33. COFFEE IN RELATION TO THE FINE ARTS
How coffee and coffee drinking have been celebrated in painting, engraving, sculpture, caricature, lithography, and music—Epics, rhapsodies, and cantatas in praise of coffee—Beautiful specimens of the art of the potter and the silversmith as shown in the coffee service of various periods in the world's history—Some historical relics
Coffee has inspired the imagination of many poets, musicians, and painters. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries those whose genius was dedicated to the fine arts seem to have fallen under its spell and to have produced much of great beauty that has endured. To the painters, engravers, and caricaturists of that period we are particularly indebted for pictures that have added greatly to our knowledge of early coffee customs and manners.
Adriaen Van Ostade (1610–1685), the Dutch genre painter and etcher, pupil of Frans Hals, in his "Dutch Coffee House" (1650), shows the genesis of the coffee house of western Europe about the time it still partook of some of the tavern characteristics. Coffee is being served to a group in the foreground. It is believed to be the oldest existing picture of a coffee house. The illustration is after the etching by J. Beauvarlet in the graphic collection at Munich.
William Hogarth (1697–1764), the famous English painter and engraver of satirical subjects, chose the coffee houses of his time for the scenes of a number of his social caricatures. In his series, "Four Times of the Day," which throws a vivid light on the street life of London of the period of 1738, we are shown Covent Garden at 7:55 A.M. by the clock on St. Paul's Church. A prim maiden lady (said to have been sketched from an elderly relation of the artist, who cut him out of her will) on her way home from early service, accompanied by a shivering foot-boy, is scandalized by the spectacle presented by some roystering blades issuing from Tom King's notorious coffee house to the right. The beaux are forcing their attentions upon the more comely of the market women in the foreground. Tom King was a scholar at Eton before he began his ignoble career. At the date of this picture, it is thought he had been succeeded by his widow, Moll King, also of scandalous repute.
Scene VI of the "Rake's Progress" by Hogarth is laid at the club in White's chocolate (coffee) house, which Dr. Swift described as "the common rendezvous of infamous sharpers and noble cullies." The rake has lost all his recently acquired wealth, pulls off his wig and flings himself upon the floor in a paroxysm of fury and execration. In allusion to the burning of White's in 1733, flames are seen bursting from the wainscot, but the pre-occupied gamblers take no heed, even of the watchman crying "Fire!" To the left is seated a highwayman, with horse pistol and black mask in a skirt pocket of his coat. He is so engrossed in his thoughts that he does not notice the boy at his side offering a glass of liquor on a tray. The scene well depicts the low estate to which White's had fallen. It recalls a bit of dialogue from Farquhar's Beaux' Stratagem (act III, scene 2), where Aimwell says to Gibbet, who is a highwayman: "Pray, sir, ha'nt I seen your face at Will's Coffee House?" "Yes sir, and at White's, too," answers the highwayman.
After the fire, the club and chocolate house were removed to Gaunt's coffee house. The removal was thus announced in the Daily Post of May 3:
This is to acquaint all noblemen and gentlemen that Mr. Arthur having had the misfortune to be burnt out of White's Chocolate House is removed to Gaunt's Coffee House, next the St. James Coffee House in St. James Street, where he humbly begs they will favour him with their company as usual.
Alessandro Longhi (1733–1813) the Italian painter and engraver, called the Venetian Hogarth, in one of his pictures presenting life and manners in Venice during the years of her decadence, shows Goldoni, the dramatist, as a visitor in a café of the period, with a female mendicant soliciting alms.
In the Louvre at Paris hangs the "Petit Déjeuner" by François Boucher (1703–1770), famous court painter of Louis XV. It shows a French breakfast-room of the period of 1744, and is interesting because it illustrates the introduction of coffee into the home; it shows also the coffee service of the time.
In Van Loo's portrait of Madame de Pompadour, second mistress and political adviser of Louis XV of France, the coffee service of a later period of the eighteenth century appears. The Nubian servant is shown offering the marquise a demi-tasse which has just been poured from the covered oriental pot which succeeded the original Arabian-Turkish boiler, and was much in vogue at the time.
Coffee and Madame du Barry (or would it be more polite to say Madame du Barry and coffee?) inspired the celebrated painting of Madame de Pompadour's successor in the affections of Louis "the well beloved." This is entitled "Madame du Barry at Versailles", and in the Versailles catalog it is described as painted by Decreuse after Drouais. Decreuse was a pupil of Gros, and painted many of the historical portraits at Versailles.
