Milk jug, 1765
Photo courtsey of the...
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Photo courtsey of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

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The egg-shaped milk jug stands on three legs, has a small pouring spout, a slender handle and a cover hinged to its body. The legs are cast in the form of C-scrolls, with shell feet; their joint to the body is reinforced by cast tri-part leaves. The contours of its slender, vine-like handle are cast in a rococo curve-countercurve, and has a leaf-shaped grip at its top. A small, triangular, cast spout is soldered to the bowl of the jug opposite the handle. A domed lid or cover is attached to the body of the jug by a hinge directly above the upper joint of the handle and the jug. A small triangular spout cover is applied opposite it. A cast finial is centered on the cove; a small ventilating hole is pierced in the cover next to it.

Engraved around the circumference of the milk jug is a continuous chain, with its links positioned to visually join the body of the vessel and its cover. Engraved on the cover above the handle is the motto "Keep bright the chain." Engraved on the side of the vessel to the right of the handle in script are the words "Dr. John Fothergill/to/Benjamin Franklin/to/Henry Hill/1790."

The milk jug is one of the few artifacts of Franklin's domestic life to be documented in his correspondence. In a letter to Franklin, then at Paris, his former landlady Margaret Stevenson wrote: "I have hear your aoeconemest the siver [sic] Milke Pott kip bright the chain I hartily wish it may be recover'd." (April 11, 1779). About a month later, her daughter Mary (Polly) Stevenson Hewson wrote to Franklin: "I brought your milk pot, & lodged it at Mr. Lechmere's and wrote to Mr Alexander desiring him to take charge of it" (May 30, 1779).
Connection to Franklin
A gift to Franklin from a friend; willed by him to another friend Terms of Use Credits