Southern Coin Silver Sugar Tongs - Washington, DC
Offered is a fine pair of Southern coin silver sugar tongs by Washington, DC silversmith Charles Pryse (see below). These tongs bear Pryse's maker's mark, and are also engraved GADSBY on the side, for the original owner. The likely owner was John Gadsby, either in his own capacity or through his hotel (see below). These tongs measure about 6 1/2 inches in length, and weigh approximately 56 grams. There is a small repair (pictured) to the bow. All in all a fine historical piece of DC silver!
Charles Pryse was a silversmith who had worked for Samuel Kirk in Baltimore until his move to Washington, D.C. around 1827. Pryse made and signed the gold medal presented to Lafayette by citizens of Baltimore in 1824. The medal has chased cornucopiae and floral borders similar to those on this tray, and is now in the collection of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. Mr. Pryse was listed in the 1827 Washington Directory as a gold and silversmith, working on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Originally founded in 1827 by John Gadsby (1766-1844), the National Hotel was located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 6th Street, NW. Gadsby, who had run Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria in the 1790s, came to Washington in 1819 and started out by taking over a tavern and hotel at 19th and I Streets, NW. That place was too small and out of the way, however, so in 1827, he purchased the row of federal townhouses on the northeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue at 6th Street, NW, known as "Weightman's Row" after owner Roger Chew Weightman, who was mayor of Washington from 1824 to 1826. Gadsby combined Weightman's townhouses to form the new National Hotel, which was more frequently known as Gadsby’s Hotel in its early days (not to be confused with the other Gadsby's Hotel, at 3rd and Pennsylvania Avenue, which opened in 1845 and was run by John Gadsby's son William). The National was a major landmark for much of Washington's early history. Like almost all of Washington's early hotels, it was built incrementally, more an accretion of smaller buildings than a single structure. With various expansions both in width and in height, it reached its greatest development around 1857.