J. Stephens coin silver spoon

PHOTOS REQUIRED - marks + item
AllSeasons
Posts: 153
Joined: Sun Jul 11, 2021 2:35 pm

J. Stephens coin silver spoon

Postby AllSeasons » Mon May 16, 2022 1:46 am

Hello, this is my first foray into American coin silver. I would like some insight into these marks on a serving spoon. One mark says "J. Stephens"; the other one next to it says "Paris". I did some research, and it appears to refer to Joseph Stephens from Paris, Kentucky. I found an older thread on this forum that discusses this maker; however, it appears no conclusive conclusions were reached on the details.

Here's the older thread:

viewtopic.php?t=53067

I have a couple of questions:

  • Are these marks legit, meaning if this is really 900 coin silver?
  • There seems to be some debate around the dates of when this silversmith was active. Can I assume first half of the 19th century?

The images are below. Thank you in advance.

Image
Image

Traintime
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Re: J. Stephens coin silver spoon

Postby Traintime » Mon May 16, 2022 3:35 pm

If you follow the trail in links, Joseph Stephens (#29) was around 21 years old when he moved to Paris and built a house. He reportedly opened a short lived Jewelry business, but that leaves a big unexplained gap between his arrival and the dates of c. 1827-32 cited for the mark. There is no mention of him training in anything (silver, watches, jewelry, etc.), so it would seem that perhaps he was just seeking opportunity in trading goods made by others. Did he have financial backing upon his landing in Paris? Who knows...his father did well (in a typical ante-bellum Southern way) but had a number of children to support. Might be the items were retail wares from a period slightly earlier than cited unless someone had found proof of the years that the jewelry store operated. His history in mercantile and later grocery are established, but it is unlikely the marks are from then.
The only Stephens that Thorn had listed in his 1949 book was a singular individual in New York c.1790, so there is no familial trail to follow here. The fact that Joseph Stephens was not even mentioned may suggest that items were not known by the earlier researchers...why? No doubt much of the existing Southern held silver was lost to the Civil War. The items that have surfaced may have been secreted away for generations, or even seized during the occupations during and after the battles. (If this had been post war trade, would pieces not be more known by Thorn and others, and better documented?) My best shot at this would be Coin, retailed at the jewelry store, possibly earlier than thought by a few years, and rather limited in scope. If the actual silversmith can be found, he may be local, but Stephens may have just gone to outside sources like Philly.

AllSeasons
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Re: J. Stephens coin silver spoon

Postby AllSeasons » Mon May 16, 2022 4:33 pm

Traintime wrote:If you follow the trail in links, Joseph Stephens (#29) was around 21 years old when he moved to Paris and built a house. He reportedly opened a short lived Jewelry business, but that leaves a big unexplained gap between his arrival and the dates of c. 1827-32 cited for the mark. There is no mention of him training in anything (silver, watches, jewelry, etc.), so it would seem that perhaps he was just seeking opportunity in trading goods made by others. Did he have financial backing upon his landing in Paris? Who knows...his father did well (in a typical ante-bellum Southern way) but had a number of children to support. Might be the items were retail wares from a period slightly earlier than cited unless someone had found proof of the years that the jewelry store operated. His history in mercantile and later grocery are established, but it is unlikely the marks are from then.
The only Stephens that Thorn had listed in his 1949 book was a singular individual in New York c.1790, so there is no familial trail to follow here. The fact that Joseph Stephens was not even mentioned may suggest that items were not known by the earlier researchers...why? No doubt much of the existing Southern held silver was lost to the Civil War. The items that have surfaced may have been secreted away for generations, or even seized during the occupations during and after the battles. (If this had been post war trade, would pieces not be more known by Thorn and others, and better documented?) My best shot at this would be Coin, retailed at the jewelry store, possibly earlier than thought by a few years, and rather limited in scope. If the actual silversmith can be found, he may be local, but Stephens may have just gone to outside sources like Philly.


Thank you very much for the detailed reply. Based on this, would it be safe to assume that this spoon is indeed 90% coin silver, as opposed to maybe silver-plated?

silverly
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Re: J. Stephens coin silver spoon

Postby silverly » Mon May 16, 2022 4:45 pm

Here's a little more about Joseph Stephens. To go along with what Traintime has already suggested, he seems to have primarily been a merchant.
Image
Image

silverly
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Re: J. Stephens coin silver spoon

Postby silverly » Mon May 16, 2022 4:59 pm

And further from The Silversmiths of Kentucky:
Noble W. Hiatt, ‎Lucy F. Hiatt · 1954

There is mention of Joseph Stephens learning the art of silversmithing from Thomas Phillips.

Traintime
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Re: J. Stephens coin silver spoon

Postby Traintime » Mon May 16, 2022 5:51 pm

A long examination relating to Thomas Phillips (and partners) and some of the where & when [a lot of it further in]: https://southernfoodandmaterialculture. ... r.html?m=1

Traintime
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Re: J. Stephens coin silver spoon

Postby Traintime » Mon May 16, 2022 6:38 pm

Sketches of Paris (1876) reveals a connection of the Presbyterian Church in Runnels Mills with that of Paris from the 1790's into the early 1800's. Also one Thomas Phillips is accounted for on the local firefighting squad in 1810. Entire book available on the internet archives: https://archive.org/details/sketchesofp ... 5/mode/2up

Traintime
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Re: J. Stephens coin silver spoon

Postby Traintime » Mon May 16, 2022 10:02 pm

Answer to earlier question....AMERICAN COIN (by definition approximating 0.900 fine silver alloy). Silverplate unlikely as no researcher has ever indicated these marks connect to anything of base-metal coated nor pewter.

Conjecture part...Phillips can be linked to Presbyterians. Stephens family is unclear, but one child has apparently converted to Methodist Church, implying greater family may have had association to another religion. Phillips has apparently moved west about 1818, just before Stephens and wife move to Paris in 1819. No link is known, but if Stephens had been apprenticed to Phillips during his youth then he might have returned to Runnells Mills and prepared to replace Phillips who had reportedly been contemplating his own removal further on. Other than such a case, it seems unlikely that Stephens could recieve any training from someone who had left the area. The potential common religious link is the only bare thread connecting these two, and it is a tenous one at that. [Not that it implies anything, but Phillips had apparently also engaged in slaveholding, at least in his new digs.]

Traintime
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Re: J. Stephens coin silver spoon

Postby Traintime » Mon May 16, 2022 10:51 pm

A transcribed obit dating 1885 for Joseph Stephens claiming he went to work for Phillips in 1810, thence replacing his employer upon his death (??!!), and only entering his next venture in about 1835: https://kentuckykindredgenealogy.com/20 ... -obituary/

AllSeasons
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Re: J. Stephens coin silver spoon

Postby AllSeasons » Fri May 20, 2022 8:47 pm

Thank you all for the information. Didn't know this little spoon had this much history behind it!


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