Swain-Gardner Silver Tankard

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1689 to 1954
Location: Nantucket Island, Massachusettsmap
Surname/tag: Gardner, Swain, Dummer,
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This description of a silver tankard heirloom passed down through several generations comes from:

John M. Bullard, ed., Captain Edmund Gardner of Nantucket and New Bedford: His Journal and his Family (New Hampshire:The Cabinet Press, 1958), 89.

A certain very early piece of American silver which was made by Jeremiah Dummer was in the Swain-Gardner family from about 1689 until 1954, being owned by seven generations of the family, eight owners in all, two of them being in the fourth generation. The Metropolitan Museum in New York was interested in the tankard but did not want it in its own collection as it already had one by the same silversmith. There were no more males in the family who bore the Gardner name, and after it had been offered for sale to at least one other member of the family, who had not wished to purchase it because it had become so valuable it had to be kept in a bank vault or a museum, it was sold to a lady in Texas, who now has it on display in the Bayou Bend Collection in Houston.
The following notes were furnished by Mrs. Edmund S. Gardner. The initials referred to are on the base of the tankard.
IS E 1690
John Swain, b. 1 Sep 1664; d. 29 Nov 1738; married Experience Folger, d. 4 Jun 1739.
Experience Folger Swain died less than one year after her husband's death. She was an aunt of Benjamin Franklin. The silver tankard which was made by Jeremiah Dummer was a wedding present to John and Experience Swain. The IS E initials on the tankard should be JS E for John and Experience Swain. They owned the tankard for 50 years and then it went to their daughter Hannah who married Thomas Gardner Nov. 30, 1724. The initials TFCG should be THG for Thomas and Hannah Gardner as it is known that they owned the tankard for 44 years.
TFCG 1740
Thomas Gardner, b. 21 May 1701; d. 14 Apr 1784; married Hannah Swain, d. 5 Dec 1779.
TAG 1784
Thomas Gardner, Jr., b. 7 May 1736; d. 4 Oct 1830; married, 7 Feb 1760, Anna Worth.
The TAG initials on the tankard are for Thomas and Anna Gardner.
CAG 1817
Charles Gardner, b. 2 Aug 1769; d. 2 Dec 1848, the son of Thomas and Anna Gardner, married Abial Russell.
The CAG initials on the tankard are for Charles and Abial Gardner. They had no children and a year before his death (Charles Gardner had lung fever and knew he was going to die soon) he gave the tankard to his younger brother Edmund in 1847. Edmund was born Nov. 8, 1784 and was therefore much younger than Charles.
ESG 1847
Edmund Gardner, b. 8 Nov 1784; d. 16 Sep 1875, the son of Thomas & Anna Worth Gardner, the younger brother of Charles Gardner, married, 25 Aug 1807 Susan Hussey.
The ESG initials on the tankard are for Edmund and Susan Gardner. They owned the tankard for 28 years.
EBMG 1875
Edmund Barnard Gardner, b. 2 Mar 1822; d. 1905; married Martha Thompson, b. 1828; d. 1917.
The EBMG initials on the tankard are for Edmund Barnard and Martha Gardner.
ECSG 1905
Edmund Gardner, b. 10 May 1855; d. 1 May 1910; married, July 16, 1884, Cornelia Hotchkiss Sherman, b. 15 Feb 1853; d. 11 Sep 1932.
The ECSG initials on the tankard are for Edmund and Cornelia Sherman Gardner. They owned the tankard for five years.
ESG 1910
Edmund Sherman Gardner, b. 15 Mar 1892; d. 5 Feb 1942, son of Edmund and Cornelia Gardner
Edmund Sherman Gardner inherited the tankard when his father died in 1910. He was eighteen years old and his initials were engraved on the tankard at that time. His mother kept the tankard for him until he was married June 12, 1918 to Virginia Newcomb, daughter of Truman and Abby Randolph Newcomb. The tankard was sent to Edmund and Virginia Gardner immediately after their marriage and they had it for 24 years. They had only one child, a daughter, who died in infancy, and there are no male Gardner heirs.
The tankard became a very rare and valuable piece of early American silver and was exhibited in the Gallery of Fine Arts at Yale in the exhibition of Masterpieces of Early American Silver which was collected by the late John Marshall Philips.


January 27, 1717-18. The will of John Swain was probated. The witnesses were William Worth, John Folger, Robert Long and Moses Giles. Pecuniary legacies were given to Mary Mason, daughters Sarah, Hannah, Patience and son Stephen, and the balance of his estate to sons John, Joseph, Benjamin, and daughter Elizabeth Sevalle. Dated February 9, 1714-15. His estate, £310, included a silver tankard, Bible, chiney platter, and a fashionable table.
  • The "lady in Texas" referred to in the first paragraph who purchased the tankard in 1954 was Ima Hogg, philanthropist and art collector, and the daughter of former Texas governor James Stephen Hogg.

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