Two-handled presentation standing cup in sterling silver, made by W J Sanders for William Kerr, retailer, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, c 1922
This trophy, featuring an image of wheat harvesting, is believed to have been made for the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS). The RAS was formed in 1822 by prominent Sydney figures such as Sir John Jamison and William Cox and John Macarthur, with the aim of "furthering the quality of Australia's primary production by means of contests and competitions". Its formation was linked to the struggles of early colonists, who faced food shortages and a desperate need to develop new agricultural techniques appropriate for a very different environment from past experiences, along with improved import of livestock and grain (REF: RAS NSW website).
This silver trophy comes from the workshop of William Kerr, and bears the firm's mark: W. KERR. Kerr was a leading watchmaker, jeweller and silversmith in Sydney in the last quarter of the 19th century. Born in Northern Ireland, Kerr came to the colony of New South Wales with his family as a child on board the New York Packet in 1841. Trained as a watchmaker, he established a small jewellery business with his two older brothers in Palmer Street, Sydney about 1857. In 1863, following the death of his brothers, William Kerr set up a business at 68 William Street in partnership with Frederick Morris. Between 1864 and 1875, he worked for Hardy Bros before establishing his first shop at 574 George Street, opposite St Andrew's Cathedral. In 1882, Kerr opened a second shop in King Street and in 1883, his principal business was relocated to 544 George Street, Sydney opposite the Town Hall. William Kerr obtained many important commissions for commemorative items, often from the Sydney City Council.
The trophy was retailed from the firm when it was managed by William's three sons, William, Walter and Harry, who carried on the business after their father's death in 1896. Kerr's sons continued to use the W. KERR maker's mark until the business closed in 1938. From about 1915 however, they commissioned presentation silver from W J Sanders who can be attributed as the actual maker of this piece.
Along with being an example of Australian colonial metalwork, this piece is linked to a key organisation within Australia's agricultural history.
Hawkins, John Bernard, 'Australian Silver 1800-1900', National Trust of Australia (NSW), 1973, p48
Rumsey, Ian, 'Guide to the Later Works of William Kerr and J. M. Wendt', in Australian Society Newsletter, 1980/3, p-22-23
Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, http://www.rasnsw.com.au/home.htm
WJ Sanders was a firm of 'craftsmen in church plate and art metalwork' founded in 1911 by William Sanders a Birmingham trained silversmith. The trophy was retailed by the firm William Kerr who commissioned WJ Sanders to make presentation silver from about 1915.