Malcolm C. Salaman, in his French Color Prints of the XVIII Century, referring to Dagoty's print of this picture, done in 1771, says, "the original has been attributed to François Hubert Drouais, but there can be little doubt that the original portraiture was from the hand of the engraver (Dagoty), as the style is far inferior to Drouais." He thus describes it:
Here we see the last of Louis XV's mistresses, sitting in her bedroom in that alluring retreat of hers at Louveciennes, near the woods of Marly, as she takes her cup of coffee from her pet attendant, the little negro boy, Zamore, as the Prince de Conti had named him, all brave in red and gold. Doubtless she is expecting the morning visit of the King, no longer the handsome young gallant, but old and leaden-eyed, and puffy-cheeked; and perhaps it will be on this very morning that she will wheedle Louis, in a moment of extravagant badinage, into appointing the negro boy to be Governor of the Chateau and Pavilion of Louveciennes at a handsome salary, just as, on another day, she playfully teased the jaded old sensualist into decorating with the cordon bleu her cuisinière when it was triumphantly revealed to him that the dinner he had been praising with enthusiastic gusto was, after all, the work of a woman cook, the very possibility of which he had contemptuously doubted. But as we look at these two, the royal mistress and her little black favorite, we forget the "well beloved" and his voluptuous pleasures and indulgences, for in the shadows we see another picture, some twenty years on, when the proud unconscionable beauty, no longer reine de la main gauche, stands before the dreaded Tribunal of the Terror, while Zamore, the treacherous, ungrateful negro, dismissed from his service at Louveciennes and now devoted to the committee of public safety, and one of her implacable accusers, sends her shrieking to the guillotine.
The introduction of the coffee house into Europe was memorialized by Franz Schams, the genre painter, pupil of the Vienna Academy, in a beautiful picture entitled "The First Coffee House in Vienna, 1684," owned by the Austrian Art Society. A lithographic reproduction was executed by the artist and printed by Joseph Stoufs in Vienna. There are several specimens in the United States; and the illustration printed on page 48 has been made from one of these in the possession of the author.
The picture shows the interior of the Blue Bottle, where Kolschitzky opened the first coffee house in Vienna. The hero-proprietor stands in the foreground pouring a cup of the beverage from an oriental coffee pot, and another is suspended from the coffee-house sign that hangs over the fireplace. In the fire alcove a woman is pounding coffee in a mortar. Men and women in the costumes of the period are being served coffee by a Vienna mädchen.
The painters Marilhat, Descamps, and de Tournemine have pictured café scenes; the first in his "Café sur une route de Syrie", which was shown at the Salon of 1844; the second in his "Café Turc", which figured at the Exposition of 1855; and the third in his "Café en Asia Mineure", which received honors at the Salon of 1859, and attracted attention at the Universal Exposition of 1867.
A decorative panel designed for the buffet at the Paris Opera House by S. Mazerolles was shown at the Exposition of 1878. A French artist, Jacquand, has painted two charming compositions; one representing the reading room, and the other the interior, of a café.
Many German artists have shown coffee manners and customs in pictures that are now hanging in well known European galleries. Among others, mention should be made of C. Schmidt's "The Sweets Shop of Josty in Berlin", 1845; Milde's "Pastor Rautenberg and His Family at the Coffee Table", 1833; and his "Manager Classen and His Family at the Afternoon Coffee Table", 1840; Adolph Menzel's "Parisian Boulevard Café", 1870; Hugo Meith's "Saturday Afternoon at the Coffee Table"; John Philipp's "Old Woman with Coffee Cup"; Friedrich Walle's "Afternoon Coffee in the Court Gardens at Munich"; Paul Meyerheim's "Oriental Coffee House"; and Peter Philippi's (Dusseldorf) "Kaffeebesuch."
At the Exposition des Beaux Arts, Salon of 1881, there was shown P.A. Ruffio's picture, "Le café vient au secours de la Muse" (Coffee comes to the aid of the Muse), in which the graceful form of an oriental ewer appears.
The "Coffee House at Cairo," a canvas by Jean Léon Gérôme (1824–1904) that hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, has been much admired. It shows the interior of a typical oriental coffee house with two men near a furnace at the left preparing the beverage; a man seated on a wicker basket about to smoke a hooka; a dervish dancing; and several persons seated against the wall in the background.
The New York Historical Society acquired in 1907 from Miss Margaret A. Ingram an oil painting of the "Tontine Coffee House." It was painted in Philadelphia by Francis Guy, and was sold at a raffle, after having been admired by President John Adams. It shows lower Wall Street in 1796–1800, with the Tontine coffee house on the northwest corner of Wall and Water Streets, where its more famous predecessor, the Merchants coffee house, was located before it moved to quarters diagonally opposite.
