German silverware

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This week was devoted to tours of the turret and we had outstanding visitors! Thank you all so much for your support!!

Lesley also completed the interior documentation of the nutguards before our attempt at separating them from the turret’s wall next week. There will be more blog updates on the topic in the near future.

In parallel to working on large artifacts, smaller elements of the Monitor collection are also being attended to. You might remember a spoon described a couple month ago here. Its treatment has recently been completed and we were able to gently remove of the purple/dark corrosion layer that had formed at the surface of the object while in storage (see after treatment photos below). This spoon is not the best preserved of the silverware of the USS Monitor collection, but it complements a set belonging to Samuel Augee Lewis!

After conservation treatment pictures of a spoon belonging to Samuel A. Lewis
After conservation treatment pictures of a spoon belonging to Samuel A. Lewis

 

Lewis was a Third Assistant Engineer, who was assigned to Monitor on October 30, 1862. According to Francis Butts, crewman on the ship, Lewis was seasick during the last hours of the vessel and remained in his bunk until the sinking. To date, we have recovered and conserved four pieces of silverware (a fork, a knife, a table spoon and this smaller spoon) with Lewis’ initials engraved!

We recently performed XRF analyses at different points on the spoon and it seems to be made of a “silver plated nickel silver”.  Nickel silver, also called German silver, is an alloy made of about 60% copper, 20% nickel, and 20% zinc. This alloy has already been analyzed on other artifacts recovered from the ship such as the scales of the condenser gauge treated a few years back (see this blog). Our XRF apparatus also recognized the presence of actual silver on Lewis’ spoon. This corroborates observations made while cleaning the object under a microscope that the German silver was indeed plated with real silver. The fork and the other spoon from Lewis are most likely made of the same alloy but analyses will be performed in the future for confirmation. On this second spoon, another engraving reads “GARIGAULD & Co”, a manufacturer and importer of plated wares located at 616 Broadway, New York.

At last, the conservation treatment of yet another silverware handle recovered from the turret has also been completed recently. We do not know if it was a fork or a spoon as the functional part is missing. XRF analyses reveal that it was made of a silver plated German silver too but with lower amount of nickel and zinc than Lewis’ spoon. Here an engraving says “Meriden Britannia Co.”, a manufacturer of Britannia and German silver wares located in Meriden, Connecticut as well as in New York City.

After treatment pictures and details of an engraved silverware handle
After treatment pictures and details of an engraved silverware handle

According to the type of corrosion products found on the breakage of the handle, this object most likely broke during the sinking of the ship. Will the other part be found this summer behind a nutguard? Suspense!

Have a great weekend everyone!