This month from the Replacements, Ltd. museum, we’re showcasing a beautiful silver Medallion punch ladle produced by Wood & Hughes. Punch bowls and ladles have been common household items since the mid 1600s. The earliest punch bowls were ceramic, and often intricately decorated. The accompanying punch ladles looked much the same as they do today, with long handles and an upturned bowl, although some of the more elaborate ladles showcased handles made from carved whalebone or wood.
The first version of punch is thought to have been created sometime in the early 1600s. This drink, which typically consisted of five main ingredients (liquor, sugar, citrus juice, spices, and water), was first created by either natives of India or by British sailors using ingredients they found in India. The name “punch” is believed to be derived from the Indian word “panch” or “five,” signifying the five basic ingredients that make up the drink (although this, too, is in dispute; the name may also be a shortened form of the word “puncheon,” a cask for spirits or wine). Punch is the first known mixed drink to incorporate a distilled spirit, and the alcohol portion of early-1600s punches was arrack – a type of liquor made using coconut flowers, sugarcane, fruit, or rice.
By the 1650s punch had become a standard drink on British sailing vessels, and it was soon equally popular on land, where the communal punch bowl became a fixture in British “punch houses,” taverns, and homes alike. When punch first arrived in England, the arrack used in India was replaced with brandy, beer, or wine, although rum soon became the standard spirit of choice. Punch reigned supreme until the early- to mid-1800s, when the cocktail came into vogue. Cocktails (which are, in essence, punch made in individual glasses), have been the most prevalent way to imbibe mixed drinks ever since, although in recent years there has been a revival of interest in classic punch recipes from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The maker of this silver punch ladle, the Wood & Hughes Silver Company, opened in 1833 when William Gale partnered with Jacob Wood and Jasper Hughes. The partnership was a perfect match because Jacob Wood and Jasper Hughes apprenticed under William Gale. From 1833 to 1845, the company was known as Gale, Wood & Hughes. The exact reason for William Gale’s name being dropped from the company’s moniker is uncertain. What is known is that the company changed its name to Wood & Hughes in 1845. The company produced general silver wares until 1899 when the firm Graff, Washbourne, and Dunn purchased Wood and Hughes. Gorham Silver purchased Graff, Washbourne, and Dunn in 1961.
While the Wood & Hughes punch ladle in our museum is not for sale, we do have a variety of Wood & Hughes items available for purchase in our inventory; be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities – here you'll see a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our 500,000-square-foot facilities hold more than 12 million individual pieces in more than 400,000 patterns! Our showroom and museum are open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm ET, 7 days (except holidays); free tours are available from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm ET, 7 days. The showroom and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!