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Philip Syng, Jr.

American (born Ireland), 1703 - 1789

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Philip Syng, Jr. was born in 1703 in County Cork, Ireland, the eldest of Abigail (Murdock) and Philip Syng, Sr.'s three sons. The family moved to Philadelphia in 1714, and soon after, young Philip was apprenticed--though not to his silversmith father, whose shop was located "near the Market Place," but rather to an unnamed local silversmith.

In 1725, Syng set sail for London, where he spent a year undoubtedly absorbing the latest silver designs and perhaps purchasing the tools to achieve them. In London, Syng also became acquainted with Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790). The two ambitious and spirited young men shared a common social and political ideology, and in 1727, having returned to Philadelphia, they formed the Junto together with several other similarly minded men. This secret society centered around the goal of promoting "self-improvement, study, mutual aid, and conviviality." The collective efforts of the members of the Junto spurred the formation of institutions that promoted intellectual thought, health, and recreational outlets to serve Philadelphia's thriving population. Those that Syng helped to establish or contributed to as a member include the Library Company of Philadelphia (1731); the Colony in Schuylkill (1732, for fishing and hunting); the Union Fire Company (1736); the American Philosophical Society (1743); the University of Pennsylvania (1750); the Pennsylvania Hospital (1751); and the Philadelphia Contributionship (1752).

The Philadelphia Museum of Art owns a comprehensive collection of silver from the shop of Philip Syng, Jr. His brilliance in shaping silver into art gained him wide patronage and permitted him the designation of goldsmith--a title bestowed on only those silversmiths talented enough to work in gold. He received commissions for producing public presentation pieces, seals for societies and institutions such as those mentioned above, and silver that served elegant Philadelphia families on their dining tables and in the intimate spaces of their homes.

In 1789 Philip Syng, Jr. passed away, leaving an enormous impact on his adopted home of Philadelphia--not only on the art of silversmithing but on the social, political, and cultural institutions that he founded and served.

Syng of Philadelphia Tercentenary, 2003

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