The Alexandria Association is the city’s oldest organization devoted to the preservation of Alexandria’s historic buildings, landscapes, records, and antiquities; and to education in the decorative, fine, and building arts.
When the American Eagle was chosen as a symbol for America, its figure was a compact, stiff heraldic version. Artisans quickly reinterpreted the bird in various stances, wings spread up or down, and as graceful curving bodies, some with widely spread wings that would fill a pediment over a door. Tradesmen’s parades often showed the eagle holding a ribbon proclaiming personal mottos and dates, such as “Home Brewed” for the Brewers’ banner.
Silversmiths also made free with their eagle designs, adding an eagle symbol by their name to emphasize an item was American-made. An early variation was to use just the eagle head as a mark. Many of the eagle marks were used by individual silversmiths. Some were manufacturer marks from Philadelphia and New York placed on silver that was retailed by others. There were some regional characteristics and preferences. The eagle stood for strength, for diversity come together as the new nation, the United States of America.
Catherine Buttery Hollan has been researching, writing, and lecturing on American silver for thirty years. Since the late 1980s she has been working with the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Old Salem, North Carolina, on the illustrated Virginia Silversmiths, the Branching of the Trade forthcoming. In 1994 she wrote the catalog and curated the exhibition In the Neatest Most Fashionable Manner: Three Centuries of Alexandria Silver at The Lyceum in Alexandria, Virginia. She published Virginia Silversmiths Lives and Marks in 2010 and Philadelphia Silversmiths to 1861 in 2013. And she has been a member of the Alexandria Association Executive Board for longer than we can remember. Please help us warmly welcome Catherine as our guest speaker!
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“Embracing the American Eagle, Then Making It Fit With Examples from American Silver”
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