"LET'S DRINK AND BE MERRY"
a study about punch ladles
Punch was a popular party drink introduced in the middle
of the 17th century. The name is derived from the
Sanskrit panca, meaning five and pointing to the five
key ingredients: water, sugar, limes or lemons, spices
(click for note 1).
Punch bowl, punch goblets, sugar dredgers, bottles with
silver or even enameled labels, lemon/orange strainers
and ladles were all punch paraphernalia and as such "must
haves" in elegant households, some Georgian homes were
even equipped with "puncheries"
(click for note 2).
This study concerns itself with punch ladles only and
more specifically 18th and 19th century’s examples. They
are found still relatively often in today’s market place
and are so within reach of interested collectors. Still
useful in the modern household, they are also enough
varied in style and therefore qualify easily as
The 17th century punch ladle was a substantial piece of
silver with heavy round bowl and a silver handle. Due to
the scarcity of silver at the beginning of the 18th
century new styles had to be developed. The introduction
of a non-silver handle and lighter bowls were natural
Around 1735 the bowls were round or egg shaped (Fig. 1).
The double lipped often fluted bowl was introduced
around 1740 (Fig.2).
Fig.1: Early George II silver punch ladle
Fancy bowl shapes like the shell of nautilus were also
popular around the middle of the century. Here two
examples, one plain with wooden handle and an even
fancier type with engraved pattern on the shell shaped
bowl and an ivory handle. (Fig.3)
Fig.2: Two double lipped punch ladles, the
one with the lighter handle London 1746, by
David Henell, the other possibly American by
(click for note 10).
Oval bowl shapes - fluted or plain - with shaped out
spouts at one end were popular, probably because it
facilitated the pouring of the punch. (Fig.4)
Fig.3: Nautilus shaped bowls, the ladle with
the plain bowl London ca. 1740, possibly
Benj.Godfrey, the other with fancy engraving
London 1748, by Francis Spilsbury maker
Coins like the crown-piece could be hammered out to
handy discs from which the bowl would be raised. The
coin was hammered in such a way that the marginal design
or inscription encircled the bowl rim (Fig.5).
Fig.4: George III punch ladle, London 1789,
Samuel Meriton maker
Many punch ladles have coins inset in the middle of the
bowls. The coins are mostly earlier and should not be
used as dating indicators for the ladles (Fig.6).
Fig.5: Milled rim of a punch ladle, made
from a coin – "Anno Regni Vicesimo Quarto XX
Decus Et Tut XX Amen" is still readable.
Shown is also a punch ladle inset with a Queen Ann
shilling and decorated with Regence ornamental strap
work and busts (Fig.7).
Fig.6: Plain coin set ladle
The lovely Eastern European ladle, made ca.1779 in Riga
by Johann Diedrichs Revalds, features an inset coin,
dating to 1709, and is also fitted with a pierced grille
to one side – a clever integration of the fruit strainer
Fig.7: George II punch ladle, inset with
Queen Ann coin
Handles were made of wood, ivory, ebony or whale bone.
The later was heated under pressure with steam until
malleable and then twisted into ornate spirals. The end
of the handles are often capped with a silver finial,
thistle finials on Scottish ladles are relatively rare.
Ebony handles have sometimes ivory or bone finials for a
nice color contrast.
Fig.8: Punch ladle made in Riga with
integral fruit strainer
(click on Fig. 8 for detail)
An exception to the rule is the Austro-Hungarian ladle
with silver handle, made ca. 1750 in Kronstadt, the
grapes and vines motif on the handle as well as the
fluted silver-gilt bowl point to a definite use as punch
Handle attachments varied, from simple handle sockets to
cast bifurcated attachments. European examples often
feature a cast flower motif applied to the handle
attachment (click on Fig.8).
Fig.9: Mid-18th century Austro Hungarian
punch ladle, Kronstadt
(click on fig. 9 for detail)
Some ladles show monograms, crests or coat of arms. In
the 18th century decoration was used sparingly contrary
to late Georgian and early Victorian ladles which were
often heavily chased.
Inscriptions on punch ladles are not very common. The
following inscription is found on a Queen Ann punch
ladle of 1712 and reads: "Gentlemen Archers. Of brandy
with you there’s no lake, I gift you this for your punch
to take. John Hamilton."
Such a witty and contemporary inscription is a definite
asset and will increase the value of the piece
(click for note 3).
On the Canadian market the English punch ladle is
predominant. Most of them are London-made.
Scottish punch ladles are rare, because Scots preferred
claret to punch. A nice Scottish example is shown in Fig.10,
a beautifully carved wood handle and an applied leaf
motif on the socket contribute greatly to its charm.
A few punch ladles were made in Perth
(click for note 4) (Fig.11/12).
Fig.10: Scottish punch ladle, Glasgow 1830
Fig.11: Scottish ladle, made in Perth
18th century German ladles are elegant and balanced in
form, 19th century German ladles appear plump with their
somewhat larger bowls, helmet styles are also common
Fig.12: Town mark of Perth with
un-identified IW master mark
American punch ladles are rare; the large number of
extant lemon strainers is proof that the drink was
equally popular in America. There is a charming example
of an American punch ladle in the Phillip Hammerslough
collection, made by Ebenezer Austin, Hartford middle of
the 18th century.5
(click for note 5).
German punch ladle, Hamburg ca.1840, made by
Alexander Ferdinand Lux, and (light shaft)
German punch ladle, Hamburg 1869, made by
Siegmund Martin Baack
Another one, made by William Homes jr., is shown in
"Silver in American life"
(click for note 6).
The Heritage collection in Old Deerfield has a
double-lipped fluted ladle with carved wooden handle, by
Jacob Hurd, and a punch ladle, featuring a twisted whale
bone handle, is made from a coin by Halsted and Myers,
New York, 1763.
(click for note 7).
A Myer Myer’s example is called ‘punch ladle’
(click for note 8) even though it has a - for
a punch ladle atypical - silver handle with bright-cut
Since there is no scarcity of American soup - or other
ladles it can safely be assumed that these were used for
filling punch into the goblets. To prove the point: the
shop inventory of Joseph and Nathaniel Richardson, dated
May 31, 1790, lists six punch ladles, but 36 soup ladles
and 36 sauce ladles
(click for note 9).
Most punch ladles are marked with the exception of those
made out of coins. English ladles are hallmarked in the
bowl or on the outer rim of the bowl.
There are virtually no known fakes. Later American-made
reproductions in Georgian styles can be found.
Determining factor for including a ladle into your
collection should definitely be condition. All ladles
are prone to splits and repairs to the stem which joins
bowl to handle. Fine examples - even if much more
expensive - are always more desirable and will give you
- 2006 -