Amanda Lange, Historic Deerfield
Tea set, John Coburn (1724-1803), Boston, MA, c. 1755. Engraved "T*W" for Colonel Thomas Wells (1692-1767) of Glastonbury, Connecticut. Silver and wood. 75.494.1-.3 Historic Deerfield, Inc.
By the early 18th century, Puritan authorities no longer held complete control over the daily lives of the citizens of Boston. An affluent, wealthy Bostonian lived and behaved similarly to Englishmen. Daniel Neal in his History of New England, published in London in 1725, declared that "a Gentleman from London would almost think himself at home at Boston when he observes the number of people, their Houses, their Furniture, their Tables, their Dress and Conversation, which perhaps, is as splendid and showy, as that of the most considerable Trademen in London." During the first half of the 18th century, the very meaning of luxury and the nature of luxury goods had substantially changed. In previous years luxury had been the prerogative of the established elites, not the aspiration of all manners of society. But by the first decades of the 18th century, however, the idea of luxury came to assume more positive and democratic undertones. Using the lens of 18th-century New England silver, we will examine how more affordable luxury goods were created for these aspirational consumers, in particular looking at the importance of not only tea sets and tankards but also portable luxuries such as snuff boxes, jewelry, buckles, and buttons.