The silver firm Ball, Black & Co. was founded in 1810, in Broadway New York, as purveyors of high quality silverware, operating as the leading jewellery house in the city. In 1859 the firm purchased a corner plot at 565-67 Broadway and commissioned a six-storey marble ‘palace’, not only to showcase their silverware through glass plate windows, but fitted with innovative inventions such as the first safe deposit system in the US, as well as claiming to be the first fire proof building in New York. Ball, Black & Co. retained their reputation as leaders in the silver and jewllery business until supplanted by their direct competitors, Tiffany & Co.
With the excavations of archaeological sites at Pompeii and Herculaneum in the late 18th century, the fashion for classical revivial and reinterpretation dominated artistic trends in the nineteenth. The neo-classical elements of this hot water urn, such as the Corinthian style helmet finial, angular handles topped with figural busts, the central cartouche of a classical female figure, surrounded by an engraved pattern of anthemia, are all decorative elements of the Medallion pattern, introduced to the company in 1862 by one of the firms most notable designers, John Rudolph Wendt (1826-1907). A German trained silversmith, Wendt was known for his original designs and pieces of exceptional quality, working in Boston before moving to New York in 1860 to work for Ball, Black & Co., occupying two floors of the Broadway store.