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Peter Bentzon, American (born Saint Thomas), c.1783–after 1850
Silver and wood
Made in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America
Current Location
On View, Gallery 137
7 x 12 5/8 x 6 3/4 in. (17.8 x 32.1 x 17.1 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Minority Artists Purchase Fund, and funds given by The Equal Sweetener Foundation and the Paul and Elissa Cahn Foundation
Public Domain
Object Number
Simple in shape and restrained in ornament, this teapot is a beautiful composition of silver in the classical style that was popular in America in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The oval-shaped body swells from a molded base to a gradually stepped shoulder and rises to a gracefully domed lid. The tight curve of the carved wooden handle is answered by the spout's S shape. Only the acorn finial and the initials engraved on the side ornament the mirror-polished surfaces. The teapot was made by Peter Bentzon, the only silversmith of African ancestry working in early America whose silver has been identified. Born in St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies, Bentzon was educated and apprenticed to the silversmith's trade in Philadelphia, where he lived and worked from 1817 until 1829.
Rebecca Dawson (c.1770–1855), Philadelphia, PA, USA, commissioned from Peter Bentzon [1]

c.1817 -
Mary Coates, received as gift from Rebecca Dawson, and family, by inheritance [2]

- 2001
Private Collection [3]

Argentum-The Leopard's Head (Michael Weller), San Francisco, CA, purchased at auction at Robert S. Brunk Auction Services, Inc., Asheville, NC, February 24, 2001, lot no. 0539

2001 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Argentum-The Leopard's Head [4]

The primary source of provenance information is an email from Rachel Layton Elwes, Benzton scholar, to Museum assistant curator, David Conradsen, dated October 21, 2001, and an extensive family tree sketch by David Conradsen, based on Elwes' and Conradsen's joint research [SLAM document files]. Exceptions and other supporting documentation are noted.

[1] Rebecca Dawson, a member of a wealthy and prominent Philadelphia Quaker family commissioned Peter Bentzon to make a tea service, including a pair of identical teapots, of which 41:2001 is one. It is believed that the service was intended as a gift to one of Dawson's female relatives with the initials "MC."

[2] Research has determined that there are several possible recipients among Dawson's female cousins in the Coates and Morrison lines, including two with the name Mary Coates [Rachel Layton Elwes, "A new addition to African American silver," in "The Silver Society Journal" (Autumn 2001) 14-17]. The provenance of the second teapot (in a private collection) provides circumstantial evidence for the descent of 41:2001 through the Coates and Morrison families [see Note].

[3] The most recent private owner of 41:2001 consigned the teapot through Robert S. Brunk Auction Services [Brunk Auctions, accessed February 11, 2004, ; fax from Sarah Urquhart, of Robert S. Brunk Auction Services, November 27, 2001; copies in SLAM document files].

[4] Invoice dated April 19, 2001 [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Collections Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, May 24, 2001.
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