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Water Cooler with Masonic Symbols
M. Tyler and Co., Moses Tyler (1794-1846)
USA: New York, Albany
Salt-glazed stoneware; cobalt slip-decorated
overall: 20"h x 16"dia.
Special Acquisitions Fund

Stoneware pear-shaped water cooler with double handles. Spigot hole at lower front. Applied Masonic decoration consisting of square and compasses with pendant jewel flanked on left with crescent and star and on right with a candle in holder. Above the applied device is incised name "Ed Raynsford" highlighted in blue. Marked "M Tyler and Co / Albany" above name and also highlighted in blue.

This sturdy vessel, shaped like an upside-down pear, was made for a particular purpose—to hold water and to help keep it cool and easily accessible through a spigot at the container’s base. Although it is a utilitarian object, this water cooler features decoration and personalization that point to an interesting story about who owned and used it. This water cooler originally belonged to Edmund Raynsford (1784-1855). Born in Sheffield, Massachusetts, Raynsford moved to Bethlehem, New York, around 1820. Records note that he earned a living in a variety of ways—as a merchant, hotel owner and postmaster. The potter who shaped Raynsford’s water cooler, Moses Tyler (1794-1846), lived about eight miles away from Raynsford, in Albany, New York. Tyler operated his business near the area clay deposits he used to make stoneware. Tyler impressed his mark “M/ Tyler & Co./Albany” near the neck of this vessel. He also incised Raynsford’s name on the cooler, highlighting the letters he cut in the wet clay with blue cobalt glaze. In addition, Tyler applied clay formed in the shape of different Masonic symbols—a moon and star, a candlestick and a square and compasses adorned with a beehive—all colored with blue glaze—to the surface of the water cooler. Taken together with Raynsford’s name, these symbols suggest that Raynsford was a Freemason. Unfortunately, it is not known which lodge claimed him as a member but this charmingly decorated water cooler makes clear he was proud of his association with Freemasonry. For further information, see blog post, April 30, 2015, http://nationalheritagemuseum.typepad.com/library_and_archives/2015/04/hanging-out-by-the-water-cooler.html

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