Charles P. Gruppe's (b. 1860) painting showing General "Washington's Official Welcome to New York by City and State Officials at the Merchants Coffee House," April 23, 1789, just one week before his inauguration as first president of the United States, is a colorful canvas that has been much praised for its atmosphere and historical associations. It is the property of the author.
The art museums and libraries of every country contain many beautiful water-colors, engravings, prints, drawings, and lithographs, whose creators found inspiration in coffee. Space permits the mention of only a few.
T.H. Shepherd has preserved for us Button's, afterward the Caledonien coffee house, Great Russell Street, Covent Garden, in a water-color drawing of 1857; Tom's coffee house, 17 Great Russell Street, Covent Garden, 1857; Slaughter's coffee house in St. Martin's Lane, 1841; also, in 1857, the Lion's Head at Button's, put up by Addison and now the property of the Duke of Bedford at Woburn.
Hogarth figures in the Sam Ireland collection with several original drawings of frequenters of Button's in 1730.
Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) the great English caricaturist and illustrator, has given us several fine pictures of English coffee-house life. His "Mad Dog in a Coffee House" presents a lively scene; and his water-color of "The French Coffee House" is one of the best pictures we have of the French coffee house in London as it looked during the latter half of the eighteenth century.
During the campaign in France in 1814, Napoleon arrived one day, unheralded, in a country presbytery, where the good curé was quietly turning his hand coffee-roaster. The emperor asked him, "What are you doing there, abbé?" "Sire", replied the priest, "I am doing like you. I am burning the colonial fodder." Charlet (1792–1845) made a lithograph of the incident.
Several French poet-musicians resorted to music to celebrate coffee. Brittany has its own songs in praise of coffee, as have other French provinces. There are many epics, rhapsodies, and cantatas—and even a comic opera by Meilhat, music by Deffes, bearing the title, Le Café du Roi, produced at the Théâtre Lyrique, November 16, 1861.
Fuzelier wrote, in honor of coffee, a cantata, set to music by Bernier. This is the burden of the poet's song:
Ah coffee, what climes yet unknown,
During the early vogue of the café in Paris, a chanson, entitled Coffee, reproduced here, was set to music with accompaniment for the piano by M.H. Colet, a professor of harmony at the Conservatoire. Printed in the form of a placard, and put up in cafés, it received the approbation of, and was signed by, de Voyer d'Argenson, at that time (1711) lieutenant of police. The poetry is not irreproachable. It can hardly be attributed to any of the well known poets of the time; but rather to one of those bohemian rimesters that wrote all too abundantly on all sorts of subjects. It is the development of a theory concerning the properties of coffee and the best method of making it. It is interesting to note that the uses of advertising were known and appreciated in Paris in 1711; for in the chanson there appears the name and address of one Vilain, a merchant, rue des Lombards, who was evidently in fashion at that period. The translation of the stanza reproduced is as follows:
If you, with mind
The most notable contribution to the "music of coffee," if one may be permitted the expression, is the Coffee Cantata of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) the German organist and the most modern composer of the first half of the eighteenth century. He hymned the religious sentiment of protestant Germany; and in his Coffee Cantata he tells in music the protest of the fair sex against the libels of the enemies of the beverage, who at the time were actively urging in Germany that it should be forbidden women, because its use made for sterility! Later on, the government surrounded the manufacture, sale, and use of coffee with many obnoxious restrictions, as told in chapter VIII.
Bach's Coffee Cantata is No. 211 of the Secular Cantatas, and was published in Leipzig in 1732. In German it is known as Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (Be silent, do not talk). It is written for soprano, tenor, and bass solos and orchestra. Bach used as his text a poem by Piccander. The cantata is really a sort of one-act operetta—a jocose production representing the efforts of a stern parent to check his daughter's propensities in coffee drinking, the new fashioned habit. One seldom thinks of Bach as a humorist; but the music here is written in a mock-heroic vein, the recitatives and arias having a merry flavor, hinting at what the master might have done in light opera.
The libretto shows the father Schlendrian, or Slowpoke, trying by various threats to dissuade his daughter from further indulgence in the new vice, and, in the end, succeeding by threatening to deprive her of a husband. But his victory is only temporary. When the mother and the grandmother indulge in coffee, asks the final trio, who can blame the daughter?
Bach uses the spelling coffee—not kaffee. The cantata was sung as recently as December 18, 1921, at a concert in New York by the Society of the Friends of Music, directed by Arthur Bodanzky.
