Spectacular Spencer Clark PitcherSpencer M. Clark Presentation Pitcher. This wonderful silver pitcher may well be the ultimate Fractional Currency collection association item. On Christmas Day in 1864, the employees of the National Currency Bureau, the institution that would become the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, presented their boss with an 11 ½" tall by 7 ½" wide silver pitcher with the following engraving:
Presented by The Employees of the National Currency Bureau To Spencer M. Clark Chief of 1st Division as a token of their esteem December 25, 1864
Spencer M. Clark, who was Superintendent of the National Currency Bureau and later the BEP (1862-1868), was a bit of an eccentric genius. He is best known for placing his own portrait on the Third Issue Five Cent Fractional Currency note. The note was first issued in January of 1865. Whether intended as an actual act of colossal vanity or merely as an insiders' joke, Spencer Clark's self-serving deed brought the wrath of Congress down on both Clark and the Bureau. The Act of April 7, 1866, which prohibited the placing of the portrait of any living person on U.S. currency, was a direct result of Clark's misuse of his authority.
Earlier in his career, Clark had also gotten his neck in a wringer over his association with Stuart Gwynn, a questionable character who was responsible for supplying both printing presses and bank-note paper to the National Currency Bureau. Both the Treasury Department and Congress investigated Gwynn and his relationship to Clark. The Treasury Department investigation created a 48-page official report submitted to the Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase that detailed various supposed misconducts by Gwynn and Clark. A second report went to Congress (38th Congress, First Session, House of Representatives, Report #140), courtesy of the Treasury Investigating Committee. Both hearings took place in the first half of 1864.
Somehow, Clark retained his job. And later that year, he was given
this pitcher by his employees. Our consignor obtained it years ago from his mother-in-law, who had been a next-door neighbor of Clark's descendants, and she had received the pitcher as a gift.
The bottom of the pitcher indicates that it was made of coin silver by Gorham between 1855 - 1860. Simply as "just another" 1860's silver pitcher, this would be a solid four-figure item. With its direct currency connection, it is of inestimable value to the Fractional Currency community.
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