Colonial Williamsburg acquires rare Paul Revere tankard

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has acquired a rare silver tankard made by Paul Revere, colonial America’s premier silversmith and the Revolution’s premier midnight righter. There are only about three dozen known Revere tankards. The tapering sides, midband, domed line and pinecone finial dates this one to around 1795, but researchers are still looking through Revere’s many extant record books to trace it directly back to its origins.

The silver tankard was sold at auction in May of this year for $112,500, including buyer’s premium. The Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections Fund provided the wherewithal to add this exceptional piece, one of the largest forms produced by Revere’s silver shop, to the Colonial Williamsburg museum holdings.

Colonial Williamsburg’s Revere tankard stands nearly 10 inches tall and holds 48 ounces of liquid (usually wine, ale or cider), making it weighty to lift when full. Its apparent size is enhanced by a stepped domed lid and an elongated finial. The tankard has a lighter appearance thanks to its scrolled openwork thumbpiece. It lacks engraving, which leaves the identity of the original owner a mystery. Details such as the decorative features and the substantial weight (nearly 34 troy ounces) may one day provide ownership clues through careful study of Revere’s shop records.

“Paul Revere is the best-known and most celebrated American silversmith,” said Janine E. Skerry, Colonial Williamsburg’s senior curator of metals. “A large, eye-catching object such as this tankard is a great way to connect with the public and draw both children and adults into the story of this amazing material and its role in our early history.”

The tankard will now join the other recently-acquired example of Revere silver — a small porriger made around 1765 — in the new exhibition of Colonial Williamsburg’s permanent silver collection at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

“Colonial Williamsburg has long sought a significant example of Revere’s work,” said Ronald L. Hurst, the Foundation’s Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president for museums, preservation and historic resources. “With its impressive size, fine detail, and excellent condition, this tankard fills a significant void in our American silver holdings.”