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    Description

    Unique and Historically Important Sword Belt Plate Worn by a Member of Washington's Escort for His Inauguration on April 30, 1789. Oval copper sword belt plate, measuring 2 3/8" x 3 1/4", with a finely engraved image of a mounted soldier brandishing a cutlass. His rearing charger faces right, standing on a grassy patch of ground. Ribands above and below are inscribed "3rd New York or Washington Troop." The backside has the impressed stamp of the maker, Bayley. The original lugs or hooks have been removed and replaced with a T-hinged pin for attachment. Condition is outstanding with little or no wear. The item was cleaned perhaps 40-50 years ago and has retoned nicely. This unique piece has been highly cherished by its previous owners and has always been accorded a place of honor and distinction. Provenance includes:

    Descendants of Major (later General) Jacob Morton, Ticonderoga, NY
    J. Harold Cobb, Hamden, CT
    Elmer A. Piercy, Victorville, CA
    A Pennsylvania collector
    The current consignor.

    This intriguing piece first entered the "collecting fraternity" around 1961, when it was acquired by J. Harold Cobb, self-proclaimed "Moderator of Washington Historical Buttons." At this time Cobb and Alphaeus "Dewey" Albert were the doyens of Washington inaugural button collectors. A letter from J. Harold Cobb to Elmer Piercy regarding this item relates the following: "Found at Ticonderoga, NY with Sons of Revolution medal. C. 1789 Worn in Inaugural Parade by Major Jacob Morton (aide-de-camp to Col. Morgan Lewis). Signed J. BAYLEY (with) Federal eagle's head touch. Made by J. Bailey [sic] Fishkill, NY, the maker of Washington's sword. This was worn by one of the mounted figures shown in the drawing of the Inauguration that you have. It is a cross-belt plate. The lugs have been removed from the back so that it would lay flat (lugs fitted into holes in belt) and a pin has been nicely affixed so that it could be worn. This was done by one of the four families through which this descended to the Weeks family. It, together with the insignia, was found by the estate in a trunk and I commissioned a fine lady to buy it for me... they wanted it sold through one of the galleries in New York City, as were other items, such as a gold brooch containing a piece of a garment worn by Pres. Washington... " "The insignia" refers to Edwin Weeks' Sons of the Revolution medal (see photo). This item, along with a 1961 letter to Cobb from the Sons of the Revolution confirming that this badge, "insignia #1382," had been issued to Weeks around 1894, are included with the belt plate in this auction lot. Interestingly, Cobb wrote to Piercy that, "(J. Doyle) DeWitt (the legendary political collector) bought the brooch with the fabric fragment from me, but I would not let him have this item."

    It is unknown whether the information regarding Major Jacob Morton and the attribution for the belt plate was documented by the family members or consisted wholly of oral history. In any event lacking written documentation, we must assume the latter.

    We showed detailed close-up images of this item to Norm Flayderman, the "Dean" of American military historians, with over fifty years experience as an author and dealer of militaria, now living in semi-retirement in Florida. He was very enthusiastic-using phrases like "extremely important" and "unbelievably rare" (this coming from an expert who has literally seen it all)! He said it dated post-Revolution-"late 18th to very early 19th centuries." When asked if it could have been made in 1789, he replied "for sure... absolutely."

    We were unable to gather any details about the "3rd New York", but they were apparently a mounted or cavalry unit of state militia.

    The New York State Library was unable to find any reference to a "J. Bayley" from Fishkill. "We did a subject search... for J. Bayley from Fishkill and did not find anything... I do not find a silversmith or engraver named Bayley in New York at this time; the closest I can come is a brass founder with the name Bailey." Internet research did, however, locate a New York City firm of silversmiths, Van Voorhis, Bayley & Coley, that operated in the period from 1784-5. The Bayley connected with this firm was Simeon Bayley. Interestingly, his partners attempted to land a contract to mint the famous "Vermont coppers," but were unsuccessful in their bid. Given the unusual spelling of "Bayley," it seems likely that Simeon or a member of this family crafted the piece in question.

    The information surrounding Major Jacob Morton is much more germane and totally supportive of the claims surrounding this piece. Morton (1761-1836) received his first commission as an officer of the militia in 1786. He later became colonel of the 6th regiment of infantry. In 1815, he was placed in command of the first division of the New York State artillery. A New York City resident, he is listed in the 1796 City Directory as the "Lieutenant Colonel Commandant of the Third New York Regiment." A charming Greenwich Village Street, between Varick and Hudson, is named after him.

    Colonel Morgan Lewis (1754-1844) was a graduate of Princeton, a student in the law office of John Jay, Revolutionary patriot, Quartermaster General during the Revolution and Governor of New York State... He was present at the fiftieth anniversary of Washington's inauguration in 1839." Both Morton and Lewis were members of the Society of the Cincinnati.

    The connection of these two men is made clear by referring to The History of the Centennial Celebration of the Inauguration of George Washington as First President of the United States (editor, Clarence WinthropBowen, published by Appleton & Co. in New York 1892). It describes the formalities connected with the first inauguration thus: "The full procession left the presidential mansion at half-past twelve o'clock and proceeded to Federal Hall via Queen (Pearl), Great Dock and Broad Streets. Colonel Morgan Lewis as grand marshal., and attended by Majors Van Horne and Jacob Morton as aides-de-camp, led the way. Happily, Livingston, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted masons of the State of New York, knew that a Bible was at St. John's Lodge No. 2 in the City Assembly Rooms nearby, and a messenger was dispatched to borrow the Bible, which is today the property of St. John's Lodge No. 1, one of the oldest Masonic Lodges in the United States. This messenger was the Right Worshipful Brother Major Jacob Morton, the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of the Masonic Fraternity of New York State and also, as above stated, aide-de-camp to the Grand Marshal, Colonel Morgan Lewis." And, as we are all aware, Washington was also a member of the Masonic order.

    If, indeed, this piece belonged to Morton (and we have no reason to believe otherwise), the claim made on its behalf is eminently plausible. It is definitely of the period and Morton (a resident of New York and Commandant of the 3rd New York Regiment) was part of the military escort for the president-elect. Both he and the president were Masons and Society of the Cincinnati members. The family members from whom it was acquired also possessed Washington relics and Revolutionary War memorabilia. It is uncertain whether the piece was produced specifically to wear in the inaugural parade, or pre-dated the event. Certainly, the appropriateness of wearing such a military accouterment must have been all too apparent to Washington's friend, Major Morton. A wonderful historical artifact with great crossover appeal, sure to be highly prized by the next fortunate owner.

    This was the cover piece in our November 12, 2004 auction (#609 lot 27374), where it sold for $13,800. It is now offered once again for sale by the purchaser. A very rare opportunity at its initial offering, we are pleased to offer a "second chance" to acquire this dramatic and important Washington item.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2006
    7th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,977

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