SOLID GOLD TIFFANY PRESENTATION SNUFF BOX PRESENTED BY THE CITIZENS OF BUFFALO TO LT. JOHN WORDEN, HERO OF THE VICTORY OF THE MONITOR OVER THE MERRIMAC
One of the most important and historic American Civil War U.S. Navy artifacts to be presented for public sale. The unmarked SOLID GOLD (approximately 18 Karat) snuff box measures 3-5/8″ x 2-3/8″ x 6/8″ weighing 252grams being a hinged rectangular snuff box with a thumb lip on the front. The perimeter of the box is presented with a two-strand twisted gold wire border simulating rope at the top and bottom. On the lid is an oval panel 3″ x 1-5/8″ framed with the identical twisted gold wire. Within the oval panel is engraved the battle scene between the U.S. Navy Ironclad “Monitor” and the Confederate Navy Ironclad “C.S.S. Virginia” (Merrimac). This engraving is done with the finest hand. The corners of the box (outside the oval panel) are shaded with engraved lines and decorated with nautical devices such as fouled anchors, laurels and tridents. In an arc across the top of the oval panel is engraved in old English script: “Lieut. John L. Worden, U.S.N.” immediately below in script “From the Citizens of Buffalo, N.Y./ April 8, 1862.” Arched at the bottom in very small Roman capital letters “YOU BEAT THE MERRIMAC AND SAVED THE MINNESOTA.”
The presentation of this box is detailed in the “Buffalo Morning Express” April 9, 1862 on page two. This account tells us that the box originally cost $300.00 and that the amount was raised through subscription of 60 individuals all contributing $5.00 each. A contemporary description of the presentation box and the circumstances;
“The citizens of Buffalo upon hearing of the Monitor‘s victory over the Merrimac were so delighted at the act that they raised three hundred dollars, and sent it to Tiffany & Co. of this city. In return for the …, Tiffany worked up eight ounces of eighteen carat gold into a box nearly four inches long, some two inches and a quarter broad, and about one inch deep. The edges of the box are ornamented with a solid twist border, representing the ship’s rope-cable. On the lid, a border of the same kind encloses a broad oval, within which is engraved a very spirited engraving of the most extraordinary sea-fight of this, or any other age. Over the engraving is the inscription “To Lieut. John L. Worden, U.S.N.” and under it “You beat the Merrimac and saved the Minnesota.” In the corners of the box are pretty little designs in etchings of a naval character. The snuff box is a very fine one though too heavy for use, its preposterous thickness of material happily exemplifying the ironclad Monitor.
Buffalo, NY had reason to be so proud of Worden and the Monitor‘s victory as one of the original designers of ironclad ships was Captain Ebenezer Dorr of Buffalo. The Niagara Steam Forge Works among other Buffalo manufacturers made parts for the Monitor which was assembled in Brooklyn, NY.
This is an iconic and truly spectacular presentation gold box emulating “freedom boxes” given by other American cities to military heroes of earlier wars. PROVENANCE: Cape Elizabeth, ME Estate, 2003; Brad Witherell, Sacramento, CA, private collection. CONDITION: Very fine overall. Minor cosmetic scratching with fine toned luster. 52875-4 (30,000-50,000) – Lot 2050
Auction: Fine Art, Asian & Antiques - Winter 2018
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