Author Topic: 184 years ago today...a little bit of history.  (Read 1256 times)

Offline SlingBurn

  • Retired IIT
  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 15
  • Squeeeeeze the trigger.
184 years ago today...a little bit of history.
« on: January 29, 2015, 04:10:50 PM »
As I stirred my coffee this morning, my thoughts were of Benjamin Tappan, who passed away on January 29, 1831.  Who is Benjamin Tappan, you ask?  Well, allow me to recount what I know of this American patriot.

Mr. Tappan was a silversmith.  He made this "coin silver" coffeespoon with his own hands, which I'm using right now (pictures included at end of post).  He undoubtedly etched the initials of the owner onto it.

Benjamin Tappan may not be as renowned of a silversmith in fame and artistry as, for example, Paul Revere.  But, he worked as a silversmith near Boston during the years leading up to and during the Revolutionary War, and his story is quite interesting, as well.  I cannot afford to hold a piece of Revere's work in my hand, but this morning I stir my coffee with Mr. Tappan's spoon.  I'm quite proud to be able to do so.

First, a brief explanation of "coin silver," for those who are not aware of it.  Sterling silver is 92.5% silver content, the rest another metal (usually copper).  "Coin silver" is just that - silver alloy usually used in coinage, that was typically about 90% silver content.  Coin silver was not as pure as sterling silver, but it was almost as nice, and just as durable.  More importantly - you didn't have to pay to import sterling silver bars to melt down (and you probably avoided some tax as well). A silversmith could literally just take the coins from their pocket, or coins in circulation, melt them, and turn them into something as useful and elegant as a coffeespoon.  I think this demonstrates yet another example of Colonial American independence, self-sufficiency, ingenuity, and practicality.

Now, more about Mr. Tappan.

Benjamin was the son of Reverend Benjamin Toppan (who took to spelling his last name "Tappan," which his descendants then continued to do). 

The Reverend graduated from Harvard in 1742, and he intended for Benjamin to attend Harvard, as well.  However, Benjamin declined to do so in favor of his younger brother David (who wanted to go to Harvard), and instead asked to go to Boston to learn a trade.  He was then apprenticed to William Homes, a goldsmith in Boston.

After learning the trade from Mr. Homes, Benjamin moved to Northampton, Massachusettes in 1769.  On October 22, 1770, he married William Homes' daughter, Sarah - who was a grandniece of Benjamin Franklin (granddaughter of Mary Franklin, Franklin's sister).

In the book "The Lineage of the Bowens of Woodstock, Connecticut" Benjamin Tappan is noted as a "patriot of the revolution.  In 1779, he acted on a committee for filling up companies of militia, and went himself, with others, to repel the invasion of Burgoyne at Saratoga."  That's right, it seems Mr. Tappan fought at Saratoga in 1777.  His wife buckled her husband's knapsack and other things, and was heard to say, "Hurry off, my husband; I'm afraid you will be too late."

Benjamin and Sarah had 11 children together.   

One son was named Benjamin (the 3rd in what would be a very long list of Benjamin Tappans through generations), who would go on to be elected to the Ohio State Senate, founded the city of Ravenna, Ohio, fought in the War of 1812 (becoming a Major), and became a US Senator from Ohio from 1839 to 1845.  He formed a law partnership in 1838 with Edwin Stanton (Secretary of State for Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson). 

Two other sons, Lewis and Arthur, were fierce abolitionists.  Lewis Tappan ensured the acquisition of high quality lawyers for illegally enslaved Africans on the Amistad, which led to them being set free after the case went to the Supreme Court (you may remember Amistad from the Stephen Spielberg movie of the same name).  He also organized the return trip home to Africa for those who survived.  Arthur and Lewis suffered badly during the 1834 anti-abolitionist riots in New York.  On July 9th, 1834, a mob attacked and dismantled Lewis' house, burning most of its contents in the street.  After the fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed, Arthur refused to comply and donated money to the Underground Railroad.

Another of Benjamin and Sarah's sons was named George Washington Tappan.

According to "The Life of Arthur Tappan" by Lewis Tappan, William Homes' store in Boston was burned during the Revolutionary War.

Mr. Tappan was a gold and silversmith in Northampton for only about 20 years, stopping around 1790, and becoming a mercantile businessman.  Because he was a silversmith during a narrow timeframe, specifically the years leading up to and during the Revolutionary War, I bought the coffeespoon...never knowing the rich history surrounding this man.

All of this history...starting with the man who put the small "BT" hallmark on the back of the spoon that stirred my coffee this morning.

Just one of many Americans who did what they could, what they felt they must, to give us what we too often take for granted these days.

Thank you, Benjamin.  184 years after your passing...your finely crafted spoon still stirs my coffee just fine.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2015, 09:27:00 PM by SlingBurn »
"I have not a man who is afraid to go." - Isaac Davis

Offline Mutti

  • Inactive Instructor
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 653
  • Mother of "Theeee En-for-Cer"
Re: 184 years ago today...a little bit of history.
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2015, 04:28:12 PM »
Thank you so much! Shared and much appreciated this #tbt
"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
Herm Albright
(1876 - 1944)

Offline Unbridled Liberty

  • Inactive Instructor
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 1447
  • Act or Accept
Re: 184 years ago today...a little bit of history.
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2015, 04:38:39 PM »
« Last Edit: January 29, 2015, 04:57:26 PM by Unbridled Liberty »

Offline SlingBurn

  • Retired IIT
  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 15
  • Squeeeeeze the trigger.
Re: 184 years ago today...a little bit of history.
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2015, 06:23:21 PM »
"I have not a man who is afraid to go." - Isaac Davis

Offline Laredo

  • Moderator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 347
  • Illinois State Coordinator
Re: 184 years ago today...a little bit of history.
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2015, 11:34:48 PM »
Thx for sharing.  Way cool!
April 21-22, 2012 - 1st
Oct      6-7, 2012 - 2nd
April 20-21, 2013 - 3rd
Sept     7-8, 2013 - 4th - Rifleman!!

"The cost of a thing is the amount of life required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. When one has obtained those essentials necessary for well-being — food, shelter, warmth, and clothing, there is an alternative to struggling through steel jungles for the luxuries. That’s to adventure on life itself, one’s vacation from humble toil having commenced.” -Townsend Whelen