The tankard was commissioned in 1892 by Tsar Alexander III from the leading Russian silver and jewellery firm of Pavel Ovchinnikov for presentation to Dr Alexander Biddle from Philadelphia, in recognition of his help to Russia during the famine of 1891-2 that devastated its agrarian peasantry.
Dr Biddle was instrumental in coordinating aid relief to Russia during the famine (Philadelphia was the first city to dispatch a ship to Russia filled with flour and other provisions).
The tsar made similar presentations to others who organised aid to Russia as indicated by a headline in The Philadelphia Inquirer of May 27, 1893, reading The Czar Rewards Friends in Need: Russia’s Grateful Ruler Sends Costly Silver Gifts to Nine Leading Philadelphians. The tankard is marked to the lid for Pavel Ovchinnikov with the standard mark of 84 and St George for Moscow 1861-96, while the base is marked NO for Ovchinnikov and an assay mark for Anatoly Apollonovich Artsybashev, 1892.
It was presented to Dr Biddle on May 27, 1893, by Prince Cantacuzene, Russian minister to the United States, on behalf of the tsar, has passed down by descent and is accompanied by a letter from the prince dated May 27, 1893.