the handles bright-cut and engraved with wriggle-work borders and trailing bellflowers, the terminals with contemporary foliate script monograms MRH within conforming oval reserves with flowerhead at bottom
Katherine C. Buhler, Masterpieces in American Silver, 1960, No. 104.
Kane, Patricia E., Colonial Massachusetts Silversmiths and Jewelers, 1998, p. 825.
Moses Michael Hays was born in New York on May 9, 1739 to Dutch immigrant parents Judah Hays and Rebecca Michael Hays. Judah, a merchant, introduced his son to the family retail and shipping business at a young age, and upon his death in 1764 left the business and the majority of his assets to Moses, who was then twenty-five years old. Two years later in 1776, Moses married Rachel Myers, sister of acclaimed New York silversmith Myer Myers. Moses and Rachel were deeply grounded in their Jewish faith and were committed to numerous civic and charitable causes throughout their lives. In New York, they were members of the Congregation Shearith Israel, where Moses served as vice president in 1766 and as president the following year (see the website for the American Jewish Historical Society). Additionally Moses and his brother-in-law Myer Myers were members of King David's Lodge, the first exclusively Jewish Masonic lodge in America established on February 17, 1769. Hays, who was elected the Master of the Lodge, is named in the organization's founding warrant as "our Worshipful and well beloved Brother;" Myers served under him as Senior Warden (David Barquist, Myer Myers Jewish Silversmith in Colonial New York, Yale University Press (New Haven and London: 2001), p. 47).
In 1769 the Hays family relocated to Newport, RI, where Moses resumed his shipping business. The shipping industry in Newport was not as profitable as it had been in New York, and Moses briefly found himself in debtor's prison in 1771. Upon liquidating his assets, Hays was freed and immediately set out to reestablish his company (AJHS). During the their time in Newport the Hays family were members of the renowned Congregation Yeshuat Israel, now know as the Touro Synagogue, established in 1763. The Rev. Isaac Touro, who married Moses' sister Reyna Hays in 1773, served as the Congregation's hazan, and designed the synagogue based on the great synagogues in Amsterdam (see www.eyesofglory.com). A pair of silver Torah finials made by Myer Myers circa 1784-95, and later engraved "Hays & Myers" are in the collection of the Touro Synagogue. Although it is presumed that the finials were originally commissioned by Moses and Rachel Hays, the inscription is thought to refer to the 1796 marriage of Moses and Rachel's daughter Judith to her first cousin Samuel Myers, son of Myer Myers. The finials were donated to the Synagogue in 1842 by the Samuel and Judith's granddaughter (Barquist, p. 198-200).
In 1775, as political tensions escalated in New England, Hays was among seventy-six men in Newport asked to sign a declaration of loyalty to the Colonies. Hays refused to sign the declaration as it included the phrase "upon the true faith of a Christian" and instead submitted a letter confirming his belief in the Colonies' right to take action against the Crown. After great discussion and negotiation the phrase was omitted and Hays consented to sign the declaration (AJHS).
In 1776 the Hays family left Newport for Boston in advance of the British occupation, and Moses reestablished his shipping business yet again, this time expanding to include the underwriting of shipbuilding, trade and insurance to the Far East. In 1784 Hays founded The Massachusetts Bank -- operating today as Bank of America -- of which he was the first depositor (see the Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr. Visitors Center at the Touro Synagogue, Newport, RI, www.loeb-tourovisitorscenter.org).
Moses Hays was connected to famed silversmith and patriot Paul Revere Jr. through Freemasonry, as both were members of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. At the time Hays was accepted into the Massachusetts Lodge in November 1782, he was the only Jewish member. He was elected the Lodge's Grand Master in 1788, with Paul Revere serving as his Deputy, and again in 1792. Revere himself does not become Grand Master until 1795 (Falino 2001: p. 169-170). A portrait of Hays once hung in the Corinthian Hall of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge. Later, Hays, Revere and fourteen other Boston business men established the Massachusetts Mutual Fire Insurance Company (Bortman1954: p. 305).
Moses Hays was not only a friend and business partner of Revere, he was also an exceptional patron. Revere's only known Jewish patron, Hays is known to have commissioned twenty-five orders from Revere between 1783-92, including three teapots (one at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art), two teapot stands, four sauce boats (sold Sotheby's New York, October 17, 1972, lot 117; March 28, 1973, lots 32 and 161), a bowl, a sugar bowl, a milk pot, gold knee buckles, a sword hilt, a ladle and numerous spoons (Falino 2001: p. 170). Hays also commissioned two silver wine cups engraved with is and his wife's initials that were sold Sotheby's New York, January 23, 2011, Property from the Hascoe Family Collection, lot 122. The present lot is listed n Revere's day books as "Ragout Spoons" entered on 1 September 1786.
In Boston the Hays family settled into a large fifteen-room brick house on Middle Street (now Hanover Street) near Revere's home in the North End. In his memoir published in 1873, the Rev. Samuel Joseph May recounts his relationship with the Hays family as a child:
"Moses Michael Hays [was] a man much respected, not only on account of his large wealth, but for his many personal virtues and the high culture and great excellence of his wife and son Judah, and his daughters- especially Catherine and Slowey. His house, far down on Hanover Street, then one of the fashionable streets of the town, was the abode of hospitality; and his family moved in what were then the first circles of society. He and his truly good wife were hospitable, not to the rich alone, but also to the poor. Many indigent families were fed pretty regularly from his table. They would come especially after his frequent dinner parties, and were sure to be made welcome, not to the crumbs only, but to ampler portions of food that might be left.
Always, on Saturday, he expected a number of friends to dine with him. A full length table was always spread, and loaded with the luxuries of the season; and he loved to see it surrounded by a few regular visitors and others especially invited. My father... seldom failed to dine at Mr. Hay's on Saturday, and often took me with him; for he was sure I should meet refined company there.
Both Uncle and Aunt Hays (for so I called them) were fond of children, particularly of me; and I was permitted to stay with them several days, and even weeks, together. And I can never forget, not merely their kind, but their conscientious care of me. I was the child of Christian parents, and they took especial pains that I should lose nothing of religious training so long as I was permitted to abide with them. Every night, I was required, on going to bed, to repeat my Christian hymns and prayers to them, or else to an excellent Christian servant woman who lived with them many years. I witnessed their religious excercises- their fastings and their prayers- and was made to feel that they worshipped the Unseen Almighty and All-merciful One. Of course I grew up without any prejudice against Jews- or any other religionists, because they did not believe as my father and mother believe." (Bortman 1954: p. 305)
As Boston lacked a synagogue, the Hays family conducted religious services in their home. The absence of a local synagogue is likely the reason why the family continued to donate to the synagogue in Newport for many years after they had moved away (Bortman 1954: pp. 304-305). In addition to a fine library of Hebrew texts, the Hays family is also thought to have been owners of a Torah, likely used with the Torah finials now at the Touro Synagogue. Private ownership of Torahs and Torah finials in the late 18th century America was extremely rare as the hand-written texts and their silver ornaments were prohibitively expensive (Barquist 2001: pp. 199-200). As observant Jews, the Hays family would have conduced Shabbat services in their homes.
When Moses Hays died on May 9, 1805, his obituary in the secular press described him as "a most valuable citizen...now secure in the bosom of his Father and our Father, of his God and our God" (AJHS). He is buried in the Colonial Jewish Burial Ground of Newport.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale