Thursday, March 12, 2009

More on that Colonial Mug

On Sunday I passed along a link to a Globe story about a colonial-era mug recently acquired by the MFA after it was discovered in an abandoned safe deposit box. J.L. Bell has some questions about the story as it appears in the article, particularly about the connection to the Auchmuty family. While the Auchmuty family motto is on the mug ("Dum spiro spero," "While I breathe, I hope"), and presumably the crest is theirs as well, Bell suggests (and I agree), that given the silversmith's death in 1741, the mug was probably made for Robert Auchmuty Senior (d. 1750), rather than for his son (also Robert, d. 1788).

Bell's got several other really good points: he points out that in the movie accompanying the article, MFA curator Gerry Ward notes "that the initials on the mug’s bottom are 'M over T E,' and obviously expects those to be the initials of its first owner." But if that's what they are, who's this M over T E character?

Bell also questions the chronology, and again I think he's correct in suggesting this mug probably came into the possession of Thaddeus Mason Harris not during the Revolution but probably later in his life.

As usual, some great historical mythbusting, and some more good questions to track down.

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