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.
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.