This article describes silversmith Peter Quintard’s life and business, also noting his family’s immigration history and including the text of his will. It originally appeared in the December 1941 issue of American Collector magazine, a publication which ran from 1933-1948 and served antique collectors and dealers.
Today if a bored passenger on a Boston-bound express happens to glance out of the car window as his train thunders past South Norwalk and across the bridge which spans the harbor, he will see a drab cluster of 1880 business buildings and manufacturing plants. These give no clue to an earlier scene when examples of American craftsmanship, now highly prized by collectors, were made on that same site. But two hundred years ago this was Old Well, one of the lesser settlements of Norwalk, Connecticut, and here lived and worked Pierre (better known as Peter) Quintard, the American-born Huguenot silversmith.
In his time, both Norwalk and Old Well had a thriving shipping trade. Sloops and lesser craft sailed westward on Long Island Sound to New York, carrying to market Connecticut farm products from as far north as Danbury. Being a center of local commerce, Old Well was an advantageous place for Peter Quintard to follow his calling of gold and silversmith. But, in addition, he was a ship-owner, a tavern keeper, and may have been interested in the first Norwalk pottery, now designated as the Settlers’ Pottery. For a quarter of a century he was a prominent citizen of his town and the leading silversmith of western Connecticut. This is his story.
Among the many Huguenots who fled France during the repressive measures that culminated in the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, was Isaac Quintard, a young weaver who went first to Bristol, England. There he married Jeanne Fume, the ceremony taking place in the cathedral about 1692. Their eldest son, Isaac, was born four years later. As Bristol was one of the great ports of export to America, it is not surprising that the Quintard family should presently set sail across the Atlantic.
Arrived in New York, the former weaver became a merchant and also invested in real estate, one of his holdings being a parcel of land in Stamford, Connecticut, which he bought in 1708 from Robert Embree of that town. He apparently moved there later, for his death is recorded in the Stamford records as occurring in 1714.
His son, Peter, was born in New York in 1699 and in due time was apprenticed to a silversmith, just which one of the craftsmen then working there is not certain. It was probably one of the Huguenot craftsmen and may well have been Charles Le Roux, New York’s leading silversmith. He was Quintard’s senior by ten years and thus would be established as a goldsmith by the time Peter was old enough to serve as an apprentice.
The latter may have even begun his term under Charles’ father, Bartholomew. As evidence, but not proof of LeRoux tutelage, there is the tankard (Illustration I) bearing the marks of both Charles LeRoux and Peter Quintard. What is more reasonable than to suppose it to be the work of master and apprentice?
By 1731 Quintard was listed as a freeman and goldsmith, though he must have been working at his trade before that. There is a record of land transferred to him as early as 1722, described as on the south side of Maiden Lane with frontage of twenty-one feet. Also, a letter (Illustration II) in his handwriting in the possession of the Quintard family, dated April 11, 1728, indicates that he was at that time an established goldsmith. Addressed to his brother, Isaac, who was a merchant in Stamford, he writes: “I beg you to come here Saturday or some day soon to fetch work to go to Hartford.”
Obviously patrons in that Connecticut town had ordered plate from him which he had completed and was thus arranging to have Isaac deliver for him. One may also infer from this letter that the Stamford merchant was not only accustomed to delivering plate to his brother’s Connecticut patrons, but quite likely obtained orders for him. There is, for instance, a caudle cup (Illustration V) bearing the mark P Q and bought by Sergeant Jonathan Gold of Stamford. Now owned by the First Congregational Church there, the inscription states that it was presented in 1730. It may, however, have been made several years earlier.
Although caudle cups were strictly secular pieces in England, Congregational churches in America were occasionally presented with them by members who had originally purchased them for home use. Of the 17th- and 18th-Century examples now owned by American churches, forty-six are by Boston craftsmen; three by unknown makers; one by Cornelius Kierstead, who also left New York for Connecticut; and one by Peter Quintard.
The latter remained in New York until 1737, working at his trade and conducting an occasional real-estate sale, such as the one advertised in the New-York Gazette of July 7-14, 1735:
“Peter Quintard. — A Good house and Lot belonging to the Widow Bellarow is to be sold, whereon there is a good Stable and other out-Buildings, a good pump in the Yard and a good Garden; There is also three other Lots adjoyning the same, which are situated in Queen-street over against the House of Mr. Benj. Peck — Whoever inclines to buy the same, may apply to Peter Quintard, Goldsmith, living near the New Dutch Church in the City of New-York.”
Two years later he had moved to Norwalk, Connecticut, only a few miles distant from his brother in Stamford. This was logical, both for family and business reasons. Also, the Huguenot craftsmen, of which he was one, by no means remained huddled in New York, but tended to spread out into the surrounding towns and cities. New Rochelle, New York, was founded and named by Huguenots and such silversmiths as Rene Grignon, Daniel Deshon, Timothy Bontecou, and Peter Quintard settled contentedly in Connecticut, which was a comfortable sort of colony with no one very rich or very poor therein. Agriculture was the chief industry and Long Island Sound furnished a waterway for disposing of produce.
To be sure, there was a tendency among those opulent enough to buy fine plate to patronize the silversmiths of either Boston or New York, but local craftsmen could be sure of whatever trade was not deflected to one or the other of these centers. A fair income could be made from silversmithing, especially if one combined it with some other occupation, such as clockmaking, cabinetmaking, blacksmithing, inn-keeping or a similar business enterprise.
