Tea or hot water urn

Maker: John McMullin (1765–1843)

Date: 1799

Geography: Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Culture: American

Medium: silver with ivory handle

Dimensions: 21 3/4 x 11 1/8 x 13 1/8 in., 166.253 Troy Ounces (55.2 x 28.3 x 33.3 cm, 5171 Grams)

Classification: Silver

Credit Line: Purchase, Sansbury-Mills Fund and Frank P. Stetz Gift, 2009

Accession Number: 2009.420.2


The yellow fever epidemics of 1793 and 1798 devastated the city of Philadelphia, killing thousands and forcing many to flee what was then the nation’s capital and largest city. Among those who remained behind to tend the stricken was Dr. Philip Syng Physick, “the father of American surgery.” For his exceptional dedication and self-sacrifice, the board of managers of the City Hospital presented him with these two magnificent pieces of silver—a tea tray and a hot-water urn—fashioned in the Neoclassical style, with bright-cut paterae and floral festoons. Each piece is engraved with the dedicatory inscription “From the Board of Managers of the Marine & City Hospitals to Philip Syng Physick, M.D., this Mark of their respectful approbation of his voluntary and inestimable services as Resident Physician at the City Hospital in the Calamity of 1798.”