Lieschen, or Betty, the daughter, has a delightful aria, beginning, "Ah, how sweet coffee tastes—lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine!" the opening bars of which are reproduced on page 598.
As the text is not long, it is printed here in its entirety.
Tenor (Recitative): Be silent, do not talk, but notice what will happen! Here comes old Slowpoke with his daughter Betty. He's grumbling like a common bear—just listen to what he says.
(Enter Slowpoke muttering): What vexatious things one's children are! A hundred thousand naughty ways! What I tell my daughter Betty might as well be told to the moon! (Enter Betty.)
Slowpoke (Recitative): You naughty child, you mischievous girl, oh when can I have my way—give up your coffee!
Betty: Dear father, do not be so strict! If I can't have my little demi-tasse of coffee three times a day, I'm just like a dried up piece of roast goat!
Betty (Aria): Ah! How sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, sweeter far than muscatel wine! I must have my coffee, and if any one wishes to please me, let him present me with—coffee!
Slowpoke (Recitative): If you won't give up coffee, young lady, I won't let you go to any wedding feasts—I won't even let you go walking!
Betty: O yes! Do let me have my coffee!
Slowpoke: What a little monkey you are, anyway! I will not let you have any whale-bone skirts of the present fashionable size!
Betty: Oh, I can easily fix that!
Slowpoke: But I won't let you stand at the window and watch the new styles!
Betty: That doesn't bother me, either. But be good and let me have my coffee!
Slowpoke: But from my hands you'll get no silver or gold ribbon for your hair!
Betty: Oh well! so long as I have what does satisfy me!
Slowpoke: You wretched Betty, you! You won't give in to me?
Slowpoke (Air): Oh these girls—what obstinate dispositions they do have! They certainly are not easy to manage! But if one hits the right spot—oh well, one may succeed!
Slowpoke, with an air of being sure of success this time (Recitative): Now please do what father says.
Betty: In everything, except about coffee.
Slowpoke: Well, then, you must make up your mind to do without a husband.
Betty: Oh—yes? Father, a husband?
Slowpoke: I swear you can't have him—
Betty: Till I give up coffee? Oh well—coffee—let it be forgotten—dear father—I will not drink—none!
Slowpoke: Then you can have one!
Betty (Aria): Today, dear father—do it today. (He goes out.) Ah, a husband! Really this suits me exactly! When they know I must have coffee, why, before I go to bed to-night I can have a valiant lover! (Goes out.)
Tenor (Recitative): Now go hunt up old Slowpoke, and just watch him get a husband for his daughter—for Betty is secretly making it known "that no wooer may come to the house, unless he promises me himself, and has it put in the marriage contract that he will allow me to make coffee whenever I will!"
(Enter Slowpoke and Betty, singing—as chorus—with Tenor.)
Trio: The cat will not give up the mouse, old maids continue "coffee-sisters!"—the mother loves her drink of coffee—grandma, too, is a coffee fiend—who now will blame the daughter!
Research has discovered only one piece of sculpture associated with coffee—the statue of the Austrian hero Kolschitzky, the patron saint of the Vienna coffee houses. It graces the second-floor corner of a house in the Favoriten Strasse, where it was erected in his honor by the Coffee Makers' Guild of Vienna. The great "brother-heart" is shown in the attitude of pouring coffee into cups on a tray from an oriental service pot.
The celebrated Caffè Pedrocchi, the center of life in the city of Padua, Italy, in the early part of the nineteenth century, is one of the most beautiful buildings erected in Italy. Its use is apparent at first glance. It was begun in 1816, opened June 9, 1831, and completed in 1842. Antonio Pedrocchi (1776–1852), an obscure Paduan coffee-house keeper, tormented by a desire for glory, conceived the idea of building the most beautiful coffee house in the world, and carried it out.
Artists and craftsmen of all ages since the discovery of coffee have brought their genius into play to fashion various forms of apparatus associated with the preparation of the coffee drink. Coffee roasters and grinders have been made of brass, silver, and gold; coffee mortars, of bronze; and coffee making and serving pots, of beautiful copper, pewter, pottery, porcelain, and silver designs.
In the Peter collection in the United States National Museum there is to be seen a fine specimen of the Bagdad coffee pot made of beaten copper and used for making and serving; also, a beautiful Turkish coffee set. In the Metropolitan Museum in New York there are some beautiful specimens of Persian and Egyptian ewers in faience, probably used for coffee service. Also, in American and continental museums are to be seen many examples of seventeenth-century German, Dutch, and English bronze mortars and pestles used for "braying" coffee beans to make coffee powder.
