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Jeweler's Sign: Eagle

ca. 1850
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Overall: 16 1/4 x 29 x 26in. (41.3 x 73.7 x 66cm)
Paint over gilded wood
Gift of Mrs. Daniel Baker
Acc. No. 1979.706.1
A gilded (now overpainted) woodcarving of an eagle perched on an oversized mechanical pencil, his wings spread and his head turned towards the viewer's left.

Artist unidentified.
Label:According to a handwritten account given to the donor's father, the eagle was purchased in Philadelphia after the Mexican War, taken to Danville, Kentucky, and installed on the front of a three-story brick structure used as a combination home and jewelry shop by J. Brant Aikin.
The bird perches on an oversized mechanical pencil, a symbol of the types of wares Aikin offered. Mechanical pencils held thin, replaceable rods of graphite. Frequently they were made of gold and worn about the neck on long gold chains, not only transforming everyday objects into pieces of fine jewelry but also illustrating the link between literacy and prosperity.
Provenance:According to an account in the file handwritten by E. Flaig for AARFAM's donor's father, Rev. Henry Nichols Faulconer, J. Brant Aikin bought the eagle for $17.00 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after the Mexican War. Aikin took the eagle to Danville, Kentucky, where he used it to advertise his jewelry business in the third building from the northeast corner of Main and Third streets. Aikin sold the store to J. T. Lapsley and J. H. Funk, for whom Flaig worked in 1866. Aikin told Flaig one of the eagle's wings had been shot off by a Confederate soldier during the Civil War. It appears that Aikin gave the eagle to Flaig, who then had an "Austrian workman" replace the wing, which was subsequently gilded by a "Mr. Vanpelt."