Past Treasure of the Month – June 2006

Artifacts from Historic New England

The Rosenberg Library’s June Treasure of the Month extended beyond the usual Galveston and Texas history focus. The featured items for June were a sterling silver pitcher made by Paul Revere (1734 – 1818) and a miniature portrait on ivory painted by Edward Green Malbone (1777 – 1807). While the origins of both items lie in historic New England, they do, in fact, tie into Galveston’s own history as well.

Sterling silver pitcher

The hand-made sterling silver pitcher was forged at Paul Revere’s silver shop in Boston during the 1790s. In addition to his role as a craftsman, Revere was quite active in politics. Like other Patriots, he felt that American colonists needed to establish their independence from England. On April 18, 1775, he made his famous midnight ride from Boston to Lexington, Massachusetts to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British soldiers were on their way to arrest them. As a result of his actions, Revere was stopped by a British patrol and was taken into custody.

After serving as a lieutenant colonel during the American Revolution, Paul Revere returned to his shop and continued to produce beautifully crafted silver for his customers. One of these patrons was Cornelius Coolidge (1778 – 1843), a well-known architect in post-Revolutionary Boston. Coolidge designed dozens of buildings in the city, many of which were built in the elite Beacon Hill area. Coolidge purchased the silver Revere pitcher which bears an engraved “C” for the family name. The piece was originally a cann, or a one-handled drinking vessel similar to a mug. At some point, a spout was added to the cann, converting it into a small pitcher.

Miniature ivory portrait

The library has a miniature portrait of Cornelius Coolidge of Boston in its museum collection as well. The portrait was created by Edward Greene Malbone (1777 – 1807), one of America’s most famous miniature painters. The Coolidge miniature was painted during the early 19th century and was featured along with other Malbone miniatures in the April 1933 issue of Antiques Magazine. It was identified and catalogued by the Malbone scholar, Ruel P. Tolman, whose book, The Life and Work of Edward Greene Malbone, Miniature Painter, was published in 1958.

Both the Revere pitcher and the Malbone miniature came to the library in 1989 upon the death of Elizabeth B. Gonzales, the daughter-in-law of one of Galveston’s best-known artists, Boyer Gonzales. Boyer Gonzales’s sister, Daisy, married Francis Coolidge Stanwood of Boston in 1877. Stanwood’s mother was a granddaughter of Cornelius Coolidge. Both the pitcher and the portrait remained in the family for nearly two hundred years before being donated to Rosenberg Library.

Photo Captions:

1. Sterling Silver pitcher made by Paul Revere, ca. 1790s.

2. Miniature portrait on ivory by Edward Green Malbone, early 19th century.