I recently bought this silver plated bread tray from an estate sale in a dilapidated house in one of the oldest parts of Roanoke. The house seriously looked as if it hadn’t been lived in for years: the ceiling was caving in, the wooden floor was rotted out, and the early 1900s wallpaper was brown and peeling. Regardless, I spent a good hour combing through the random odds and ends scattered throughout the house. I found a few things, but this tray was the last thing I picked up and probably one of my favorite things out of the items I purchased. I thought the design on the long sides of the tray was pretty, and the tarnished handles added an extreme amount of character.
The makers mark on the base, which is extremely faint, provides us with a little background on the piece.
Charles Casper started the Meriden Silver Plate Company in 1869, in Meriden, Connecticut, soon after Wilcox Silver Plate Co. purchased his previous company, Parker Casper & Co., in 1869. Starting in 1866, Casper worked with Charles Parker, a prominent pewtersmith and button manufacturer, who headed up several silver manufacturing companies throughout the mid 1800s. Casper’s Meriden Silver Plate Company took off from the very beginning, and many of his pieces are rare and prized among silver plate collectors. This Meriden is not to be confused with Meriden Britannia Company, also a well known silver plate company, which began as early as 1808 with their production of pewter ware (or Britannia ware). These two Meriden based companies merged in 1898, along with several other silver companies, to create the International Silver Company. I can date this tray to after 1898, but before 1940. Meriden stopped using the maker’s mark c. 1938.
When I showed him this tray, my husband pointed out one thing I failed to notice: it totally has a green man etched into the design at each end! And since I’m a huge nature lover, this little extra design immediately made this piece extra special.
For those of you who don’t know about the Green Man motif, it is usually associated with Celtic pagan deities, as well as with nature. The design is usually a horned face surrounded by or hidden behind leaves. His mouth is sometimes open, spilling scrollwork or vegetation. The actual origin of the Green Man is unclear, but the motif and variations can be found all over the world, spanning over several centuries. The earliest Green Man is believed to have come from Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) around 300 B.C. It has also been found in Rome around 420 B.C.- with the Romans transferring the motif throughout Northern Europe and Great Britain as they expanded their empire. The most common use of the Green Man is found in the medieval architecture of churches-both inside and out.
I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but I think this was $5 bucks well spent!
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Unknown. ‘The Green Man.’ English Folk Church. 20 October 2013. Web. 20 October 2013 http://www.englishfolkchurch.com/Lorehoard/greenman.htm