Modernist Master Silversmith Florence Hollingsworth Keeps Her Craft Local

by Martin Willis, Gemr Community Curator

If you happen to be one of the 5,000 people to live in a beautiful country town to the west of Boston, Lincoln, Massachusetts then you had the chance recently of owning a local treasure of modernism. During a recent call from my friend Doug Stinson, I learned about a benefit auction he was donating his services at in his home town. He said there was some incredible modernistic silver he was auctioning off the next day, the work of which rivals designs by known silversmith, Georg Jensen.

10A Gift to the Town

On April 12th, 60 pieces fine silver and jewelry that Florence Hollingsworth designed and hand-wrought as well as 40 pieces she owned, but not made by her were sold to Lincoln residents and past students only, with 100% of proceeds benefitting the First Parish Church of Lincoln.

Who Was Florence Hollingsworth?

florenceFlorence Scott Hollingsworth was born in 1896 in Oregon. She attended Oregon State University, where she met her future husband Lowell. They both graduated in the midst of the Great Depression and they eventually attended Stanford to better their chances for employment. The couple moved east when Lowell was offered a job at MIT Lincoln Labs.

Florence became a well-known silversmith and taught for over fifty years beginning in the mid 1950s at The deCordova’s Museum School in Lincoln, Ma . She became a legend in the town of Lincoln and with her students over the years while many reflect to this day of her warm and generous personality. In 2003, the town honored her with the Boston Post Cane as Lincoln’s oldest registered voter. Florence died in September 2006, shortly after her 100th birthday.

In for Bidding & Getting the Word Out

20It was decided by Florence during her lifetime to donate the pieces to benefit her church in a unique way. She wanted her pieces to stay local, or for her past students to have the option to buy her works. A beautiful color flyer was sent to all the residents of Lincoln announcing the auction, but  the tricky part was connecting with past students of the craftswoman. The deCordova was not able to supply student’s names, so it was a word of mouth grassroots effort. One happy attendee was a past student, Hilary Taylor who was not about to leave the auction empty handed. Hilary took silversmithing classes from Florence Hollingsworth and has a gallery and workshop in West Concord , Mass called Merlins Silver Star. 

Doug Does The Auction

Doug & William Stinson

It happened to be a picture perfect day for weather, and if you suffered through the toughest winter in decades (some say on record), you may not have wanted to sit in a church at 3:00 PM Sunday, at auction time. There were about sixty in attendance and as every auctioneer knows, you only need two serious bidding attendees.

There was spirited bids on all the sterling silver pieces, especially the crème de la crème tea set which was hammered down at $8,750 and met with an applause. A pitcher influenced by aforementioned Jensen brought $3,500 and a modernist gravy boat with a walnut handle sold for $2,900. One item  that drew considerable interest was a beautiful modernist Sterling silver box mounted with malachite and mahogany and is adorned with  Sterling inlay which realized  $2,100. The total proceeds were $56,775 and as a benefit auctioneer I can tell you it is an impressive sum. In my opinion the auction would have grossed one third  to one half more if it was opened up to the world of bidders, but that was not Florence’s wish.

Florence Left an Impression

Generous is an understatement; besides this auction of silver, Florence left her wonderful modernistic home to the town of Lincoln to benefit affordable housing. Also, upon her death, she made a $1.5 million gift to Oregon State University to create a scholarship program for promising, needy undergraduates. Not only did she leave an everlasting impression with her students, parish and town residents, but her scholarship will be a gift that keeps giving.

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