at Victorian Studio found wonderful vintage Halloween cutouts and decorations made by Beistle--that also make me envious, BTW!  :-)  The cat is my favorite, but she found many different ones mixed in a bag for $2.99. They are worth quite a lot of money. Check out her blog so you can be on the lookout when you are out thrifting!

So there you have it. I wish you a blessed, relaxing, healthy and peaceful Sunday.  I can't wait to see what you link up this week! If you've been featured, please grab my button and put it on your blog. Thanks!


Debbie@Debbie-Dabble and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

Beautiful pieces!! Thanks so much for hosting, Laura!!


Arnoldo L. Romero, MLA said...

I love to shop at thrift stores and antique shops too. That silver cup was truly a treasure find. I have a silver goblet that I found years ago that I should research too. Thanks for stopping by my blog and for your kind words, Laura. I was out of town visiting family, so I haven't had much art time. However, as soon as I come back from church, I'll be back in my studio. I have to make my z tag. Blessings!

Sherry Thecharmofhome said...

What a beautiful silver cup! Such a great find.
Thank you for hosting!

Refresh Renew said...

I love that you have the story of the heritage behind the silver! Love the story as much as the piece! Looking forward to joining your party this week.-aimee

Dawn@ We Call It said...

I'm glad you got to show us the cup you took to Antiques Roadshow. That's a wonderful find. Pre-Civil War, wow! I love that Halloween cat cut-out too. Joining the party again this week, thanks for hosting. Take care - Dawn

Blessed Serendipity said...

What a gorgeous piece of silver. You can't beat the old stuff when everything was handmade and the craftsmanship was so beautiful. Thank you so much for featuring my playing cards. It was such a nice surprise.


Shannon @ SMC by Design said...

How fun that you had your silver piece appraised. The Antiques Roadshow came to our town last weekend. I love the vintage paper you featured and I will be sure to visit those blogs. :)

Maureen said...

Oh Laura, thank you so much for featuring my post!! I shall add your button to my blog tonight! Wow, what a cool surprise!

Designated Daughter said...

I've been searching for information about J. Conning in Mobile as I am cleaning out my parents house. They have lots of silver pieces. Couldn't help but notice the name on the cup you featured. "Redwood" is my family name. My father wrote our family history of the four brothers who came to Mobile and their families. "Archie" was born to Robert Higgins and Martha Ann Redwood. He was the first of three children. Archie worked as a clerk and salesman while a young man in Mobile. He married Marry and moved to Texas where they had seven children. Archie operated a grocery business in Houston.
Thought you'd enjoy a little back story to your cup.

Laura Turner said...

I am ecstatic that you posted the lineage of this cup! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have searched so many times for information on Archie Redwood. Would you please email me? I would love to give you some additional information about Southern Silver and an expert who could help you.

Thank you!