Heath White has been researching the career of engraver Allen Leonard, and he provided this chronicle of his work correcting a 180-year-old attribution error. Thanks!
Eagle die engraved by Allen Leonard
I started researching Allen Leonard a few weeks ago because two of the dies in my collection were engraved by him. One of the articles I found that mentioned him was in Longacre's Ledger (found on NNP) and it was an excerpt from a book titled, "1849: The Mint Strikes Gold."
One thing that came up in my research was the Webster vase. The Webster vase was presented to Daniel Webster in Boston in 1835 and has been owned and displayed at the Boston Public Library since 1865. This vase has been written about in books and magazine articles and was one of the feature artifacts of at least two thesis papers I found. Essentially, it has been described as one of the finest examples of silver engraving executed in Boston. The problem I had was the engraving has been attributed to a Boston silversmith, Abadiah Rich, for the past 180 years or so and in my research on Leonard I found at least a half dozen contemporary newspaper articles that clearly stated Leonard engraved it. Turns out the finest example of silver engraving in Boston was actually executed by a Philadelphia silversmith living in New York, Allen Leonard.
I've been trying to convince the Boston Public Library that Leonard engraved their vase and have provided them multiple contemporary sources that clearly state such.
With help from Wayne, Roger Burdette and Len Augsburger I found a letter on the Newman Portal that Allen Leonard wrote to Robert Patterson (director of U S Mint) on November 21, 1845. In this letter he references the Webster vase as an example of his work:
I'd like to nominate Allen Leonard for the Rodney Dangerfield of engravers award. Other engravers have been credited for doing Leonard's best work. His failed attempt to become Chief Engraver of the U S Mint ended miserably.
"...of the one made in 1834, presented to D. Webster by the merchants of Boston. worth the same amount, there can be no difficulty about this."
It seems I'm making progress on getting the provenance information corrected to give Allen Leonard credit for engraving the Webster Vase. This was sent to me from Jay Moschella, the curator of Boston Public Library's rare book & manuscript collection:
"This is excellent detective work and to me, it seems compelling. We will certainly update our cataloging information accordingly and will provide a succinct narrative of this attribution. It can take a while for change to percolate up into our digital repository, but it will be fixed in due course.
"Given the profile of the Webster Vase and the continued interest in its history, I hope you will consider publishing this information, which you have done so much to uncover!"
A 180-year mystery solved. Thanks for your dogged work!
For more on the Webster Vase, see:
Presentation vase in silver honoring Daniel Webster
Wayne Homren, Editor
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