Object of the Month
Prominently displayed on the serving table in the dining room is this large porcelain punch bowl decorated with images of grape clusters. Based on markings on the bowl's underside, it was made by the Tressemann & Vogt firm of Limoges, France. The company was well known for producing "blanks", or undecorated porcelain items which would be exported and then decorated elsewhere. Much of the Tressemann & Vogt porcelain that made its way to the United States was likely imported through an office the company had in New York.
According to park records, this punch bowl originally belonged to Mrs. Rose Kennedy's mother, Mary Josephine (Hannon) Fitzgerald. It is believed that Rose Kennedy's mother gave her the punch bowl soon after she married and moved to the Beals Street house in Brookline, so the bowl would have been in the home during the Kennedy family's residency there.
In the 18th and early 19th centuries punch bowls possessed a social aspect as well as a functional one. Punch was a communal drink, as people served themselves from the bowl, which itself often served as a gathering spot or the focus of an event. From the later 19th century on, punch bowls were not as prevalent as they had been previously. The "cocktail" gained in popularity during that period in the United States as the fashionable alcoholic drink of the age, eventually supplanting punch. While still produced, punch bowls became increasingly used only for special occasions, and sometimes even primarily as decorative items. One wonders how much use this particular punch bowl saw, as Mrs. Kennedy herself remarked of life at the Beals Street house that "We didn't do much formal entertaining here."