Saturday, November 14, 2015

An Unusual Tankard -- And Its Backstory

I have been meaning to tell you about a silver tankard recently auctioned at the Skinner Galleries.

This intriguing piece is typical mid-18th century; what isn't typical, though, is its inscription:
   "The Gift of John Swan who Died/May 1 1743 AE 75 to his Son John Swan."

This is the same John Swan who married Susannah (or "Hannah") Eastman -- a woman who had to deal with captivity not just once, but twice by Indians. The first time, in 1676, her husband was killed, their house burned, and she was held by the Indians two years. Soon after her release, she married "Crazy headed" John Swan; the couple eventually had seven children.
     The second time Indians attacked, in 1708, Susannah (and presumably John)  managed to fight them off -- the story goes that she stabbed one of her would-be abductors with a fireplace poker as he entered the house.

According to an early 19th century note left by a descendant:

“when a Child [John] had a little drum which he beat uppon when the indians attacted the house of his father as it was the mother of my grand father they wanted as they had murdered he first husband a taylor and one Child and they took her prisoner and kept her on year and ten months when he escaped in exchanging prisoners She came to haveril then Wido where she married this Crazy headed John Swan…”

Poor girl...

Soon after the second incident, Susannah and John moved to Stonington, Connecticut. (Can you blame them...) After John's death, the tankard came to his son John, their firstborn.
Thus the inscription.

Read more here. 

(P.S. It sold for $6,765 -- slightly more than the pre-auction top estimate: $4000-6000.)

Silver Tankard, detail
Silver Tankard, detail

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