The two Megillot Esther cases, in the present and following lot, may well be the only known Judaic artefacts made by the well known firm of Shiebler from New York and are probably the earliest fully-marked American-manufactured Megillah cases. As such, they represent a rare and important commission in the history of American Judaica.
Prior to the late 19th century, American Jews relied almost exclusively on European makers for their ceremonial objects, the present Megillah Cases marked a significant departure from this practice and initiate a new taste for American-made Judaica in which the design and workmanship are superb and original in concept and not imitation of European examples.
On the maker:
The name George W. Shiebler and Company is renowned among collectors of 19th century American silver and jewelry for its creative designs and high standards of craftsmanship.
Baltimore-born George Shiebler began his career as a messenger for Western Union Telegraph Company, and later worked as a salesman for a New York based gold chain company. In 1876 he went into business for himself, buying an existing silver spoon manufacturer and within several years had absorbed other silver firms. Shiebler was an astute businessman and by 1892 his firm had expanded to approximately 160 employees and included a traveling sales force, a retail store in Manhattan and manufacturing facilities in Brooklyn.
Shiebler's early production consisted of flatware patterns, but he is best know for his "Homeric Style" medallion flatware and curio medallion line of jewelry, which featured heads from Greek mythology, drawn from pattern books. In the 1880s Shiebler expanded his production to include hollowware and these mgillah cases, which are engraved 1880 are therefore among some of the earliest hollowware production.
Like other premier American silver firms such as Gorham and Tiffany, Shiebler worked in a variety of styles, such as floral repoussi used to decorate these mgillah cases, as well as working with mixed metals and enamels and drawing inspiration from Asian, Islamic, Russian and Celtic designs. In spite of Shiebler's business acumen and creativity, the firm was bankrupt in 1907. His firm was bought by the Gorham Mfg. Co. where Shiebler worked until his death in 1920.
Janet Zapata, Artistic Wares of George W. Shiebler, Silversmith in The Magazine Antiques, vol. 148, 1995, pp. 94-103.
Christie's Amsterdam, Fine Silver and Important Judaica, 1 June 1999, lot nr.: 539, for a pair of important American Silver Rimmonim by Zalmon Bostwick, New York, circa 1850