Noonmark Antiques

Shaker Ministry and Firkins

Charles HammellComment

We acquired a really fine firkin (sugar bucket) from a collection in Pennsylvania. The firkin has a stamp on the lid: "C & A Wilder, South Hingham, Mass". We researched it and discovered that the company closed in the late 1840's. We thought our research was done, and we were satisfied enough. Plus, the bucket is in just amazing condition. But, ever aiming higher, we decided to have our conservator clean some minor surface grime. He called us quite excitedly. He uncovered the letters "M Y", inscribed on the lid. Nice, but we thought they were probably the initials of the original owner.

A few months later,  Lisa began a study of Shaker woodenware pieces. In the book, Shaker Woodenware by June Sprigg & Jim Johnson, she discovered what the "M Y" meant. She learned that Shakers did not make every piece of woodenware they owned. Sometimes, they purchased pieces outside of their community. So, they likely would have purchased some wares, like firkins. Furthermore, Shakers practiced communal ownership. They shared many posessions. Clergy would mark their wares with "M Y" for ministry. So, Shakers bought things like firkins. Shakers were in Massachusetts. C & A Wilder sold to Shakers. Shaker ministers marked their pieces with "M Y". Is our firkin from a Shaker minister? It's a likely attribution.