Sugar bowl  
Gerardus Boyce  
New York, New York; 1834  
Gift of Carl R. Kossack 1990.0045.001 

Engraved “Made from ancient silver coin found by Mary E. Smith in a secret drawer of an old family desk at the Smith Homestead, Woodbury, Conn. in the year 1834,” this sugar bowl reveals interwoven histories of human enslavement and material goods. The “ancient coins” were products of silver mines and refineries in Mexico and Bolivia, which were only possible through labor and skills of enslaved and oppressed workers. Likewise, the sugar it held came from plantations that relied on enslaved people’s grueling work. Today, the link between slavery, the exploitation of resources (human and natural), and American silver objects is apparent. When the bowl was made, these ideas were gaining attention in American cultural and political discourse.