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December 26, 2002

Colonial Williamsburg Showcases the Best of British and American Pewter

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s British pewter collection is one of the finest in this country, illustrating basic forms and types of decoration as well as the metal’s myriad uses from approximately 1610 to 1820. The foundation will showcase more than 250 of the best examples of British and American pewter from its preeminent collection in “Pewter at Colonial Williamsburg,” on display at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum Feb. 1, 2003 through Feb. 5, 2005.

“Pewter at Colonial Williamsburg” will be divided into sections based on usage -- lighting devices, dining wares, drinking vessels, tea and coffee equipage, household and personal accessories, and religious objects. The exhibition also will explore various technologies employed in making pewter and marks found on early examples. An exhibition catalog, published by Colonial Williamsburg, will feature 400 pewter objects from the collection.

“Pewter objects have been a mainstay of European material culture since antiquity,” said John D. Davis, the Pauline and Samuel M. Clarke Curator, senior curator and curator of metals for Colonial Williamsburg. “Pewter was the metal of choice for 17th- and 18th-century Americans due to its bright appearance, easy and safe transport, and durability.”

The English pewter industry reached its zenith in the last decades of the 17th century, with an estimated total of 2,500-3,500 masters, journeymen, apprentices and servants. Though pewter maintained its commercial viability for another century, strong competition from an emerging brass industry was evident by 1700 and, eventually, white-bodied ceramic services for dining table and tea table captured the market and swept pewter aside. By the end of the 18th century, inexpensive earthenwares with colorful decoration replaced pewter as the fashionable choice for tablewares in most parts of Britain and her former colonies.

Colonial Williamsburg gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Sara Lee Corporation with its $125,000 grant for the exhibition and the catalog. “Williamsburg's pewter collection is extraordinary,” said Robin S. Tryloff, Executive Director -- Community Relations for Sara Lee Corporation. “In order to make it more widely accessible to the general public, Sara Lee Corporation is pleased to underwrite the catalog and exhibition of this important collection.”

For more than two decades, Sara Lee has made grants to Colonial Williamsburg totaling $303,454, including major support for the catalog and traveling exhibition of selected objects from Colonial Williamsburg’s British Delft collection in the 1990s.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s award winning DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, supported by the DeWitt Wallace Fund for Colonial Williamsburg, displays the foundation's exceptional collection of English and American decorative arts. Entered through the reconstructed Public Hospital of 1773, the museum is on Francis Street near Merchants Square and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is included in any Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket or by separate one-day or annual museums ticket. For program information call (757) 220-7724.

Media Contact:
Sophie Hart
(757) 220-7272