Recently, I saw this relic at a show and it is fantastic. I thought our readers might enjoy seeing it, and the seller at Gallery BFA is kindly letting us borrow his pictures and description (now listed on ebay). Some antiques tell only a transitory story about the person or persons who once owned them. As an example, take the document discussed in "Denison Ledger: October 6, 1869 John W. Miner Receipt" which shows John W. Miner paid three months of store rent to Anson Brown. Although we know Miner paid rent on October 6, 1869, the document provides little extraneous information about Miner. The same applies to Brown.
Artifacts such as Mudgett's box are priceless in that they provide a consequential look into the lives of those who came before. See the full description below. Best, Pat
Folky Mid-19th Century Wooden Box with Hand Cut Metal Letters for Blind Use: Plus period ink manuscript "dying request," and "ancestor note." Handmade, square nailed, wooden box with slide top lid which fastens closed with a metal wire clasp. the bottom of the box interior is padded with black cloth fabric. On top of the fabric, there are twelve loose metal letters which are hand cut. A later "ancestor" note included in the box gives insight, "These zinc [?] letters were made for use of the blind Henry Martyn Mudgett 1824-1848-Please Keep them- his dying wish and the eulogy in verse by Ed. G. M. Freman." (Obviously, Henry lived a short life of 24 years). Also included is a piece
of paper with period ink manuscript and embossed seal in the upper left corner. It reads,
"Henry's Dying request-
That if it is convenient let Andrew W. Chase shave me for the grave. Let Dea Solomon Montague take the lead at my funeral.
Let Elder Lewis Dunn preach my funeral sermon.
Let Mr. Harry Montague carry my corpse. He said I might take my last ride with him.
For bearers Solman Curtis, Newel Bartlet, Cephas Kinsley, Romeo Case.
Henry M. Mudget - Cambridge Dec. 3, 1848".
This is quite a thought provoking relic archive. It seems that Henry Mudgett was blind and the letters were created as an educational tool for him. Apparently Henry knew his time was near as it would be uncommon for a 24 year old to write such a request otherwise. The unlined letter is neatly written and I suspect was narrated to a scribe by Henry. Found in New England, I presume this is Cambridge, Massachusetts.* The size of the box is approximately 11-1/2" x 8-1/4". The box has a nice old untouched patina with old ink written numbers on the lid, staining, scuffs, and nicks. Fold lines and edge wear to paper. Please see photos for additional condition review. Questions welcome!
Should our readers have questions for the seller or want to take a look at the ebay listing, here is the link to Gallery BFA: 1848 Death Wishes of Henry Martyn Mudgett. Thank you to Gallery BFA for letting us share this fantastic piece.
*Don't you just love it when new information comes in while wrapping up a piece (or so you think). Well, that happened here. While researching Mudgett genealogy, through the post of a "Julie" on Genealogy.com, I found that the Cambridge in question is actually Cambridge, Vermont.
c 1848 DEATH WISHES & BOX w METAL LETTERS, BLIND Henry Martin Mudgett CAMBRIDGE in Art, Art from Dealers & Resellers, Folk Art & Primitives | eBay