Sterling Silver Punch Bowl with Dolphin Pedestal, Meriden Britannia Company, Meriden, CT, Circa 1895
PROVENANCE: THE SWISHER FAMILY, JACKSONVILLE, FL
Swisher International Group, Inc is the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of cigars, shipping to nearly 90 countries. Swisher International began in 1861 in Newark, Ohio. David Swisher received a small cigar company as a debt settlement. In 1888, John and Harry Swisher bought their father’s company and changed the name to Swisher Brothers. They worked together until 1913, when John bought Harry’s share of the company. John’s son, Carl, joined the business and the company name changed to Jno. H. Swisher & Son.
The Swishers expanded their business and moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1924. Later that year, the country’s first “fresh work” rolling machines began mass production, manufacturing cigars with superior uniformity, appearance, and quality. This process enabled the company to produce 100 million cigars a year by the end of the 1920s. Jno. H Swisher & Son became the first company to, not only wrap individual cigars in cellophane, but also simplify wrapping removal by pulling the cigar band.
The Depression devastated the country in 1929. While many companies fought to stay alive, Swisher hired hundreds of new employees. They still could not keep up with the surging demand for their cigars. The company's early move into mechanization enabled the company to reduce the price of its cigars. In 1929, Swisher boxed 100,000,000 machine- made and wrapped King Edward Cigars. The price of these cigars debuted in 1918 for ten cents and dropped to five cents following the introduction of rolling machines. By the end of the 1930s, consumers could purchase two King Edwards for five cents. These cigars’ low price and heightened popularity bolstered Swisher's share of the market. By 1940, the cigars named after King Edward VII were the greatest selling cigars in the world, and the Jacksonville plant ranked as the largest cigar factory under one roof in the world.
The size of this punch bowl and detailing of the seaweed trim make this Meriden Britannia piece superb. The pedestal, however, makes it a masterpiece. Standing 5” high, the pedestal is comprised of individual castings of four aquatic animals, referred to as “dolphins.” They are posed urinant (from the Latin urino, to duck or dive under water) with the head downward and the tail erect. Dolphins signify conquest of the sea; therefore, they figure prominently on the well-known bearings for the seaport cities of Brighton, Dunkirk and Poole. They also appear in English heraldry as early as the middle of the thirteenth century, denoting swiftness, diligence, salvation, charity, and love.
Elaborate castings of this kind are associated more commonly with Tiffany and Gorham. Gorham produced a notable sterling silver ice bowl, circa 1870, that measures 11” long and weighs 37.30 troy ounces. The body depicts blocks of ice, suspended cast icicles and chased “frost”, resting on a conforming foot. Magnificently detailed polar bear figures preside over each end of the bowl. The remarkable level of artistry accounts for Polar Bear Ice Bowls achieving values in excess of $65,000. This dolphin punch bowl by Meriden Britannia exhibits this same level of artisanship.
In 1891, John Swisher completed the building of his mansion on 3rd Street in Newark, Ohio. It is plausible that John acquired the punch bowl to mark the completion of his mansion.
This piece has never been engraved.
10 1/4” height, 14” top diameter, 97.6 troy ounces.