Historic church selling 18th century silver for hurricane repairs

WOBURN, Mass. — James D. Julia Inc. is presenting an important grouping of 18th century silver from the First Congregational Church of Woburn, Massachusetts, in association with the company’s annual summer Antique, Asian and Fine Art auction event to be held Aug. 21-23, 2013. Collections of centuries old, fully documented church silver such as this one rarely appear at auction. Thus, these vessels are certain to be of great interest to silver, theology and early American history enthusiasts, collectors and museums.

A pair of 18th century loving cups and six beakers, all engraved, are offered during James. D. Julia’s Aug. 21-23 summer Antique, Asian and Fine Art auction.  (Photo courtesy James. D. Julia, Inc.)

A pair of 18th century loving cups and six beakers, all engraved, are offered during James. D. Julia’s Aug. 21-23 summer Antique, Asian and Fine Art auction. (Photo courtesy James. D. Julia, Inc.)

On the National Register of Historic Places since 1992, the First Congregational Church of Woburn can trace its roots back to the earliest days of the colonial period and the founding of the original Massachusetts Bay Colony. The church opened its doors in August 1642 and has been in continuous operation since.

Several years ago the front of the church suffered extensive structural and aesthetic damage as the result of a hurricane. Unable to raise funds for repairs through donations, fundraisers and grants, church trustees have opted to sell the church’s collection of silver beakers and loving cups. These artifacts, although property of the church since the 1700s, had been cataloged by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and had been in storage there for more than 100 years. The last time the vessels were on public display was 1967.

According to church Trustee Ed Peterson, “We need the funds generated by the silver sale to repair the church and restore the front so it again represents the legacy of the congregation and its community. It is leadership’s hope that these highly visible projects will energize our existing parishioners, encourage contributions and attract new families to our organization.”

The silver collection of the First Congregational Church of Woburn, Massachusetts, represents a “who’s who” time capsule of 18th century Boston area silversmiths.

The eight antique silver pieces — two loving cups and six beakers — are in excellent original and untouched condition with only the slightest imperfections resulting from age. Each item is inscribed; all but two have maker’s marks.

The loving cups are 5 1/8 inches and 7 1/4 inches tall. The smaller one is by George Hanners Sr. and is engraved “The Gift of Coll. Eleazer Flegg to the Church in Woburn 1726” and the bigger one is by J. Jones and is engraved “The Gift of Joseph Lawrance Esqr To the first Church of Christ In Woburn 1882.”

The four marked beakers range in size from 5 3/8 inches to 6 1/8 inches. The first, by Jacob Hurd, is inscribed “The Gift of N Saltonstall and R. Cotton to the first Church of Christ in Woburn.”

The second, by Josiah Austin, is inscribed “Belonging to the first Church of Christ in Woburn 1769.”

The third, by Benjamin Burt, is inscribed “The Gift of Mr. Isaac Stone; to the first Church of Christ, in Woburn. 1771.”

And the fourth marked beaker, by John Burt, is inscribed “The Gift of Mr. Roland Cotton to the first Church of Christ in Woburn 1741.”

The two unmarked beakers are each 5 7/8 inches tall and inscribed with the identical phrase “The Gift of Mr. Roland Cotton to the Second Church of Christ in Woburn 1740.” Each item will carry a conservative estimate in the catalog to encourage a high degree of participation.

According to James Callahan, the company’s Woburn facility co-director who brought in the consignment, “It is an honor and a privilege to be working on behalf of The First Congregational Church, which is such a significant and historically important institution.”

Calahan continues, “The collection is a superb assembly of locally manufactured, Paul Revere era silver that tells a wonderful story about a critical time in our country’s history.”

The First Congregational Church of Woburn, Massachusetts, Silver Collection will be sold during James D. Julia’s annual summer Antique, Asian, and Fine Art auction Aug. 21-23, 2013.

For more information on James D. Julia Inc. visit www.jamesdjulia.com or call 207-453-7125.

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