Drinking punch in the eighteenth-century was a convivial social occasion with a distinct equipage. After mixing together spirits, citrus juice, and sugar, nutmeg was added to enhance the flavor. This sleek silver urn, which opens to reveal a compartment and grater for storing and serving nutmeg, allowed its user to season their punch in style. Occasionally, these portable articles were given as gifts and tokens of affection. The Washingtons would have used a similar article when preparing a bowl of punch to welcome visitors that arrived at Mount Vernon before the usual meals of dinner and tea.


Silver nutmeg grater. Conical urn shaped body on trumpet pedestal with circular base; knob finial on domed lid attached to body with hinge; two lines scribed around shoulder of lid; body engraved with a spray of violets and "W" in script below. Lid lifts and the urn opens on a vertical seam, hinged at the base, to reveal the conforming iron grater held in place with a half ring of silver soldered to inside of one half of the urn.





Silver, steel


Overall (open): 2 7/8 in. x 1 1/8 in. x 3 in. (7.32 cm x 2.87 cm x 7.62 cm)
Other (closed): 3 1/8 in. x 1 1/4 in. x 1 5/16 in. (7.95 cm x 3.18 cm x 3.33 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James Calvert Smith, 1937
Conservation courtesy of the Life Guard Society of Historic Mount Vernon

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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