The history of the Old Wilmington Cup
The Old Wilmington Cup is a faithful reproduction of Wilmington’s historic heritage.
In Colonial times Wilmington, NC was the largest city in North Carolina and a thriving center or commerce and industry, such as it was in those early days. Few banks existed and people often converted their coins into usable items that could be identified if stolen. The required the services of qualified metal craftsmen.
Here, on the banks of the Cape Fear River, no less than eighteen silversmiths have been documented by historians as having practiced their craft. Some worked alone, other employed apprentices in the European guild tradition who later opened their own shops. It was not a profession for one in a hurry for every article was handmade to exacting standards.
Thomas W. Brown, a North Carolina Native, served his apprenticeship in New York City with Louis Fellows and returned to Wilmington in 1823 to open his own shop at 37 Market Street. He advertised that he made “Jewelry, silverware, table and pocket cutlery, pistols, fancy articles, etc.” and the he repaired watches and jewelry “With neatness and dispatch.” Brown designed and made the Old Wilmington Cup.
A young Wilmingtonian lad, William Anderson, apprenticed himself to Brown as a silversmith and they became partners in 1851. Upon the death of Brown, Anderson become the sole owner. When Anderson died in 1872, the business was known as T. W. Brown and Sons and was run by Thomas’ son L. S. F. Brown and stepson E. F. Story.
While there are several cups similar in style to the Old Wilmington Cup, it is distinctive in that the diameter is larger in relation to the height. Only Brown would be able to explain why we did this and time has sealed his lips. Whatever his reason, he has left us a unique design.
Pewter is one of the oldest alloys to be crafted by the ancient Chinese and Greeks even before the Romans. Lead was used in the composition which made it dull and deadly. In Colonial time the British eliminated the lead making it safe and far more lustrous. The same (lead-free) metal formula is used in our cup. Your Old Wilmington Cup will rarely need polishing. Warm water, soap and rubbing with a soft cloth is all that is necessary. If needed pewter polish may be used.