A very beautiful specimen of the oriental coffee grinder, made of brass and teakwood, set with red and green glass jewels, and inlaid in the teakwood with ivory and brass, is at the Metropolitan. This is of Indo-Persian design of the nineteenth century.
The Metropolitan Museum shows also many specimens of pewter coffee pots used in India, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Russia, and England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
One can guess at the luxuriousness of the coffee pots in use in France throughout the eighteenth century by noting that from March 20, 1754, to April 16, 1755, Louis XV bought no fewer than three gold coffee pots of Lazare Duvaux. They had carved branches, and were supplied with "chafing dishes of burnished steel" and lamps for spirits of wine. They cost, respectively, 1,950, 1,536, and 2,400 francs. In the "inventory of Marie-Josephe de Saxe, Dauphine of France", we note, too, a "two cup coffee pot of gold with its chafing dish for spirits of wine in a leather case."
The Italian wrought-iron coffee roaster of the seventeenth century was often a work of art. The specimen illustrated is rich in decorative motifs associated with the best in Florentine art.
Madame de Pompadour's inventory disclosed a "gold coffee mill, carved in colored gold to represent the branches of a coffee tree." The art of gold, which sought to embellish everything, did not disdain these homely utensils; and one may see at the Cluny Museum in Paris, among many mills of graceful form, a coffee mill of engraved iron dating from the eighteenth century, upon which are represented the four seasons. We are told, however, that it graced the "sale after the death of Mme. de Pompadour", which, of course, makes it much more valuable.
"The tea pot, coffee pot and chocolate pot first used in England closely resembled each other in form", says Charles James Jackson in his Illustrated History of English Plate, "each being circular in plan, tapering towards the top, and having its handle fixed at a right angle with the spout."
He says further:
The earliest examples were of oriental ware and the form of these was adopted by the English plate workers as a model for others of silver. It apparently was not until after both tea and coffee had been used for several years in this country [England] that the tea pot was made proportionately less in height and greater in diameter than the coffee pot. This distinction, which was probably due to copying the forms of Chinese porcelain tea pots, was afterwards maintained, and to the present day the difference between the tea pot and the coffee pot continued to be mainly one of height.
The coffee pot illustrated (1681) formerly belonged to the East India Company, and is preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is almost identical with a tea pot (1670) in the same museum, except that its straight spout is fixed nearer to the base, as is its leather-covered handle, which, with the sockets into which it fits, forms a long recurving scroll fixed opposite to and in line with the spout. Its cover, which is hinged to the upper handle socket, is high like that of the 1670 tea-pot; but instead of the straight outline of that cover, this is slightly waved and surmounted by a somewhat flat button-shaped knob. Engraved on the body is a shield of arms, a chevron between three crosses fleury, surrounded by tied feathers. The inscription is, "The Guift of Richard Sterne Eq to ye Honorable East India Compa."
This pot is nine and three-quarters inches in height by four and seven-eighths inches in diameter at the base; it bears the London hall-marks of 1681–82 and the maker's mark "G.G." in a shaped shield, thought by Jackson to be George Garthorne's mark.
The 1689 coffee pot illustrated is the property of King George V. It bears the London hall-marks of 1689–90, and the mark of Francis Garthorne. Its tall, round body tapers toward the top, and has applied moldings on the base and rim. Its spout is straight and tapers upward to the level of the rim of the pot. Its handle is of ebony, crescent-shaped, and riveted into two sockets fixed at a right angle with the spout. The lid is a high cone surmounted by a small vase-shaped finial, and is hinged to the upper socket of the handle. On no part of the pot is there any ornamentation other than the royal cipher of King William III and Queen Mary, which is engraved on the reverse side of the body. This example, which measures nine inches in height to the top of its cover, resembles very closely in form the East India Company's tea-pot just referred to; but as teapots with much lower bodies appear to have come into fashion before 1689, this pot was probably used as a coffee pot from the first.
The 1692 coffee pot of lantern shape is the property of H.D. Ellis, and has its spout curved upward at the top, being furnished with a small, hinged flap and a scroll-shaped thumb-piece attached to the rim of the cover. The body and cover were originally quite plain, the embossing and chasing with symmetrical rococo decoration being added later, probably about 1740. Jackson says the wooden handle is not the original one, which was probably C-shaped. The pot bears the usual London hall-marks for the year 1692 and the maker's mark is "G G" upon a shaped shield, a mark recorded upon the copper plate belonging to the Goldsmiths' company, which Mr. Cripps thinks was that of George Garthorne. The characteristics of this lantern shaped coffee pot are:
1. The straight sides, so rapidly tapering from the base upward that in a height of only six inches the base diameter of four and three-eighths inches tapers to a diameter of no more than two and one-half inches at the rim.
