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The Clark Family Silver

The reign of Queen Victoria spanned from 1837 to 1901.  During this period, craftsmen shied away from the use of pewter, preferring pure or mixed silver plating.  The interest and success of this metal stemmed from the desire to possess objects of beauty, not necessarily made of gold or other more expensive metals.  Manufacturers produced a multitude of various items that fulfilled budget requirements of more families.  Typical household items were now transformed into works of art in which the lady of the house was proud to display.

A well appointed Victorian home contained fanciful silver tableware that elevated the presentation of food to high art.  At no other time in history have so many different, but specific objects, been produced to serve food, nor have these objects ever been so ornate.  The addition of silver holds the power to transform ordinary meals into elaborate events.

During the Victorian Era, it was considered impolite to touch or handle food without the use of a utensil.  Flatware collections were extensive, but serving pieces were hefty and stable, often embellished with hand-carved designs.

By the mid-1900s, the costs of silver production rose to an unreasonable point for most families.  Modernity also brought a faster pace to life, pushing elaborate, multi-course dinners to the wayside.  In addition, sterling silver required a time-consuming cleaning process which many could not keep up with.  Many households today use heirloom silver as accent pieces to instill a grand impression upon guests.

The family of Silas M. Clark was one that jumped on the silver bandwagon.  With a house made to impress, it is of no surprise they furnished to impress as well.  Silas’ wife, Clarissa, probably had some silver of her own and on June 20, 1900, one of Silas and Clarissa’s daughters, Mary bodine Clark, married Dr. Elisha P. Swift of Norway, Michigan.  The ceremony took place at the Clark’s residence, with only immediate relatives in attendance.  Mrs. Mary Bodine Clark Swift received a gift of silver on this day.  Of course, this silver did not remain in the house after Mary’s marriage.

On August 29, 2009, Carl Newton surprised the Society with a donation in memory of Silas and Clarissa Moorhead Clark, which includes silver previously owned by the Clark family.  Mr. Newton is one of Silas’ great-grandchildren and discovered most about his ancestors while cleaning out his parents’ apartment in Madison, Wisconsin where most of his heirlooms were found.  Included in the donation were wedding gifts of Mary Bodine Clark - a silver platter, coffee maker, teapot, sugar bowl, creamer, and waste bowl identified with the monogram “MBC” and her wedding date “6-20-1900.”  Also included was a round bowl and two candlesticks engraved “C,” a silver teapot and sugar bowl engraved “CC,”and a hand mirror engraved “CLM.”  The Clark's youngest daughter’s name was Charlotte.

The Clark family’s silver, along with other pieces from the Society’s collection will be on display in the Clark House for the Spring Ladies’ Tea being hosted on Saturday May 20, 2023.

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