During the years when Peter Quintard was goldsmith, ship-owner and innkeeper in Norwalk, Connecticut, silversmithing was in its infancy. New Haven, the center of the craft, had only five silversmiths. These included Timothy Bontecou, also a Huguenot, and Cornelius Kierstead. New London had four; Norwich, two; and Hartford, three silversmiths. In Norwalk, Quintard’s one competitor was Peter White, who built a shop there one year after the New York craftsman’s arrival. Of his contemporaries in the three large centers, there were, of course, the Reveres, father and son, in Boston; Daniel Dupuy, Samuel Soumain, and the Syngs in Philadelphia; and the LeRoux family in New York. Quintard’s silver, though simple, was well wrought and compared favorably with that of his contemporaries (Illustration IV).
He carried on in his various enterprises until 1762, when he died early in November, having made the following will three months before:
“WILL OF PETER QUINTARD PROBATE RECORDS 1761-1763 FAIRFIELD CONNECTICUT.
In the Name of God this 26th Day of August A.D. 1762 I, Peter Quintard, in ye county of Fairfield and County of Connecticut in New England being in a weak and low STATE in BODY tho; of sound Mind and Memory and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, Do make and ordain this and no other but this to be my Last Will and Testament Recommending my Soul into the Hands of God who gave it and my Body to the Earth to be decently buried at the Discretion of my ExecRs: Friends & Neighbors and as touching my Worldly Goods and Estates (after my Just Goods and Funeral Charges by my ExecRs out of what Money I shall leave my Goldsmith’s Ware and outstanding Debts & what Liquors shall be in my House at my Decease and out of my Children’s Portions if needbe) — I give in the Form & Manner following
I am. Prim S: I give to my well beloved Wife Deborah as her Right of Dower the Use of my Dwelling House & Barn and Shop & the Homelot during ye Term of her widowhood and all my Household Goods that Part which she brought me as her own forever & Ye kept so long as She shall Remain my Widow. I also give to her the Use of half my Woodland to get her Fireing during her Widowhood.
Item: I give to my Son, Peter, his Heirs &tc all my Gold-Smith Tools, & my Lot called Crampland about Twenty Acres Situated in sd Norwalk and also my Rock so Called at the Head of the Harbour of sd Norwalk Containing Eight Rods bounded East by ye River or Creek West by Highway North by Thos. Belden’s Lot and South by Jonathan Burswell’s Lot, together with a Third Part of my Homelot and Buildings thereon & Household Goods if any left and not worn out by Good Usage at my Wife’s Decease or Marrying again:
The other Two Thirds of my Homelot, House, Goods etc in like Manner I give to my Two Daughters viz, Mary Evertson and Jane Vanwoner both of New York, to be possessed by my Three Children after my Wife according to my above Bequest has done with what I have given her, with this Proviso or Condition that my three Children above mentioned do each of them or their heirs &tc pay off my Debts and funeral Charges in Case my Money, Gold Smith Truck & tavern Stores are not sufficient to pay all my Debts and Charges. Each Child to pay in Proportion to what I by this Will have given, & if any Refuse; their Portion shall be sold for that Purpose and the Overplus be returned to him or her that refuses to pay their Part of my Debts as above. And lastly : that this my Will maybe duly Executed I do recommend Constitute and ordain and appoint mr Jonathan Ketchum of said Norwalk & my Son Peter and my Wife Deborah ExecRs to this my Will Confirming this and no other to be my Last Will & Testament. In Testimony whereof I have hereto set my Hand & Seal ye Day & Year first above.
Written Signed Sealed published declared by him ye dS Peter Quintard to be his Last Will and Testament In Presence of Us the Subscribers, Josiah Thatcher Jr., Seth Seymour, Wm. Jarvis
Fairfield County November 3, 1762 Then personally appeared Josiah Thatcher Jr., Seth Seymour & Wm. Jarvis and ye witnesseth: to the within written Will and Made Solemn Oath that they & each of them saw Peter Quintard the Testator to said Will Sign & Seal ye Same & heard him publish and declare the same to be his Last Will & Testament and at the Same Time Judged him to be of a disposing Mind and Memory and that they and each of them then set to their Hands as Witnesses in the Presence of the Testator & of each other — Sworn before me Joseph Platt Justice of the Peace.”
According to the inventory of his estate, Peter Quintard left upwards of £600 to his heirs, which was a fair-sized amount for the mid-18th Century. Tradition has it that his house is still standing, near the harbor at South Norwalk, but this fact has not been definitely established.
For all his interest in outside affairs, Peter Quintard must have made a fair quantity of silver, but pieces bearing his mark are very rare. None have come down in his family. Save for those shown here, I know of but two other examples. They are a tankard and a caster which are in the Mabel Brady Garvan Collection at Yale University.
While none of his descendants followed the goldsmith craft, artistic ability and business enterprise did not die with him. Others of the family became cabinetmakers and were prime movers in the well-known Norwalk potteries of the early 19th Century. These will be dealt with in a later article.
This article originally appeared in American Collector magazine, a publication which ran from 1933-1948 and served antique collectors and dealers.