Artifact of the Week


Handmade lacquered leather lidded box with crosshatch embroidered design.

leather, cured hide, lacquer, natural dyes

ca. 1800, North America

Sometimes an object comes into the collection and we don’t have a lot of information on its provenance (history), maker, or even age.

This unusual lacquered leather box was found in the collection with no information attached to it, so we utilized our sleuthing skills to try to glean some information directly from the artifact. We know the basic materials that were used to make the object – some type of animal skin and, from viewing other leather boxes, we know that the sheen on the exterior is likely due to a lacquer being used to ensure durability and, perhaps, to make it waterproof – there is also still a slight smell indicating a use of lacquer (funny that we do  use all of our senses to identify and take care of the museum’s artifacts).

The use of lacquers as well as the patina and style, helps us to drill down closer on the age of the artifact. We know that boxes like these were more popular in the 17th, 18th, and very early 19th centuries than in the later 19th or 20th centuries. We also know that the patina of leather and hide can indicate age, so conservatively we can date this to the early 19th century period, it might be earlier. We also think that it was likely made in North America due to some of the stylistic details and clean and simple design, which  indicates post-Revolutionary but pre-1830s Victorian. And there you have, to the best of our knowledge, we have identified this unusual item in our collection.

If anyone has more complete information about this artifact, we would love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment below or send us an email.

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