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Catalog Data

Manufactured by:
Joseph Cooper, English, active ca. 1795 - 1801  Search this
sterling silver
H x W x D: 5 3/4 × 1 1/2 × 3/4 in. (14.6 × 3.8 × 1.9 cm)
sugar tongs
These pieces, much like those they would replace in Slavery and Freedom, represent the deadly plantation economy in the New World that satisfied the international demand for sugar, which became a staple in the English tea industry. They also represent the financial success that sugar brought to successful slave owners, financiers, slave traders, sugar merchants, and the lifestyle maintained by sugar consumers in the United States. Sugar, Britain’s largest import, was also the focus of one of the first anti-slavery boycotts after the abolition bill was rejected by British Parliament in 1791. The boycott attempted to put economic pressure on the slave-dependent industry of sugar, hastening the end of the trade.
A set of George III sterling silver sugar tongs from Joseph Cooper, London. They are a narrow U-shaped piece of metal that terminate in shallow oval-shaped bowls at each end. The outer surface is decorated with a pattern stamped or etched into the silver. At the top of the tongs, near the bend in the metal, is a large oval outlined in small raised dots. Within the outline is a double wavy line of smaller dots. In the center of the oval are three stylized flowers in a row. Each flower has four petals, with each consecutive flower sharing the petal with the blossom next to it. There are small dots scattered around the petals. At each of the two-pointed terminus of the large oval is a large dot with five lines radiating horizontally outwardly from the oval. The surface of the tongs' arms is edged with a repeating linear pattern of triangle shaped wedges. This in turn is lined on the interior by a double row of small dots. Both patterns terminate at the bowl-end of the arms, with a small ellipse made of double rows of small dots. On the backs of the bowls themselves are a wavy line with three score marks on each side of the wave. On the interior surface of the tongs are five silversmith’s marks. There are two maker's marks on one arm that consist of the initial’s 'IC' within a rectangle with rounded corners and a smeared effect to one side of the 'I'. The other arm has three marks. The first is a duty mark, the bust portrait of the sovereign within an oval. This is badly worn. The middle mark is a lion passant within a rectangle that certifies the silver quality, and the last is the letter 'U' within an oval, denoting production 1795.
African American  Search this
British colonialism  Search this
Commerce  Search this
Cooking and dining  Search this
Design  Search this
Domestic life  Search this
Economics  Search this
Slave trade  Search this
Slavery  Search this
Sugarcane  Search this
Credit Line:
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
Object number:
Restrictions & Rights:
No Known Copyright Restrictions
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National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Decorative Arts, Craft, and Design
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture