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Georgian Musical Snuff Box

Georgian Musical Snuff Box



DATE: Georgian, c.1820

An incredible Georgian musical snuff box dating from the early 19th century. It plays the most wonderful tune, far more complex than usual music box subjects, comprising two distinct themes, and composed in the late Classical / early Romantic style contemporary to the era. The case is French, indicated by hallmarks, and the mechanism almost certainly Swiss. The hallmark is actually a bust of the artist Raphael, side profile, indicating that it was made between 1819 and 1838. The craftsmanship is exceptional, with engraving present on every side (bottom included), and there's a dedication to the inner lid that reads: "in remembrance of John McKean Esqr. From his Sorrowing Widow".

I can't find much online about John McKean Esquire, nor his sorrowing widow, except for an obituary in the Southern Statesman (Jackson, Madison County, Tennessee):

"Saturday, March 30, 1833 - Died on the evening of the 14th inst. in Bolivar, Mrs. MARGARET McKEAN, consort of JOHN McKEAN Esq."

The dates appear to match up.

And also a particularly strange excerpt from 'Builders of a Commonwealth, Vol. VI "Men of the Early [eighteen] Sixties"' by Truman O. Douglass:

"The following extract from a letter just received from Rev. O. T. Merrill, of Anamosa, shows a generous appreciation on the part of his people of the wants of their minister. 'Thursday last,' says Mr. Merrill, 'my house was burglariously entered by a strong force of men, women, and children, who evidently took advantage of our absence to get a vacant house in which to have a good time generally. On my return home, to my great surprise, the house was illuminated from kitchen to study. On entering, I found a party of about eighty persons enjoying life after the most approved method. A table was spread loaded with a feast for epicures. Inquiries concerning the strange proceeding were all in vain, and I was given to understand that the only thing for me to do was to keep quiet till the play was out. After feasting and enjoying to their heart's content, I was summoned to appear and listen to a very practical sermon as others have often listened to me. I will not attempt to give an abstract of the discourse, but will simply say it was good and practical, and its culminating point was a purse containing $l69. The party quietly dispersed, and we retired in a rather bewildered, yet happy state of mind."

In the year of 1865, in delightful monotony, the story of pastoral experience is continued. A representative of the News-Letter probably Dr. Guernsey, reporting from Anamosa, writes:

'While on a visit recently to Rev. O. T. Merrill, of Anamosa, we were invited to a social gathering, such as is customary among his people. The attendance was large and the evening passed in pleasant social converse. The hour for separation approached; and just as we are about to retire with the pastor and his family to his home, hands were suddenly laid upon him, and he was marched into the thickest of the
crowd, and brought up face to face to John McKean, Esquire, who held a book in his hand, which he proceeded to inform our astonished brother, though extremely plain and unpretending — like many of his friends' — was very richly embellished within. This book, he said, he was commissioned to present
as a testimonial of respect for the minister and his work. Receiving it, Merrill gracefully responded, saying he should value the book, and did not doubt he could make its contents of valuable service. At the parsonage, a little while after, we had the satisfaction of looking on while he took out the green backs with which the leaves of the volume were interlarded, until they amounted to $170. This was a truly generous gift , and with the box of honey that accompanied it, must have made the experience of our brother the sweeter ever since.'

Again, since this story was apparently recounted in 1865, it's very possible it was referencing the same (seemingly very generous) John McKean Esqr. who died earlier that century and is commemorated here. 


9.1 x 5.6 x 2.9cm




French silver hallmarks (silver gilt)


Good, some general wear commensurate with age and use, including dings and scrapes inside. Complete with original winding key