Our latest publication represents a return to Preservation Long Island’s roots in the study of historic decorative arts which began in earnest with the 1976 publication of Long Island is My Nation: The Decorative Arts and Craftsman, 1640–1830 by the Long Island decorative arts specialist, Dean Failey (1947–2015). Pelletreau was Failey’s first and last subject of intensive study. In completing Failey’s last project, this book honors his contribution to field.
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Elias Pelletreau: Long Island Silversmith and Entrepreneur, 1726–1810 explores the life and work of one of early America’s most accomplished rural artisans. Although objects made by Pelletreau are now in the collections of major American museums, he has garnered less scholarly attention than his better-known contemporaries, such as silversmiths Myer Myers (1723–1795) in New York and Paul Revere II (1734–1818) in Boston. This book provides the most comprehensive study to date of Pelletreau’s remarkable career—from his apprenticeship in New York City in the 1740s, to the establishment of his workshop in bucolic Southampton, New York, to the violent upheaval of the Revolutionary War that disrupted his later years.
The book illuminates Pelletreau’s craftsmanship, business operations, innovative marketing strategies, stylistic influences, and clientele; as Long Island’s leading silversmith, he served a wide array of customers from day-laborers to wealthy landowners and influential political leaders. His son and later his grandsons followed in his footsteps as silversmiths. Placing their experiences within a broader historical context greatly informs our understanding of the vital role of craftsmen in early America. Incorporating extensive archival evidence from the Pelletreau family’s surviving account books and a stunning array of their silver fabrications, this book makes a significant contribution to the history of New York and early American material culture.
Dean F. Failey was senior vice president for American Furniture and Decorative Arts at Christie’s New York and author of Long Island Is My Nation: The Decorative Arts & Craftsmen, 1640–1830 (Setauket, NY: Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, 1976; revised 1998).
Jennifer L. Anderson, Ph.D., is associate professor of history at Stony Brook University. She is an editor of the Long Island History Journal and author of Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America (Harvard University Press, 2012).
Deborah Dependahl Waters is an independent curator of American material culture. She was senior curator of decorative arts at the Museum of the City of New York from 1986 to 2008. She is the author or editor of several books on American silver, including Elegant Plate: Three Centuries of Precious Metals in New York City (Museum of the City of New York, 2000).
David L. Barquist, Ph.D., is the H. Richard Dietrich, Jr., Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and author of Myer Myers: Jewish Silversmith in Colonial New York (Yale University Press, 2001).
Alexandra Parsons Wolfe is the executive director of Preservation Long Island, a New York not-for-profit organization dedicated to working with Long Islanders to protect, preserve, and celebrate cultural heritage through advocacy, education, and the stewardship of historic sites and collections.
Published by Preservation Long Island as the companion to the Long Island Museum’s 2018 exhibition Elias Pelletreau: Long Island Silversmith and Entrepreneur, 1726–1810.