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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

 
 
 
Gorham Manufacturing Company
Providence, Rhode Island, est. 1831
Flask
1888
Sterling silver, base metal

7 1/8 x 1 9/16 x 5 3/16 inches

 
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided
by Dr. and Mrs. John R. Kelsey, Jr.

Arts of North America
 
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With its saguaro cactus decoration and scenes of an idyllic adobe village, this unusual flask served as a form of advertising for the Mexican silver market in the 19th century.

After the Civil War, Alexander Robey Shepherd became one of the only governors the District of Columbia ever had. He enacted public-works projects that breathed new life into the war-weary city but that also incurred large deficits, forcing him out of office and eventually out of the country. Shepherd moved his family to Batopilas, Chihuahua, Mexico, where he purchased a silver mine. Soon wealthy beyond his dreams, Shepherd returned to D.C. and commissioned the Gorham Silver Company to create 15 sterling-silver flasks (using Batopilas silver) as promotional gifts for various Mexican and American officials.