This rare Boston silver spout cup by John Dixwell is typical of the American Colonial period. With a narrow, sharply curving spout and handle set at a right angle, the cups were designed for a caregiver to easily feed an infant or a bedridden invalid. John Dixwell (1680-1725) was a Boston gold and silversmith who was an outstanding maker of early church silver for benefactors across Massachusetts. Dixwell was also a founder of the New North Church in 1714, to which he gave silver tankards, cups, a beaker, and a baptismal basin. Although he died a recognized Boston citizen, Dixwell spent the first nine years of his life living under an alias, due to the precarious life of his father.
John Dixwell (1607-1689) was a member of Parliament during Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate and one of 59 British judges who sentenced King Charles I to death in 1649. Upon the Restoration of Charles II a list of regicides targeted for execution was issued and Dixwell fled the country to Hanau. Royal agents scoured the continent, capturing regicides in Hanau, and Dixwell had to flee again. He arranged with compatriots Whalley and Goffe to sail for New England, sheltering at the Hadley, Massachusetts home of Reverend Russell in 1665. To avoid detection, Dixwell traveled under aliases and arrived in Hadley using the name James Davids. Whalley and Goffe had arrived in the colony as heroes and had not changed their names, a decision they may have come to regret. Boston magistrates received a royal order for their arrest, and colonists had to shelter them as they were pursued far and wide for the next two decades. Whalley and Goffe spent a summer dwelling in a cave, while “James Davids” settled down and started a family. Always in peril, Whalley and Goffe had to return to the cave yet again. In 1688, James II, the last Catholic monarch of England, was deposed, and the remaining regicides could finally live freely.
Lot 415 Boston, Massachusetts silver spout cup, ca. 1715, bearing the touch of John Dixwell.
By Cynthia Beech Lawrence