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 Harvey Lewis  (1783 - 1835)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania      Known for: work in silver

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Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
Harvey Lewis was the son of Curtis Lewis, a house carpenter working in Philadelphia. He was apprenticed to the silversmith Joseph Lownes (1758-1820).(1)  By 1802, the name of Harvey Lewis appeared in the Philadelphia tax records.  He is known to have begun business as a silversmith as early by 1804 and according to the Philadelphia City Hall archives, he took on an apprentice, Henry Clark, in August of that year.  Lewis and Joseph D. Smith borrowed money from the well-known silversmith Joseph Richardson, Jr. (1752-1831), to set up business as Lewis & Smith Silversmiths,(2) South 2nd Street, Philadelphia, between 1805 and 1810.  City directories as well as a pictorial advertisement in Joshua Shaw’s United States Directory from 1818 until 1835 subsequently listed Lewis as a silversmith with a shop at 143 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.

In 1823, Lewis married Elizabeth Sellers, a cousin of Coleman Sellers, a longtime friend of Lewis.  Sellers, married to Charles Willson Peale’s daughter Sophonisba, had named his third son Harvey Lewis Sellers (b. 1813).(2) 

Beginning in 1827, Lewis was plagued by illnesses, which continued until his death in 1835.  Harvey Lewis’ best-known work, considered an icon of American classical silver and pictured in half a dozen books on American silver or decorative arts, is an inkwell with supports of three winged sphinxes now in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery.(3)  It is based on an ancient incense burner as interpreted by French goldsmiths of the Napoleonic era and English ceramic adaptations.(4)  It is also interesting to note a spectacular ewer made for Isaac McKim of the firm John McKim & Son, another leading Philadelphia-based China trade merchant, made by Lewis, is in the collection of the Maryland Historical Society.(5)

Footnote:
1. Ian M. G. Quimby, American Silver at Winterthur, Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1995, 385.
2. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) was one of America’s leading artists during the Revolutionary period. He was a Renaissance man whose paintings were sophisticated and neoclassical. He was married three times, fathering 17 children, and became the patriarch of an extended family of artists.
3. From research provided by Carswell Rush Berlin, Inc., New York. 4. Ian M. G. Quimby, American Silver at Winterthur, Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1995, 385. 5. This piece is pictured in Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art, 268.
Submitted by the Staff of the Columbus Museum, Georgia

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