2. The nearly straight spout, furnished with a flap or shutter.
3. The true cone of the lid.
4. The thumb-piece, which is a familiar feature upon the tankards of the period.
5. The handle fixed at right angles to the spout.
Mr. Ellis, in a paper before the Society of Antiquaries on the earliest form of coffee pot, says:
If coffee was first introduced into this country by the Turkey merchants, nothing is more probable than that those who first brought the berry, brought also the vessel in which it was to be served. Such a vessel would be the Turkish ewer whose shape is familiar to us, the same today as two hundred years ago, for in the East things are slow to change. And throughout the reign of the second Charles, so long as the extended use of coffee in the houses of the people was retarded by the opposition of the Women of England, and by the scarcely less powerful influence of the King's Court, the small requirements of a mere handful of coffee-houses would be easily met by the importation of Turkish vessels. Reference to the coffee-house keepers' tokens in the Beaufoy collection in the Guildhall Museum shows that many of the traders of 1660–1675 adopted as their trade sign a hand pouring coffee from a pot. This pot is invariably of the Turkish ewer pattern. It is true that there is nothing to show that the Turks themselves ever served coffee from the ewer, but it is scarcely conceivable that the English coffee-house keepers should have adopted as their trade sign, their pictorial advertisement, so to speak, a vessel which had no connection with the commodity in which they dealt, and which would convey no meaning associated with coffee to the public. But as soon as the extended use of the beverage created a demand which stimulated a home manufacture of coffee-pots, a new departure is apparent. The undulating outlines beloved by the Orientals, bowed as their scimitars, curvilinear as their graceful flowing script, do not commend themselves to the more severe Western taste of the period which had then declared its preference for sweet simplicity in silversmiths' work, such as we see in the basons, cups, and especially the flat-topped tankards of that day. The beauty of the straight line had asserted its power, and fashion felt its sway. Such was the feeling that produced the coffee-pot of 1692, the straight lines of which continued in vogue until the middle of the following century, when a reaction in favour of bulbous bodies and serpentine spouts set in.
Some of the more notable of the coffee-house-keepers' tokens in the Guildhall Museum were photographed for this work. They are described and illustrated in chapter X.
There are illustrated other silver coffee pots in the Victoria and Albert Museum, by Folkingham (1715–16), and by Wastell (1720–21), the latter pot being octagonal.
There is illustrated also a design in tiles that were let into the wall of an ancient coffee house in Brick Lane, Spitalfields, known as the "Dish of Coffee Boy" in the catalog of the collection of London antiquities in the Guildhall Museum. Mr. Ellis thinks this belongs to a period a little earlier, but certainly not later, than 1692; the coffee pot represented being exactly of the lantern shape. It is an oblong sign of glazed Delft tiles, decorated in blue, brown, and yellow, representing a youth pouring coffee. Upon a table, by his side, are a gazette, two pipes, a bowl, a bottle, and a mug; above, on a scroll, is, "dish of coffee boy."
Modifications of the lantern began to appear with great rapidity in England. In the coffee pot of Chinese porcelain, illustrated, probably made in China from an English model a few years later than the 1692 pot, Mr. Ellis observes that "the spout has already lost its straightness, the extreme taper of the body is diminished, and the lid betrays the first tendency to depart from the straightness of the cone to the curved outline of the dome." He adds:
These variations rapidly intensified, and at the commencement of the eighteenth century we find the body still less tapering and the lid has become a perfect dome. As we approach the end of Queen Anne's reign the thumb piece disappears and the handle is no longer set on at right angles to the spout. Through the reign of George I but little modification took place, save that the taper of the body became less and less. In the Second George's time we find the taper has almost entirely disappeared, so that the sides are nearly parallel, while the dome of the lid has been flattened down to a very low elevation above the rim. In the second quarter of the eighteenth century the pear shaped coffee pot was the vogue. In the earlier years of George III, when many new and beautiful designs in silversmiths' work were created, a complete revolution in coffee-pots takes place, and the flowing outlines of the new pattern recall the form of the Turkish ewer, which had been discarded nearly one hundred years previously.
The evolution is shown by illustrations of Lord Swaythling's pot of 1731; the coffee jug of 1736; the Vincent pot of 1738; the Viscountess Wolseley's coffee pot of copper plated with silver; the Irish coffee pot of 1760; and the silver coffee pots of 1773–76 and of 1779–80.
