Cincinnati Silver: 1788-1940 at Cincinnati Art Museum (2014)

Cincinnati Silver: 1788-1940

Cincinnati Art Museum
14 June - 7 September 2014

Press release text by Cincinnati Art Museum

All that glitters will be silver at the Cincinnati Art Museum this summer. Ten years in the making, Cincinnati Silver: 1788-1940 will offer a glimpse into the dazzling history of silver in the Queen City. Well-recognized as a center for ceramics and furniture innovation, Cincinnati was also a major artistic center for silver design and production. In the years prior to 1850, Cincinnati boasted the largest concentration of silversmiths, jewelers, watch and clockmakers in the Midwest, and in the last half of the nineteenth century, it was a national hub for silver and jewelry.

Cincinnati Silver: 1788–1940, on view June 14 through September 7, 2014, will feature 150 to 200 locally made and retailed silver wares, ranging from elegantly wrought soup tureens to fashionable tea sets in styles that span the Neoclassical to the Art Deco periods. The works on display will be drawn primarily from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s collection of Cincinnati silver, which has quadrupled in size over the last decade. Many of these new additions have never been on display.

One such example is a spectacular silver tureen by Duhme & Co., acquired in November 2013. Duhme & Co. (pronounced DEW-mee, active 1843–1893) was the largest, most productive and most successful silver company in the history of Cincinnati’s silver industry— a serious competitor of eastern firms such as the Gorham Mfg. Co., Tiffany & Co., Whiting Mfg. Co., and others. The tureen, designed and made in the 1870s, features expertly rendered medallions and the company’s distinct Anglo-Japanesque rolled border. Found in an Austrian collection, “The tureen is one of the most impressive examples of Duhme’s work that I’ve seen while researching the company and its wares over the last 10 years”, according to Amy Dehan, Curator of Decorative Arts & Design.

Amy Dehan, curator of the exhibition, is the primary author of the accompanying 400-page, full color book, also titled Cincinnati Silver: 1788–1940. This multi-disciplinary project provides a relevant contribution to American social and economic history as well as the study of material culture and industrial design. This publication represents the first new scholarship on the subject since 1975. Two key essays in the book examine the origins, development, structure and local and national importance of the city’s silver trade. These essays are followed by over 500 narrative entries with full biographies and business details of individuals and companies active in the trade. More than 250 color plates, over 200 hallmarks, and illustrations of craftsmen and proprietors, advertisements, shops, and sample books accompany the entries.

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