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. In this book the changing image of the eagle as the national figure in the early federal period is seen in the marks of American silversmiths.
Catherine Buttery Hollan has been researching, writing, and lecturing on American silver for thirty years. Since the late 1980s she has worked with the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Old Salem, NC, on the illustrated Virginia Silversmiths, the Branching of the Trade. Her publications and exhibits include In the Neatest Most Fashionable Manner: Three Centuries of Alexandria Silver (1994) at The Lyceum in Alexandria, VA; Virginia Silversmiths - Lives and Marks (2010) and Philadelphia Silversmiths to 1861 (2013). Hollan holds a BA in English from Goucher College and a MS in computational linguistics from Georgetown University. She developed computerized search tools at the US Patent and Trademark Office and retired as the manager of their Public Search Rooms in 2003. Hollan is president of the American Silver Guild, a special interest group of collectors and curators based in the Washington, DC area. Books will be available for purchase.