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The craftsman
Vol. VII, No. 5 (February 1905)

Riley, Mary L.
Old pewter plate,   pp. 571-579 PDF (2.2 MB)


Page 571


OLD PEWTER PLATE. BY MARY L. RILEY
ITHIN a few years there has been a revival of interest
in pewter plate and a growing revival among col-
lectors as individuals, museums, historical societies
and clubs. While the attraction held by pewter lies
largely in its color, the design and workmanship al-
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    In the centuries when pewter was so popular, several alloys were
employed in making different grades, but the composition of tin and
lead was most commonly used. Old pewter was largely combined
with new lead and tin, giving a fine alloy. Brass and copper were
sometimes incorporated into the composition and in India the pew-
terers hammered silver into the surface.
   In the country districts of England, and on the continent, travel-
ing pewterers went from house to house with a few molds and crude
implements, recasting the damaged and worn vessels: in this way, de-
stroying a quantity of pewter that would have been of great interest
to collectors. Casting, hammering and spinning were some of the
ways by which the world was supplied with pewter plate. The fin-
is'hing was very largely done by hand. Molds always played an im-
portant part. They were usually made of gun metal, and were held at
high value.  These molds belonged to a craft or guild, and were
loaned to the members. To any one interested in this metal the name
of Townsend and Compton, found so frequently on pewter plates and
vessels, suggests one of the largest firms in London in those times.
Additional marks, small and frequently fac-similes of portions of
silver hall marks, were repeated as many as four times on much of
the plate. Any piece, with a cross surmounted with a crown, was
considered rare. Many of the plates that we find in the old homes
all through New England are punched with small, plain letters.
Through these mediums a collector has many tests for genuineness-
beside those of weight, color, and form.
   The makers of pewter plate were known by the special branch of
the craft in which they worked. Those who made heavy articles
only were sad-ware men. Hollow-ware men turned out pots, flagons,
and tankards. Spoons, forks, buckles, buttons and toys were made
by triflers.
   From the fifteenth to the early part of the seventeenth century,
pewter plate was extensively used in the houses of the gentry, and an
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