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    Description

    A Historic Whiting Mfg. Co Acid-Etched Silver Trophy Bowl for the National Horse Show Association of America, New York, New York, circa 1883
    Marks: (W-griffin), WHITING MF'G CO, STERLING, 1316
    5-7/8 inches high x 10-1/2 inches diameter (14.9 x 26.7 cm)
    48.95 troy ounces

    PROVENANCE:
    By descent in the Douglas family;
    Acquired from above.

    The heavy-gauge sterling silver trophy bears the acid-etched monogram of the National Horse Show Association of America to the front: NHSAofA, flanked by the acid-etched presentation:

    OFFERED BY MR. ISAAC BELL JR, FOR BEST PARK TEAM;
    4 HORSES, OWNERS TO DRIVE, WON BY MR. W. P DOUGLAS.

    The entire body is acid-etched in five layers of thistle leaves and blossoms illustrating the 1790 poem "Tam o'Shanter," by Scottish poet Robert Burns. The acid-etched scenery portrays the story of drunkard Tam O'Shanter who leaves his pub in the middle of a dark stormy night. On his journey, he passes a haunted church where he observes from a distance a throng of dancing witches, skeletons, and even the devil himself playing the bagpipes. As the macabre music and dancing intensifies, he yells a lewd phrase to one of the witches in his drunken stupor, "Well done, cutty sark!" (Well done, short skirt!) The figures immediately begin to chase Tam and his horse Meg as they flee towards the River Doon, which Tam knows the witches and warlocks cannot cross. The creatures come very close to catching Tam as he races towards the river, and they pull off his horse's tail just as Tam and Meg reach the bank and cross to safety.

    The wavy-edged bowl contains lines from the poem under the expertly acid-etched haunting witch and skeleton figures: "NOW DO THY SPEEDY UTMOST MEG" and also above the terrified Tam and Meg at full sprint: "AND WIN THE KEY SANE OF THE BRIG." Between a group of thistle leaves below is also etched the name of the poem: TAM O'SHANTER. The interior is gold washed and the bowl is raised on four curved feet with thistle blossom mounts in relief.

    The National Horse Show Association of America was founded in 1883 by a group of wealthy New York sportsmen. At the time this trophy was awarded, the organization was under the directorship of such New York area notables as William H. Vanderbilt, George Peabody Wetmore, Frank Knight Sturgis, Augustus Newbold Morris, William Collins Whitney, Frederick Augustus Schermerhorn, Frederic Bronson, among others. Most of the board's members held previous leadership or membership positions in a variety of high-society jockey, hunt, and coaching clubs. All but four of the association's organizers were members of the oldest, most distinguished and wealthiest of New York's clubs-the Union (founded 1836.) William H. Vanderbilt gave his approval in the early part of 1883 for the National to lease Madison Square Garden for the inaugural show. The event catered to the elite, with luxury viewing boxes outfitted with champagne chilled in silver ice buckets, Morris chairs, loveseats, and Turkish rugs. The competition spanned five days from October 22-26, 1883, and the association offered over $11,000 in prize money and $2,000 in plate (silver trophies). The show's format was inspired by English agricultural shows, which had a long tradition of offering separate classes and events for horses, of which 15 were offered at the NHSAA event.

    The present trophy was awarded during the association's inaugural competition in October of 1883. A September 9, 1883 article from the New York Tribune lists prizes for the upcoming NHSAA event including a prize sponsored by "Isaac Bell Jr., $100 or plate for the best pair of park horses, owners to drive." William Proctor Douglas won the event in during the 1883 competition with his horses Rob, Roy, Dandy, and Donald. Douglas also won "Best Pair of Carriage horse & Best Appointed Carriage, Privately Owned" with horse Dandy and Donald, and won the "Open Four-in Hand Class" event during the inaugural competition. The association continued to offer other variations of the Four-in-Hand events into the 20th century.

    Isaac Bell, Jr. was a Gilded Age diplomat and businessman from New York (1846-1889) and hailed from an upper-class Newport, Rhode Island family. He built his wealth through successful cotton brokering and was a primary investor in the Commercial Cable Company. Bell constructed the lavish Isaac Bell House in Newport, RI which remains as a premier example of Shingle-Style architecture in America. In addition to his summer residence in Rhode Island, Bell owned a unit in one of New York City's first cooperative duplex apartments in the historic Knickerbocker building, which had a interior that rivaled his summer home. President Grover Cleveland appointed Bell as U.S. Minister to the Netherlands in 1885-1888. Bell died in January 1889 of complications from typhoid fever.

    The "W. P. Douglas" recipient is that of William Proctor Douglas, a wealthy, prominent New York capitalist who inherited a large fortune from his father, George Douglas. Financial wants aside, William's wealth allowed him to focus on his passions in the sports of yachting and polo. He was a founding member of the first American polo team, and was renowned throughout New England for his skill at the sport. An equally capable yachtsman, Douglas won the prestigious America's Cup in 1871 sailing his yacht Sappho, and served a tenure as the Vice-Commodore of the New York Yacht Club from 1871-1874. Douglas held memberships in several other sporting organizations including the Westminster Kennel, Rockaway Hunt, Meadow Brook Hunt and Coaching clubs, the Country Club of Westchester County, among others. In addition to his appreciation of recreation, Douglas was sympathetic to the related ideals of technical skill and finesse that characterized fine art. In 1873, he leased his estate on West 14th Street to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which became the predecessor to its current location on Fifth Avenue. He owned Gilbert Stuart's Portrait of George Washington (Athenaeum) for many years, after inheriting the portrait from his father who had purchased it in 1823 directly from Stuart. Douglas' wife Adelaide would later serve as a personal art advisor to J.P. Morgan.

    Note: Very few trophies awarded by the NHSAA during the 19th century are known to exist. The most notable are three other trophies from the 1883 exhibition which are of lesser complexities of form, also manufactured by Whiting and bearing identical acid-etched monograms as the present example. A page from the first-day program on October 22, 1883 lists only one silversmith in its advertisements: Whiting Mrf. Company, Broadway and Fourth Street.

    Reference: Sprague, Kurth. The National Horse Show: A Centennial History 1883-1983. New York City: National Horse Show Foundation, 1985. Print. See also: Appendix B; National Horse Show Association of America, Ltd. Complete Results, 1883-1888; Champions and Stakes' Winners, 1890-1982, p. 321





    Condition Report*: Some rubbing to interior bowl, interior with scratches and scattered pin dents, some nicking to bowl rim, with surface scratches commensurate with age, polishing and use. An unsually well-detailed acid-etched example presenting well.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    October, 2016
    18th Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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