Times, styles change, but recognition is always sweet
November 23, 1994
By Pamela J. Cressey
A silver presentation cup made by Adam Lynn for the finest female lambs at the 1809 Sheep Shearing contest sponsored by George Washington Parke Custis. Arlington House Collection, National Park Service. Photo Credit--The Lyceum Company.
We have many ways of recognizing achievement in scholarship, sports, entertainment, bravery, work, and even our pets. Certificates, plaques and trophies adorn many homes. Perhaps one of the most ubiquitous trophies in our homes today is the little figure atop a pedestal from a child's soccer, baseball or other team sport.
If we had lived in Alexandria 190 years ago, our awards would be different in both the accomplishment they symbolized and their artisanry. Until the end of January 1994 you may visit the silver exhibit at the Lyceum and see the awards of that bygone time.
Two cups made by Adam Lynn, Alexandria silversmith and engraver, are included in the exhibition, "In the Neatest, Most Fashionable Manner: Three Centuries of Alexandria Silver". The catalogue written by Catherine B. Hollan is available for sale and permits you to carry these presentation cups and 160 other illustrations home for greater study.
As you will notice, the award presented to Mr. William Hayward Foote in 1809 bears little similarity to those given out today. Adam Lynn crafted the presentation cup that year, as it did the previous year, with great care. The cup's most distinguishing characteristic is the fluffy lamb Lynn engraved on the front side. Ms. Hollan describes it as a "fat merino sheep".
And for what accomplishment was Mr. Foote presented this 8 ½ inch urn shaped cup? He had the two best female lambs in the annual Sheep Shearing competition sponsored by George Washington Parke Custis of Arlington House. Mr. Custis 's agricultural fairs occurred from 1805 until 1812. According to the engraving on the cup the fair promoted "Agriculture & Domestic Manufacturing. The cup produced by Lynn for the 1808 Shearing contest was awarded to John Tayloe for his best one year old male lamb. Tayloe constructed Octagon House in the District.
Adam Lynn worked as a silversmith and engraver from 1795 to 1820, although he continued to reside here until his death in 1835. His engraving graced the letterhead of Gadsby's City Tavern Hotel receipts. The Lyceum exhibit includes a Lynn tea service with elaborate engraved bands, sauce tureens, a tankard, goblet, sugar tongs, and spoons with an engraved initial.
Most recently, silver has again been presented for outstanding accomplishments in Alexandria. Mayor Patsy Ticer presented engraved silver plates to Ellen Donald and Anna Lynch as recipients of the 1994 Alexandra Historical Society History Award. Special commendation was also given to Mrs. May Joynt and the late Howard Joynt for their generous gift of Alexandria silver to the Lyceum. Recognition of the finest is fitting for every generation of Alexandrians.
Pamela Cressey is the Alexandria City Archaeologist.