There are illustrated in this connection specimens of coffee pots in stoneware by Elers (1700), and in salt glaze by Astbury, and another of the period about 1725. These are in the department of British and medieval antiquities of the British Museum, where are to be seen also some beautiful specimens of coffee-service pots in Whieldon ware, and in Wedgwood's jasper ware.
Illustrated, too, are some beautiful examples of the art of the potter, applied to coffee service, as found in the Metropolitan Museum, where they have been brought from many countries. Included are Leeds and Staffordshire examples of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries; a Sino-Lowestoft pot of the eighteenth-nineteenth centuries; an Italian (capodimonte) pot of the eighteenth century; German pots of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; a Vienna coffee pot of the eighteenth century; a French (La Seine) coffee pot of 1774–1793, a Sèvres pot of 1792–1804; and a Spanish eighteenth-century coffee pot decorated in copper luster.
At the Metropolitan may be seen also Hatfield and Sheffield-plate pots of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and many examples of silver tea and coffee service and coffee pots by American silversmiths.
Silver tea pots and coffee pots were few in America before the middle of the eighteenth century. Early coffee-pot examples were tapering and cylindrical in form, and later matched the tea pots with swelling drums, molded bases, decorated spouts, and molded lids with finials.
From notes by R.T. Haines Halsey and John H. Buck, collected by Florence N. Levy and woven into an introduction to the Metropolitan Museum's art exhibition catalog for the Hudson-Fulton celebration of 1909, we learn that:
The first silver made in New England was probably fashioned by English or Scotch emigrants who had served their time abroad. They were followed by craftsmen who were either born here, or, like John Hull, arriving at an early age, learned their trade on this side.
In England it was required that every master goldsmith should have his mark and set it upon his work after it was assayed and marked with the king's mark (hall-mark) testifying to the fineness of the metal.
The Colonial silversmiths marked their wares with their initials, with or without emblems, placed in shields, circles, etc., without any guide as to place of manufacture or date. After about 1725 it was the custom to use the surname, with or without an initial, and sometimes the full name. Since the establishment of the United States the name of the town was often added and also the letters D or C in a circle, probably meaning dollar or coin, showing the standard or coin from which the wares were made.
In the New York colony there were evolved silver tea pots of a unique design, that was not used elsewhere in the colonies. Mr. Halsey says they were used indiscriminately for both tea and coffee. In style they followed, to a certain extent, the squat pear-shaped tea pots of the period of 1717–18 in England, but had greater height and capacity.
The colonial silversmiths wrought many beautiful designs in coffee, tea, and chocolate pots. Fine specimens are to be seen in the Halsey and Clearwater loan collections in the Metropolitan Museum. Included in the Clearwater collection is a coffee pot by Pygan Adams (1712–1776); and recently, there was added a coffee pot by Ephraim Brasher, whose name appears in the New York City Directory from 1786 to 1805. He was a member of the Gold and Silversmiths' Society, and he made the die for the famous gold doubloon, known by his name, a specimen of which recently sold in Philadelphia for $4,000. His brother, Abraham Brasher, who was an officer in the continental army, wrote many popular ballads of the Revolutionary period, and was a constant contributor to the newspapers.
Judge Clearwater's collection of colonial silver in the Metropolitan Museum, to which he is constantly adding, is a magnificent one; and the coffee pot is worthy of it. It is thirteen and one-half inches high, weighs forty-four ounces, exclusive of the ebony handle, has a curved body and splayed base, with a godrooned band to the base and a similar edge to the cover. The spout is elaborate and curved; the cover has an urn-shaped finial; and there is a decoration of an engraved medallion surrounded by a wreath with a ribbon forming a true lover's knot.
In the Halsey collection is shown a silver coffee pot by Samuel Minott, and several beautiful specimens of the handiwork of Paul Revere, whose name is more often connected with the famous "midnight ride" than with the art of the silversmith. Of all the American silversmiths, Paul Revere was the most interesting. Not only was he a silversmith of renown, but a patriot, soldier, grand master Mason, confidential agent of the state of Massachusetts Bay, engraver, picture-frame designer, and die-sinker. He was born in Boston in 1735, and died in 1818. He was the most famous of all the Boston silversmiths, although he is more widely known as a patriot. He was the third of a family of twelve children, and early entered his father's shop. When only nineteen, his father died; but he was able to carry on the business. The engraving on his silver bears witness to his ability. He engraved also on copper, and made many political cartoons. He joined the expedition against the French at Crown Point, and in the war of the Revolution was a lieutenant-colonel of artillery. After the close of the war, he resumed his business of a goldsmith and silversmith in 1783. Decidedly a man of action, he well played many parts; and in all his manifold undertakings achieved brilliant success. There clings, therefore, to the articles of silver made by him an element of romantic and patriotic association which endears them to those who possess them.
