One of the most treasured objects in the collection at the estate is what we call the First Citizen Loving Cup. A loving cup is a shared drinking container that is traditionally used at weddings and banquets, but also commonly given as a trophy. Like most, ours has two handles. It was manufactured by Gorham, a highly regarded silver manufacturer that began production back in 1831, and was one of the premier American silver companies between 1850 and 1940. So why do we have the First Citizen Loving Cup at Hills and Dales? It was given to Fuller E. Callaway Sr. as a gift from a group of friends on the celebration of his 50th birthday on July 15, 1920. “FEC 1870 – July 15 – 1920” is inscribed on the front. More telling is a much longer inscription on the back which, while difficult to read, is quite interesting:
On his fiftieth birthday this cup is presented to Fuller E. Callaway somewhat in recognition of the creative genius the wisdom the strength the courage and the ability which have been the predominating factors in the wonderful development of the city of La Grange and through which he has won just encomium “The First Citizen of La Grange” yet more especially it is hoped that this cup will be an abiding token of the deep and sincere affection of those who have been drawn and bound to him by a magnetism unbroken a memory never failing an interest never tiring a loyalty and fidelity never ending for those so fortunate as to be named his friends.
Since opening to the public, this beautiful piece has been prominently displayed in the visitor center and, like most sterling silver, required regular polishing to remove tarnish and keep it looking nice. As you might expect the silver discolored shortly after each treatment. However, we knew repeated polishing was gradually removing a small amount of surface silver and causing microscopic surface scratches. We decided to take the cup to the Atlanta Art Conservation Center for evaluation. After considering several options they recommended a thorough cleaning followed by an application of Agateen Lacquer. According to Michelle Savant at the Center:
By doing a very thin coat of Agateen the loving cup’s beautiful sterling silver surface is protected and will not tarnish. As a result, it will no longer need polishing which will prevent the ongoing wear it causes. We anticipate the Agateen will last approximately 50 years at which time we will remove the clear coat and reapply a fresh layer.
Thanks to this special conservation treatment, the loving cup is once again bright and shiny like it was the day Fuller E. Callaway Sr. received it and will stay that way a long time.