Presentation Vase

Maker: Thomas Fletcher (American, Alstead, New Hampshire 1787–1866 New Jersey)

Maker: Sidney Gardiner (American, Mattituck, New York 1787–1827 Mexico)

Date: 1824

Geography: Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Culture: American

Medium: Silver

Dimensions: Overall: 23 7/16 x 20 1/8 x 15 1/8 in. (59.5 x 51.1 x 38.4 cm); 410 oz. 5 dwt. (12760 g)
Lip: Diam. 12 3/4 in. (32.4 cm)
Cover: 5 5/8 x 12 3/4 in. (14.3 x 32.4 cm)

Classification: Silver

Credit Line: Purchase, Louis V. Bell and Rogers Funds; Anonymous and Robert G. Goelet Gifts; and Gifts of Fenton L. B. Brown and of the grandchildren of Mrs. Ranson Spaford Hooker, in her memory, by exchange, 1982

Accession Number: 1982.4a, b


In New York City, the most significant event of the early nineteenth century was the creation of the Erie Canal. Upon its completion, New York gained easy access to the country's interior, and its commercial hegemony was secured. A group of New York merchants commissioned this pair of monumental vases to be presented in 1825 to New York's governor DeWitt Clinton, in gratitude for his promotion of the canal's construction. The bodies and handles are modeled on the famous Roman urn known as the Warwick Vase, which was excavated in 1770 near Hadrian's villa at Tivoli. Thomas Fletcher's competition-winning design for these vases features a scheme of allegorical figures and American vistas along the route of the canal. On the front of the 1825 vase, for instance, figures representing Fame and History flank a view of the Cohoes Falls; on the back, Plenty and an American Indian are depicted with the Little Falls of the Mohawk. The cover of each vase is surmounted by an American eagle finial.
The vases are marked by the partnership of Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner, who relocated from Boston to Philadelphia in 1811 in search of greater commercial success. Excellent entrepreneurs, they soon became the leading American supplier of presentation silver, as well as retailing a wide range of imported goods, such as brass, cutlery, and lighting fixtures. Fletcher and Gardiner are representative of the large urban firms that became increasingly common during the nineteenth century.