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George Washington Urn

Cast Iron
Ca. 1850-1870
H. 29”

By the middle of the 1800s, the use of George Washington’s image on American-made items was rampant. An abundance of worshipful biographies and cultural tall tales transformed America’s first President into a mythic figure. One Russian visitor to the United States wrote, “Americans hang pictures of George Washington in their homes like we hang images of the Saints.”

The rim of the urn uses a lamb’s tongue (cyma reversa) decoration. The body of this campana-form (Volute-Krater shape) urn features a bust of George Washington encircled by laurel leaves. Several companies sold this urn after 1850, including Chase Brothers, Boston; J. L. Mott Iron Works, Tarrytown, New York; and J. W. Fiske, New York [1, 2]. Most likely this urn was made by Robert Wood of Philadelphia due to its appearance in the pre-1858 editions of his catalogue. This urn was in production for at least another twelve years because it also appears, with the same height dimensions, in the 1870 Robert Wood catalog [3, 4].

[1] Israel, Barbara. Antique Garden Ornament: Two Centuries of American Taste. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1999), 149.
[2] The Magazine Antiques, September 1985, 522.
[3] Letter from Ann Chandler Howell, Belmont Mansion Archives. April 19, 2004.
[4] Wood, Robert Wood & Co. Portfolio of original designs of ornamental iron work
by Robert Wood & Co. (Philadelphia, Pa.) ca. 1867-70. Winterthur Museum Library internet archive

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