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Presentation Pieces in the Museum of History and Technology Contributions from the Museum of History and Technology, Paper No. 47 [Smithsonian Institution]   By: (1922-1994)

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Miniature ship presented to Adm. Robert E. Peary 81

Snuffbox inlaid with mother of pearl and horn made around 1769 83

Mark of Samuel Minott and monogram of Elias Hasket Derby on silver tankard 83

Punch set presented to Col. George Armistead 85

Tureen presented to Com. John Rodgers 87

Gold snuffbox presented to Maj. Gen. Jacob Brown 88

Peace pipe presented to the Delaware Indians by Gen. William Henry Harrison 89

Silver service given to Maj. Gen. John Hatch 90

Silver service presented to Gen. Judson Kilpatrick 92

Silver service presented to Mrs. Abraham Lincoln 93

Teakettle and stand given to Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs 93

Gold box presented to Cyrus W. Field 95

Silver mounted tankard presented to Cyrus W. Field 95

Tray and saltcellar in shape of chair presented to Gustavus Vasa Fox 97

Centerpiece given to Adm. Winfield Scott Schley 101

Cup presented to the Honorable Brand Whitlock 103

Paperweight identical to those presented by William Jennings Bryan 103

Cup given to Susan B. Anthony 105

Belt given to H. W. Higham 107

The Vanderbilt Cup 107

Trowel used by President Ulysses S. Grant 108

[Illustration: Figure 1. MINIATURE SHIP presented to Adm. Robert E. Peary by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. Loan of Robert E. Peary. In Division of Naval History. (Acc. 52878, cat. 12185; Smithsonian photo 45992.)]

Margaret Brown Klapthor

Presentation Pieces In the Museum of History and Technology

As a social document, the collection of presentation pieces, mostly silver, in the United States National Museum provides evidence of the taste and craftsmanship in America at various periods from the mid 18th century to the 1920's.

Although the representative items selected for illustration confirm the view that such pieces often lack artistic merit, the collection nevertheless reveals the deeds in war, politics, technology, diplomacy, sports that our forebears deemed worthy of special recognition. And it helps to bring alive some figures now submerged in our ever expanding history.

THE AUTHOR: Margaret Brown Klapthor is associate curator of political history in the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of History and Technology.

The custom of giving a piece of silver to an individual in recognition of service or in appreciation of accomplishment probably began as soon as man developed the fashioning of that metal into objects. Such a presentation piece was a tangible and durable form of recognition which could be appreciated, used, displayed, and enjoyed by the recipient. Many of these silver pieces became for succeeding generations the cherished evidence of recognition accorded to an ancestor, and they were preserved long after the more customary family silver had worn out or been lost.

The Smithsonian Institution's Museum of History and Technology has what may well be the most varied and extensive collection of such presentation pieces ever to be preserved and exhibited in one place. The collection contains the work of some of the more prominent American silversmiths, but most of the pieces are by lesser known makers and are in the collection because of historic interest rather than artistic merit... Continue reading book >>

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