Cake Saw (USA), 1870s
This is a Cake saw. It was made by Sperry Douglas Brower and Son. It is dated 1870s and we acquired it in 2011. Its medium is cut, engraved and stamped silver. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.
Ornamental patterns on flatware were all the rage in American flatware of this period and specialized servers were coming into use for an increasing variety of foods. This piece demonstrates the interest in ice cream, which was often so hard that it needed to be sawn. The cake saw is engraved with the name “Meta” for Meta Kemble de Forest, wife of Lockwood de Forest. Lockwood de Forest designed the Teak Room in the Carnegie Mansion. The carved woodwork in the Teak Room was made in a studio de Forest had set up in Ahmedabad, India. The room’s walls are covered with Indian-inspired stencils of de Forest’s design, all installed when the house was built in 1902. Lockwood de Forest was related to Frederick Church and travelled with him to the Middle East, including Egypt and Greece, in the 1870s prior to his marriage to Meta. The two often sketched together and de Forest valued his sketches as souvenirs of pleasant places—it is tempting to associate the scene on the cake saw, replete with palm trees and a tent, with one of the sketches from de Forest’s travels with Church.
De Forest and Meta went to India on their honeymoon, where they both collected Indian decorative objects. He was so inspired by Indian designs that he set up a studio to encourage the use of Indian style in American Aesthetic Movement interiors—much the way Rudyard Kipling’s father, John, did in Lahore and exported pieces to England. The de Forests’ interest in exoticism directly relates this piece to both the Teak Room here in the museum and to the museum’s collection of flatware. It is an excellent example of late 19th-century design, when specialty pieces were a major contribution of American inventiveness to the history of dining. This cake saw is an unusual and interesting example of its form, with a rare maker: it was made and sold by the Albany, New York-based silversmith, Sperry Douglas Brower and Son, after the retirement of Brower’s partner, John Hewson, in 1873.
Its dimensions are
L x W x D: 27.6 x 4.1 x 0.2 cm (10 7/8 x 1 5/8 x 1/16 in.)
It has the following markings
On one side: "S.D.B. Brower & Son/ STERLING 925"/ an eagle facing left in an oval conjoined with a lozenge with "HD [?]&B"
It is inscribed
Engraved on end of handle in cartouche: "Meta"
Cite this object as
Cake Saw (USA), 1870s. cut, engraved and stamped silver. Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund. 2011-7-1.
Join Cooper Hewitt curators Sarah Coffin and Gail Davidson, and Lockwood de Forest scholar Roberta Mayer for three presentations celebrating the Carnegie Mansion’s newly restored Teak Room....
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Passion for the Exotic: Lockwood de Forest, Frederic Church.