This extremely rare, Queen Anne-period silver feeding cup gives a glimpse into the daily life of 18th-century England. Crafted by silversmith John East, this subtly designed covered cup would have held broth or thin porridge to nourish a young child or an invalid. Its two handles and a spout make feeding easy and a cap attached by chain closes securely over the spout’s opening. The removable cover could have been used to spoon feed a patient as well. Although it is common to find feeders made of ceramic or porcelain, to find a silver cup, especially from the 18th century, is an incredible find.
The base of the feeder displays the contemporary initials “M W” around a star shaped motif.
Hallmarked London, 1712
5” wide over handles x 4 5/8” deep over spout x 3 ¾” high
In use from the Roman era right up to WWII, the invalid feeder, or invalid feeding cup, often resembled a sauce boat. The food was cooked and then spooned into the feeder. The patient was propped up slightly and drank, or was fed from the feeder via the spout. If they were very weak, a nurse or helper sat next to them and fed them. Usually made of wood, silver, pewter, bone, porcelain, or glass, these invalid cups proliferated in the 18th century as new materials and methods of production became accessible. Shapes were clever and varied. Some were closed, while others featured a lip to keep liquids from spilling while feeding. Invalid foods were made of the simplest ingredients for ease of digestion. Patients drank beef tea, or a mixture called pap. Recipes for pap usually called for bread, flour and water. A more nourishing mixture called “panada” was a pap base with added butter and milk, or cooked in broth as a milk substitute. Variations on the ingredients included Lisbon sugar, beer, wine, raw meat juices, and even Castile soap and sometimes drugs to “soothe the baby.”
Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart monarchs, ruled England from 1702-1714. She resided over an age of artistic, literary, economic and political advancement. Her most significant achievement as Queen was the union of England and Scotland in 1707, thereby creating the Kingdom of Great Britain.