Artifact of the Month

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May’s artifact of the month is a pair of French Signal Pistol’s, pretty unique and interesting little weapons.While we do not know much about these pieces, we did discover that the maker is the Royal Armory at Tulle.  Most of the marking has been worn away, but “M …..De Tulle” is still visible.  There is also an anchor on the butt of the handle of both pieces.

For those who are not familiar with how these pistols would work (like me until today) magnesium or other flammable powder would be put into the flare cup at the end, as well as the channel.  Once the lever was pulled back the flint would create a spark that would travel down the channel and into the cup, creating a very bright and short-lived flame.  Depending on the chemicals one used in the cup, you could even change what color the flame was.   Read more

Artifact of the Month – Steamboat Thomas A. Edison

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Due to a busy schedule, I was unable to create an Artifact of the Month blog for February, but I will remedy that this month by naming our model of the steamboat Thomas A. Edison as Artifact of the Month for March!

Our model is currently in storage, but has been on display a number of times in the past, as recent as 2007.  We purchased it in 1968 from renowned model maker John Fryant.  The original Thomas A. Edison was built at Apalachicola, Florida by John Loftin, with a home port of Key West, Florida.  There is some question to the date as it is usually reported as 1904, but Merchant Steam Vessels of the United States reports it as having been built in 1901.   Read more

Artifact of the Month – Cigar Case

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The artifact of the month for January is one of the new pieces that came to us last year.  It is a cigar case constructed of two lacquered papier-mâché panels connected with an accordian-like fabric lining.  On one side is an image of Queen Victoria while the other side shows a sailor branding a slave, underneath which is written “Extinction of Slavery–Civilisation of Africa.”

Although not certain of the exact history of this particular cigar case and the purpose for the images, we do know that the image on this case very closely resembles Nathaniel Currier’s lithograph titled “Branding Slaves”.  Nathaniel Currier began the company that eventually came to be Currier & Ives, who were very well known for their lithographs.  It is thought that Currier’s lithograph was based on the painting “Scenes on the Coast of Africa” by François-Auguste Baird, who was an outspoken opponent of slavery and the slave trade.   Read more

Artifact of the Month – dredged anchor watercolor

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For December, our artifact of the month is a lovely watercolor of a dredged anchor, the sea life growing on it almost making it look like a holiday wreath.  This piece is new to our collection and the staff were all pretty excited about it as it.  That excitement grew as the piece was further researched.

The image is supposed to be a depiction of an anchor dredged up in 1885 off Cape Ann by Alpheus Hyatt.  To anybody with some knowledge of our institutional history, the name Hyatt should sound familiar.  Alpheus was the father of our founder, Anna Hyatt Huntington.   Read more