A silversmith in the 19th century was regarded as an artist or sculptor. They made a wide range of items, ranging from the practical, such as flatware or service sets, to the decorative, including mirror and picture frames. A Colonial American silversmith required experience and skill to be successful in his trade.
The silver trade was considered a luxury trade, since most American households at the time bought items made of wood, pewter or other cheaper materials, because they could not afford the more expensive silver. Silversmiths faced other challenges as well, such as finding unfinished silver to work with, as England only allowed the import of finished pieces. Many silversmiths were forced to order finished pieces from England to sell in America, and they sometimes had to sell items that were unrelated to their trade to make ends meet.
Between Boston, New York and Philadelphia, there were about 400 talented American silversmiths working their trade before 1800, and almost every town in the original 13 colonies had at least one working silversmith. Even Paul Revere was a silversmith like his father before him, and he took over the family business after the conclusion of the French and Indian War.