By William Thrift
Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Dowden, Town of Lexington
John C. Calhoun was an iconic figure in both the South Carolina and United States government. Not only was he the seventh U.S. Vice President, he was also Secretary of State, Secretary of War, a U.S. Senator, and Representative of South Carolina’s sixth district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Over his nearly four decades of public service, and despite his support of the institution of slavery, he made numerous contributions that helped shape the country into what we have today, including re-vamping the War Department and promoting the philosophy of “concurrent majority” whereby a minority has the right to object to, and even veto legislation that it finds oppressive. This summer, the Town of Lexington and it’s Historic Preservation Review Board is proud to host at the Lexington Municipal Complex (Town Hall) a display of Calhoun’s personal silver on loan from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Chuck Corley (The Charleston Silver Lady).
One of the pieces, a large spoon with “Calhoun” written on it in period script, was hand-made in Columbia of coin silver. Another smaller spoon of a similar configuration, bearing the scripted Calhoun name, was made of coin silver in Charleston.
According to Dawn Corley, “These pieces represent the rarest in this genre of coin silver. The maker, the time period, the state of origin, and towns of origin, as well as it being custom-made for John C. Calhoun, all greatly impact the value and make them iconic table articles. It is interesting to note that most coin silver of this time period was custom-made and quite often one’s own silver coins were used to make the items. Also, there were not many complete sets (as sets require molds which were not used until later); so a few pieces of silver like these are normal and may have represented all there was. Silver such as this was traveled with and carried into any situation where cleanliness was an issue. Having silver to travel with was the ultimate in civility.”
In addition to Calhoun’s spoons, there are several other silver objects dating to the same time period from Low Country and Midlands plantations.
Lexington Mayor, Randy Halfacre said, “The Town is proud to display these historic and iconic pieces that belonged to our seventh Vice President of the United States, John C. Calhoun. This collection gives us insight into the importance that was placed on silver and the significance it held in South Carolina.”