What is this?
Silver urn presented to Captain Isaac Hull. Thomas Fletcher & Sidney Gardiner, Philadelphia, 1813.
When is it from?
Why is it Important?
The significance of the Hull Urn lies, first, in the uniqueness of the object itself, and secondly, in the complex social history of its presentation.
The urn is the most notable single piece of the most notable period of American military silver: taller, heavier and more ambitious than any other item previously created in the United States. It is a superb example of the Empire style in the decorative arts, popular throughout the Euro-American world in the early 19th century. This style, popularized in Napoleonic France, drew on recent archaeological discoveries in Greece, Rome, and Egypt.
The urn represents not only a piece of extraordinary workmanship but also the complex array of aims motivating the givers. Gratitude and patriotism are the primary motives of the 169 Philadelpha merchants who contributed to the urn, but they sought to enhance their own reputations as well. Newspapers proclaimed their generosity throughout the country, and it was very likely Fletcher & Gardiner’s own $20 contribution that ultimately netted the silversmiths the $3000 commission and transformed them into America’s premier makers of presentation silver.
The urn (known as a vase when it was made) is 29.5 inches high, 22 inches wide, and 12 inches deep. It is made entirely of sterling silver. The workmanship exhibits a variety of techniques, including cast, applied, incised, chased, repouss (hammered from behind), embossed, and engraved decorations.
Its overall form is that of a Greek ceremonial urn, and it is decorated with various classical motifs, an engraved scene of the battle between USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere, and an inscription reading:
The Citizens of Philadelphia, at a meeting convened on the 5th of Septr. 1812, voted/ this Urn, to be presented in their name to CAPTAIN ISAAC HULL, Commander of the/ United States Frigate Constitution, as a testimonial of their sense of his distinguished/ gallantry and conduct, in bringing to action, and subduing the British Frigate Guerriere,/ on the 19th day of August 1812, and of the eminent service he has rendered to his/ Country, by achieving, in the first naval conflict of the war, a most signal and decisive/ victory, over a foe that had till then challenged an unrivalled superiority on the/ ocean, and thus establishing the claim of our Navy to the affection and confidence/ of the Nation/ Engraved by W. Hooker.
[Inscribed on Outside of Base:] FLETCHER & GARDINER Fecit Philada