Jacques Telesphore Roman, owner
New Orleans, Louisiana
Fiddle and Thread pattern
A: 2.9 (H) x 4.4 (W) x 21.3 (L) cm
B: 2.9 (H) x 2.5 (W) x 20.3 (L) cm
The Collection of Oak Alley Foundation
"Big House" exhibit
Engraved initials on back of handle
Jacques Telesphore Roman was born March 22,1800 to a wealthy and substantial family of fifteen. The youngest of his twelve siblings, Jacques was expected, and did, become a sugarcane planter, the ruling social class of his time. With brothers holding various positions helping to control the political (gubernatorial seats), financial (bank boards), and agricultural sectors of antebellum life, Jacques had large shoes to fill. In 1836, he purchased the property today known as Oak Alley Plantation and began the construction of the main home. In 1839, construction was completed and the family moved in. Dinner, such as can be today, was an elaborate affair that often played to the attending audience. The more admirable the guest, the nicer the dinner became, in both food and utensil.
It was during this time that the shop of Hyde and Goodrich was prolific in the city. It is to no stretch of the imagination that Mr. Roman purchased this silver set while living at Oak Alley and had his initials engraved on the back, a common practice of the time that displayed not only the owner’s wealth, but also labeled the expensive items to protect from theft. James N. Hyde set up shop in New Orleans circa 1817 and his brother-in-law, Charles W. Goodrich, joined later in 1828. Their shop, unsurprisingly, was located in the French Quarter on Chartres and later moved to the corner of Canal and Royal Streets. They specialized in imported and locally made goods. Items such as china sets, silverware, jewelry, pens, and even pistols were sold at their New Orleans shop.
Though this set is incomplete, there is a significant portion remaining. Seventeen pieces in total: six spoons (a) and eleven forks (b) all made from silver and imprinted on the back with the name “Hyde and Goodrich”. Silverware of this design was laid tines facing down on the table, the opposite of today’s culture.
Over the centuries, the ‘Fiddle’ pattern has seen many variations, some are basic while others are more intricate. The pattern found its origin in England in the late 1700’s but didn’t truly take root until the next century. The ‘Fiddle and Thread’ pattern became one of the most popular styles throughout France and America during the 19th century and stayed that way until shortly before the onset of the First World War. The pattern hosts a plain handle that is shaped like the body of a violin —or fiddle— and tapers into a long, slender stem. The design has pronounced shoulders and a double lined edge that runs the length of the handle. Though the practice of engraving dates back as early as the 1600’s, the addition of monograms is a little younger, dating to the late 1700’s. Typically, a person’s initials were added for one of several reasons: to show ownership, as a decoration, as a family heirloom, and to show wealth/status.