Revere had a real talent that enabled him to impart an unwonted elegance to his work, and he was famous as an engraver of the beautiful crests, armorial designs, and floral wreaths that adorn much of his work. His tea pots and coffee pots are unusually beautiful.
Revere coffee pots are to be seen in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts as well as in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has also a coffee pot made by William Shaw and William Priest in 1751–52 for Peter Faneuil, the wealthiest Bostonian of his time, who gave to Boston Faneuil Hall, New England's cradle of American liberty.
Among other American silversmiths who produced striking designs in coffee pots, mention should be made of G. Aiken (1815); Garrett Eoff (New York, 1785–1850); Charles Faris (who worked in Boston about 1790); Jacob Hurd (1702–1758, known in Boston as Captain Hurd); John McMullin (mentioned in the Philadelphia Directory for 1796); James Musgrave (mentioned in Philadelphia directories of 1797, 1808, and 1811); Myer Myers (admitted as freeman, New York, 1746; active until 1790; president of the New York Silversmiths Society, 1786); and Anthony Rasch (who is known to have worked in Philadelphia, 1815).
In the museums of the many historical societies throughout the United States are to be seen interesting specimens of coffee pots in pewter, Britannia metal, and tin ware, as well as in pottery, porcelain, and silver. Some of these are illustrated.
As in other branches of art during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the United States were indebted to England, Holland, and France for much of the early pottery and porcelain. Elers, Astbury, Whieldon, Wedgwood, their imitators, and the later Staffordshire potters, flooded the American market with their wares. Porcelain was not made in this country previous to the nineteenth century. Decorative pottery was made here, however, from an early period. Britannia ware began to take the place of pewter in 1825; and the introduction of japanned tin ware and pottery gradually caused the manufacture of pewter to be abandoned.
An interesting relic is in the collection of the Bostonian Society. It is a coffee urn of Sheffield ware, formerly in the Green Dragon tavern, which stood on Union Street from 1697 to 1832, and was a famous meeting place of the patriots of the Revolution. It is globular in form, and rests on a base; and inside is still to be seen the cylindrical piece of iron which, when heated, kept the delectable liquid contents of the urn hot until imbibed by the frequenters of the tavern. The iron bar was set in a zinc or tin jacket to keep such fireplace ashes as still clung to it from coming in contact with the coffee, which was probably brewed in a stew kettle before being poured into the urn for serving. The Green Dragon tavern site, now occupied by a business structure, is owned by the St. Andrew's Lodge of Freemasons of Boston; and at a recent gathering of the lodge on St. Andrew's Day, the urn was exhibited to the assembled brethren.
When the contents of the tavern were sold, the urn was bought by Mrs. Elizabeth Harrington, who then kept a famous boarding-house on Pearl Street, in a building owned by the Quincy family. The house was razed in 1847, and was replaced by the Quincy Block; and Mrs. Harrington removed to High Street, and from there to Chauncey Place. Some of the prominent men of Boston boarded with her for many years. At her death, the urn was given to her daughter, Mrs. John R. Bradford. It was presented to the society by Miss Phebe C. Bradford, of Boston, granddaughter of Mrs. Elizabeth Harrington.
A somewhat similar urn, made of pewter, is in the Museum of the Maine Historical Society of Portland, Me.; another in the Museum of the Essex Institute at Salem, Mass.
Among the many treasured relics of Abraham Lincoln is an old Britannia coffee pot from which he was regularly served while a boarder with the Rutledge family at the Rutledge inn in New Salem (now Menard), Ill. It was a valued utensil, and Lincoln is said to have been very fond of it. It is illustrated on page 690.
The pot is now the property of the Old Salem Lincoln League, of Petersburg, Ill., and was donated to it, with other relics, by Mrs. Saunders, of Sisquoc, Cal., the only surviving child of James and Mary Ann Rutledge. Mrs. Rutledge carefully preserved this and other relics of New Salem days; and shortly before her death in 1878, she gave them into the keeping of her daughter, Mrs. Saunders, advising her to preserve them until such time as a permanent home for them would be provided by a grateful people back at New Salem, where they were associated with the immortal Lincoln and his tragic romance with her daughter Ann.