Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pewter Basins

An 18th century pewter basin from the Brooklyn Museum collection

Pewter basins/basons (usually rimmed bowls of varied size/capacity) are handy, multipurpose items that those portraying Virginia backcountry folks or militia should consider acquiring.  These are fairly lightweight, durable, suitable for fairly hard use (careful with HOT liquids!), and show up in a TON of inventories- even those with a military associations.  In 1775 the Williamsburg Magazine was inventoried and inside were  "fifty one pewter basons , eight camp kettles"  (Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia 1773-1776, Volume 13, Pages 223-4 Tuesday, the 13th of June, 15 Geo. iii. 1775 ).  These were widely sold in 18th century stores (the previously mentioned New Dublin store in modern Pulaski carried them, as did Hook's New London store, Partridge store in Hanover and etc.) and were usually sold by capacity (ie quarts, pint and etc).

Jefferson county Virginia (which became Kentucky in 1792) probate inventories show a fairly good amount of them in circulation:

Abraham Keller's inventory [possibly Captain of a Company of George Rogers Clark’s Illinois regiment], from 1782 had  "3 pewter basons,1 plate & 3 spoons, etc."

  His contemporary Robert Travis (also 1782) had "...A parcel of Bar led £ 30 9 Peuter Plates £ 135. 5 Do Basons...".  A year prior, William Brashear had "... 9 Pewter plates 2 Dishes, one bason
    & Some spoons..." Mary Christy (1782) ties with the Travis inventory for best phonetic spelling of pewter with her inventory's "13 small Puther plates...2 small Do Driper...3... puther basons...1 Small Tea pot...1 small puther bottle." [NB I will cover pocket bottles at a later date].

For further reading (additional pictures of a couple of examples of originals can be seen in the first linked book) :

Pewter at Colonial Williamsburg by John Davis


The Role of Pewter as Missing Artifact:Consumer Attitudes Toward Tablewares in Late 18th Century Virginia by Ann Smart Martin