SPECIAL ADVISORY: In accordance with Yale University’s revised COVID-19 protocols, the Yale University Art Gallery is closed to the public until further notice. Learn More

American Decorative Arts
Maker: William Cowell, Sr., American, 1682–1736

Pepper Box

ca. 1720–30


3 5/16 in. (8.4 cm)
other (Lip): 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm)
base: 2 1/4 in. (5.7 cm)
Mabel Brady Garvan Collection
Pepper boxes were intended to serve ground pepper, but the term may have been used for any type of small-scale shaker. In the mid-eighteenth century, pepper boxes were popular in New England but were infrequently made in other colonies. This example was made in Boston by William Cowell, Sr., and is a tapering octagon that is visually broken up by applied bands. The bands around the top disguise the juncture between the body and the lid. The pierced lid slightly flares out at the base, echoing the flare of the foot. The engraved initials “TWG” on the bottom of the base may stand for Grace and Thomas Wallis.
Made in Boston, Massachusetts
On view
18th century
Containers - Metals

Probably originally owned by Thomas Wallis and his wife Grace Waite; George C. Gebelein, Boston; Francis P. Garvan, New York (1928); gift in 1930 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Kathryn C. Buhler and Graham Hood, American Silver in the Yale University Art Gallery, 2 vols. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1970), vol. 1, p. 85, no. 91, ill.

Barbara M. Ward and Gerald W. R. Ward, eds., Silver in American Life: Selections from the Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1979), 150, no. 158, ill.

Patricia E. Kane, Colonial Massachusetts Silversmiths and Jewelers (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1998), 352.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.