Official Souvenir Program Book

January 1 – December 31, 1988

Back to previous sectionForward to next sectionReturn to Table of Contents

By Stillman M. Hobbs

{From the Hampton’s 1962 “Old Home Day” Program}

Moulton/Towle Silversmiths

Old Moulton silver pieces owned by a Hampton family
descended from William Moulton.

The exhibit of Moulton and Towle silver in the museum of the Meeting House Green Memorial and Historical Association today has both national and local interest. It has national historical significance because the silver pieces produced by the Moultons are now rare collectors items, some of them such worthy examples of early American craftsmanship that they have found a place in the great collections of American materials in New York’s Metropolitan Museum and in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Today’s exhibit has local interest because the long line of Moultons who engaged in silversmithing was directly descended from William Moulton who was born in Hampton in 1664. His father, also William, had come to Newbury in 1637 from Ormsby, Norfolk County, England, as had his two brothers, John and Thomas. All three Moultons came to Hampton with Stephen Bachiler and his flock to settle at Winnacunnet in the autumn of 1638. The young William was born in a house which his father had built on a piece of land that was located at what is today the east side of Mill Road where it joins Winnacunnet Road and on which the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Emslie now stands.

In 1679, the second William left Hampton and settled at Newbury where he became a trader and may have done some silversmithing. His son Joseph is generally recognized as the first silversmith of the Moulton line which is said to have the longest continuous span of silversmithing of any American family. From father to son, this family produced silversmiths for two hundred years, more of its members entering the silver industry than from any other family in early American history. Even one woman in the Moulton clan — Lydia, daughter of the third William — did some silversmithing.

Although most of the Moultons carried on their craft in Newburyport, some went to other communities where they established themselves as silversmiths. The third William moved in a covered wagon to Marietta, Ohio, carrying his silversmith’s tools with him. His son Joseph had four sons, all of whom were silversmiths. Ebenezer moved to Boston and Enoch to Portland, Maine, each of them continuing their crafts in their respective places. Abel inherited his father’s business in Newburyport and the fourth William established his own shop in the same place.

By this time, Anthony F. Towle went from Hampton to Newburyport where he became apprenticed to the fourth William Moulton. Anthony was a descendent of Philip Towle and the son of Jabez who had purchased the General Moulton house in Hampton. Later Anthony joined with William P. Jones to establish a silversmith partnership. These two subsequently purchased the fourth Joseph Moulton’s business and formed the firm of Towle and Jones in 1857. From this enterprise developed the famous silversmith establishment today known as The Towle Silversmiths.

Hampton thus is intimately connected with the early history of silversmithing in America, being the birthplace not only of the first William Moulton, but also of Anthony Towle, whose name is perpetuated in the present designation of The Towle Silversmiths.

Among the notable pieces of Moulton silver is the Isaac Harris pitcher (1810) done by Ebenezer Moulton in commemoration of the saving of the Old South Church from being consumed in a great fire in Boston. This pitcher is now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In the Metropolitan Museum may be seen an exquisite silver mug made and inscribed “1750” by the fourth Joseph Moulton.

Back to previous sectionForward to next sectionReturn to Table of