Tablespoons by Tookey

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Artist/Maker: Elizabeth Tookey (active c. 1767-1774)[1]

Created: c. 1768

Origin/Purchase: London

Materials: silver

Dimensions: L: 21.6 (8 1/2 in.); Total wt: 109.9 g (3 oz. 10 dwt. 16 gr.)

Provenance: Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson; Yale Univesity Art Gallery, Gift of De Lancey Kountze, B.A. 1899, and Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Historical Notes: When Thomas Jefferson married the young widow Martha Wayles Skelton in January 1772, she brought to their household a number of items acquired during her first marriage to Bathurst Skelton, 1766-68. On January 18, 1772, Jefferson made a list in his Fee Book, "By sundry European goods on hand at the death of B. Skelton & taken by me." The list mentions many household items, including one silver ladle, one dozen tablespoons, one dozen teaspoons, two pairs "gaderoon salts" with four glass liners and four "salt shovels."[2]

The surviving silver from the Skelton estate is the work of at least three London silversmiths. Though unmarked, the two salt spoons were probably purchased at the same time and are believed to be part of the same set; the unusual handles might be shaped in the form of an S for Skelton. Silversmith James Tookey made the Onslow pattern soup ladle in 1764/65. The set of teaspoons with spiral gadrooned handles also bear his mark, but with no date letter or other hallmarks. They were probably made about 1768 when his wife, Elizabeth Tookey, made this similar set of tablespoons with downturned handles. The silver must have arrived in Virginia shortly before or just after Bathurst Skelton's death in October 1768. They are engraved with the block letters "BMS" for Bathurst and Martha Skelton.


  1. This article is based on Stein, Worlds, 314.
  2. Thomas Jefferson, Fee Book, 1764-1765. Henry E. Huntington Library.