Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lincoln Presentation Pitcher To Be Auctioned

For those collectors of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia with unlimited income, the item pictured above is sure to garner much interest when it is sold at auction next week in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is a pitcher (more properly called a ewer) presented to President Lincoln upon his first inauguration.

This ewer is no ordinary pitcher. It's maker was Tiffany and Company in New York. Yes, *that* Tiffany. It is sterling silver with gold wash. Inscribed "To The President Of The United States From His Washington Friends March 4, 1861." Engraved on the body of the ewer is the Great Seal Of The United States complete with 33 stars, one for every state in the Union at the time it was commissioned. Since Kansas was admitted as a state on January 29, 1861, this ewer had to have been made sometime between November 1860 and January 1861.

No one knows just who gave this item to Lincoln. Research has never been able to find who Lincoln's "Washington Friends" were. Records of presidential gifts were not recorded at the time by The White House. Speculation about the presenters has fallen upon potential lobbyists, for example. Another possibility includes job seekers (in those days, the "spoils" system was still in play and every new president was besieged by job seekers). Obviously, the givers were people of means for even in those days, items from Tiffany and Company were something only the wealthiest people could afford.

The ewer has been on loan to The Smithsonian Institution since 1969 by the anonymous Midwestern family who owns it. The family purchased it from a dealer in Boston, who acquired it from a woman to whom it had been willed by a dealer in Russian antiques. It is not known how that particular dealer acquired it and there is no record of the ewer from the time it was presented to Lincoln until the early 20th Century. An interesting story to be sure.

The auction estimate? A cool $300,000 to $400,000! It is being auctioned by Cowan's Historic Americana in Cincinnati on June 6. Cowan's is one of the more prestigious auction houses in the country, especially when it comes to historic items from the nation's history. You can read more about the item on Cowan's website here. There are also better images of the ewer on that site.

It would look fantastic on my sideboard in my dining room. Alas, I believe someone else will end up with it.

1 comment:

Abigail said...

Another IL politician with "un-recorded" gifts. TeHe.

 
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