Members' Window # 83  
by Maria Entrup-Henemann  
(click on images to enlarge)


Once upon a time there was a little caster (10,5 cm, 65 g) made in 1718 by the London silversmith Charles Adam.

His silver purity was 958/1000, in Britannia standard, which had to be used those times (1696 - 1720) to limit the clipping and melting of sterling silver (925/1000) coinage.
The London Goldsmiths did not like this material. They thought it was a disadvantage in their competition with the Huguenot immigrants, who were used to working with this softer material, because the silver standard in France was 950/1000.

A lot of English gold and silversmiths were not pleased with the many Huguenot goldsmiths who had come as refugees to England, neither was the master of our caster. He belonged to the goldsmiths' guild and signed a petition complaining of the competition of "necessitous strangers" in 1711.

The master of our caster, Charles Adam, had been apprenticed to Francis Archbold in 1682, became free in 1689 and entered his own mark in 1703. As well as another former apprentice of Archbold, Christopher Canner, our master Adam specialised in caster making, and his own apprentice, Thomas Bamford, later master of Samuel Wood, became a caster maker, too.

Casters are receptacles with cylindrical or vase shaped bodies and a pierced domed cover. The increase of casters began with the decrease of the great salts. But casters were not used for salt. Salt was too coarse-grained for casters.
Charles Adam silver caster Charles Adam silver caster Charles Adam silver caster
Casters were usually made in sets of three: a large one for sugar and two smaller ones for pepper and mustard! At those times mustard was not pre-mixed but served in dry powdered form and mixed with vinegar on the rim of the plate where other spices were also put on. The casters of a set got the same pattern of piercing, but depending on use the inner surface was blocked. With the invention of cruet frames some caster sets were combined with silver mounted vessels for vinegar and oil and became part of a cruet stand.

Let's assume our small caster was made as a mustard caster. In the first period of his life the caster proudly presented his yellow content, which was eagerly demanded by the people. But soon ready-mixed mustard came into fashion, offered first in casters whose covers were not pierced or had the piercing masked by a sleeve inside. Then special pots were created, gilded or lined.
ding in silver caster
Our caster's service was no longer required. At first he might have been in use for other substances. When his owner family emigrated to the United States of America, he was considered as worthy and useful enough to become part of the household equipment taken with them. But he was not treated very carefully, he got a ding at his largest circumference.
Finally people forgot about him. His silver material became darker and darker and our caster became more and more ugly. But after centuries people became interested in old silver, calling it "antiques". Our caster was found and although dark and ugly he found a collector and buyer. He made a long journey over the ocean back to good old Europe. He found a new home, was carefully cleaned and highly regarded. He was given a special place among other domestic silver items from the 18th century, and he felt very well.

And to make his happiness complete: he recently found a friend! He met a caster fellow (10,5 cm, 70 g), made by the silversmith Timm, who worked about 1750 in Stettin, a town where the river Oder flows into the Baltic Sea. Stettin belonged at this time to the kingdom of Prussia.

This Stettin caster has a cover with a bayonet joint and an urn shaped, nicely engraved body on a pedestal stand. He was treated very well by his owners and even two or three generations later worth enough to be given as a wedding gift, as is inscribed: "Zur Hochzeit, gesch. von E.S. 1838".
silver caster: silversmith Timm Stettin c.1750 silver caster: silversmith Timm Stettin c.1750 silver caster: silversmith Timm Stettin c.1750 silver caster: silversmith Timm Stettin c.1750
The history of Stettin had ups and downs. Near a Slavic village of the 8th century there arose a German merchants settlement, that gained the rights of a town in the 13th century and in 1278 became a member of the Hanseatic League, a merchants league, which had a trade monopoly on the Baltic Sea. Since 1503 Stettin was the residence of the dukes of Pomerania. After the 30 year war it came under Swedish rule and fell in 1720 to Prussia. In 1871 with Prussia it became part of the German Reich. Since 1945 it belongs as Szczecin to Poland.

One day the caster emigrated with his owners to Great Britain. With the passage of time people forgot about him. The caster came to a dealer for antiques and found a collector who placed him next to our London Caster.

So our small caster from London and his new friend from Stettin will have a lot to discuss about old and recent times!
Maria Entrup-Henemann
- 2011 -