The yellow fever epidemics of 1793 and 1798 devastated the city of Philadelphia, killing thousands and forcing many to flee what was then the nation’s capital and largest city. Among those who remained behind to tend the stricken was Dr. Philip Syng Physick, “the father of American surgery.” For his exceptional dedication and self-sacrifice, the board of managers of the City Hospital presented him with these two magnificent pieces of silver—a tea tray and a hot-water urn—fashioned in the Neoclassical style, with bright-cut paterae and floral festoons. Each piece is engraved with the dedicatory inscription “From the Board of Managers of the Marine & City Hospitals to Philip Syng Physick, M.D., this Mark of their respectful approbation of his voluntary and inestimable services as Resident Physician at the City Hospital in the Calamity of 1798.”
Inscription: engraved on the urn within a shield-shaped reserve: From the BOARD of MANAGERS / of the Marine and City / Hospitals to / PHILIP SYNG PHYSICK, M.D. / this Mark of their / respectful approbation / of his voluntary and / inestimable services as / Resident Physician at the / City Hospital in the / Calamity / of /1798
Marking: marked four times on underside of base: I.M[superscript "c"]: Mullin
Dr. Philip Syng Physick (1768–1837); his son Emlen Physick (1817–60); his son Emlen Physick, Jr. (ca. 1857–1916); his maiden aunt Emilie Parmentier (ca. 1853–1935); her caregiver, Frances Cresse Brooks; her son, Joseph Robinson Brooks (b. 1893); by descent in Brooks family; sold at Christie's, New York, May 22, 2008; sold to Peter Feld; sold to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009.