Black, Starr & Frost (active 1874-1929), Aeronautical trophy, 1907. Silver, wood. New-York Historical Society, Bequest of Alan R. Hawley, 1938.250a-c
January 28 - April 20, 2014
Free with Museum admission
From January 28 through April 20, 2014, the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum presented Stories in Sterling: Four Centuries of Silver in New York, an exhibition that interpreted nearly 200 compelling pieces of silver within their cultural context, focusing on the men and women that made, used, and treasured these objects. Featured objects shed light on four centuries of silver production and use in the United States. The exhibition was enriched by a selection of paintings, prints, photographs, manuscripts, and other items that illuminate understanding of the silver, bring to life the individuals who acquired it, and illustrate the physical context in which it was used.
Organized by the New-York Historical Society from its world-class collection of silver, Stories in Sterling highlighted that city as an important producer and consumer of silver objects. Linked to significant moments in the history of New York and the United States, the remarkable objects in the exhibition range from domestic family heirlooms to acknowledged touchstones in the evolution of American silversmithing. The diversity of stories speak to themes that include individual accomplishment, family pride, silver consumption patterns, technological progress and innovation, rituals of presentation, and the commemoration of great events in peace and war.
Stories in Sterling was comprised of six sections:
- “Converging Cultures in Colonial New York” explores how immigrant silversmiths, along with silver brought by émigrés from their native countries, influenced New York’s vibrant craft community. Highlights include the silver seal of Peter Stuyvesant and pieces made by New York’s first Jewish silversmith, Myer Myers.
- “From Craft to Industry” examines the shifts in practices—from the small shop tradition to partial outsourcing of work, and finally to industrialized production, including silver plating—that characterized the development of American silver between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries.
- “Honoring Achievement” explores the time-honored tradition of awarding accomplishments with the presentation of a silver object through some of the most spectacular pieces in the exhibition.
- “Rites of Passage” includes more private presentations, those that honor birth, marriage, death, or represent exchanges between individuals, such as funeral rings and spoons given to the mourners of the deceased.
- “The Rituals of Tea and Coffee” explores the surging popularity of these beverages and reveals how ownership and proper usage of silver tea and coffee wares served as an index of social refinement.
- “Elegant Dining” examines the changing etiquette of formal dining as silver became affordable to more and more Americans. Highlights include an extravagant Tiffany & Co. ice cream dish, one of two from the 1,250 piece service made for Marie Louise Mackay in 1877.
Henry and Mary Lily Flagler and their peers were important consumers and collectors of silver during the Gilded Age. Works featured in Stories in Sterling provided additional context for the significance of silver during the Gilded Age, including that owned by the Flaglers and on display in the historic rooms throughout Whitehall.
"It's not just the silver; it's the stories the silver tells. That's what makes this an exceptional exhibition."
- Jan Sjostrom, Palm Beach Daily News
"The exhibit, which is a must-see for anyone interested in fine art, will be on until April 20."
- Dr. Clifford Cunningham, Sun News Miami.
"Accompanying the more than 100 items are portraits and photographs that provide historical background and context. And that is a good thing. Without the personal stories and historical background Stories in Sterling would have seemed a cemetery of cold polished stuff. Fortunately, the museum did a good job of giving the objects a heart."
- Gretel Sarmiento, Palm Beach ArtsPaper