Delaware’s prominent abolitionist and Underground Railroad Stationmaster, Thomas Garrett (1789-1871), was formally honored by the local African American community for his tireless anti-slavery work on their behalf. At a celebration held in Wilmington at Ezion Methodist Episcopal Church in January 1866, the third anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the local African American community presented Thomas Garrett with a silver-plated tea service as a token of their gratitude.
This seven-piece, Rococo Revival style service, which includes a hot water urn, teapot, coffeepot, waste bowl, covered sugar bowl, creamer, and engraved tray, is marked by Reed and Barton of Taunton, Massachusetts, and is stylishly decorated with Greek key work borders and repoussé floral decoration on each piece. The depth of the community’s appreciation can be felt in the engraved inscription on the tray, which reads:
To Thomas Garrett through evil report and good report, the faithful friend and wise councilor, the fearless champion and generous benefactor of the wronged and the oppressed. From the colored people of Wilmington, January 1866.
This service would have been quite a gift in its day and remains one of our great collection treasures to this day. It descended in the Garrett family before coming to the Delaware Historical Society in 1983 as a gift from the estate of Lucille Stirn Garrett (1900-1982), the wife of Thomas Garrett (1877-1944), a great, great grandson and namesake of the abolitionist.