Sterling Silver Taperstick, William L. deMatteo, Williamsburg, VA, 1923-1988
Tapersticks are lighting instruments used to hold smaller candles or tapers. They were essential the eighteen century for melting wax used to seal letters. They were also used for lighting tobacco pipes and other candles. This piece was made in the James Getty shop in Colonial Williamsburg and bears its mark in addition to “handwrought”, “sterling”, and the mark for William L. deMatteo.
William L. deMatteo learned the craft from his father, Italian silversmith William G. deMatteo. The younger William (Bill) interrupted his studies in sculpture and fine arts at Columbia University to join the navy when the United States entered World War II. He served in the Pacific theater as a torpedo bomber pilot. He married painter Jayne Walpole immediately after the war and resumed his apprenticeship with his father. He answered his country's call again, and served in the Korean War.
While on leave, deMatteo visited Colonial Williamsburg and asked to see the silversmith's shop. Told that the colonial capital had none, he recognized an opportunity. He returned to Colonial Williamsburg after being discharged, and joined the staff as a silversmith. He established the James Geddy Silversmith's Shop and forgedthe entrie silversmiths program. In January 1963, deMatteo was promoted to Staff Master Craftsman and Master Silversmith, and continued to raise awareness of the role of the trade in colonial America. In 1975, he became the first American craftsman to be elected an honorary foreign associate of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in London.
Dignitaries from all over the globe sought deMatteo's talents. His pieces grace the collections of Sir Winston Churchill, Presidents John F. Kennedy, London B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
deMatteo once remarked, "being a silversmith is just a delightful, lovely way to go through life.
4 1/4" height, 2 1/2" width. 4.53 troy ounces.