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Archive for February, 2017

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This month we’re featuring another object from the Old York Historical Society’s “The Best of York” exhibit. The exhibit will be on view in the Remick Barn Gallery during the 2017 season.

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This large, wooden vessel is known as a Communion Tankard.  It stands nearly 9 inches tall and is 6 1/2 inches wide at the base. The form is a very old one known as a “stave” tankard because it is constructed, like a barrel, using vertical strips of wood known as staves held together by bent wood hoops. Stave tankards were made in Scandinavia in great numbers for export to continental Europe and the British Isles.  The Old York Historical Society’s tankard may have been one of the many tankards made in Scandinavia, or may have been made elsewhere in Europe or in York.  It dates to the late 17th or very early 18th century.

In Puritan New England churches, communion wine was poured from jugs or tankards into smaller cups for serving to congregants.  This particular tankard reportedly was used for serving communion wine at York’s First Parish Church prior to the 1780s, when the church acquired silver tankards. However, given its age, the tankard may have been used at an earlier Puritan meetinghouse. It is thought to be one of the oldest surviving communion tankards in New England.

“The Best of York” exhibit features over seventy rare artifacts, most made or used between 1690 and 1850 in Southern Maine and the Piscataqua Region of New Hampshire. Many of these objects have previously been in storage or were part of period room settings in historic buildings. Together, they tell the story of the development of one of New England’s oldest communities from a frontier outpost to a community of sophisticated tastes and world views.

The exhibit is open to the public during regular museum hours, Memorial Day through October.  Please visit the Old York website for more information.

 

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Over the next few months we’ll be sharing some highlights from the Old York Historical Society’s “The Best of York” exhibit.  The public can view these objects during the 2017 season.

Today’s “Best of York” object is a late Gothic reinforced document box.  The box is oak with wrought iron fittings and an interior till for storing coins. Made in Belgium or the Netherlands around 1550, the box was decades old by the time New England was successfully settled in the 1620s.

The box descended in the family of Henry Sewall (1576–1655) who was born in Coventry, England, and immigrated to Massachusetts in 1634. His great-grandson, Captain Samuel Sewall (1688–1769) settled in York around 1708. Henry’s father, Henry Sewall, Sr. (1544–1624), had been a wealthy linen merchant or linen-draper in the city of Coventry.

In the 16th century, Flanders (now part of Belgium), held a monopoly on the production and sale of fine linen.  English merchants like Henry Sewall, Sr., regularly imported large quantities of costly Flemish linen brocade, which may explain why this 16th-century Flemish-style box belonged to the Sewall family of York, Maine.

Old York staff discovered a nearly identical 16th century lock in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, seen here.

“The Best of York” exhibit features over seventy rare artifacts, most made or used between 1690 and 1850 in Southern Maine and the Piscataqua Region of New Hampshire. Many of these objects have previously been in storage, or were part of period room settings in historic buildings. Together, they tell the story of one of New England’s oldest communities development from a frontier outpost in the 17th century to a community of sophisticated tastes and world views.

The exhibit is open to the public during regular museum hours, Memorial Day through October.  Please visit the Old York website for more information: oldyork.org.

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