Monday, January 1, 2018

The Eureka & Old Zach Clasps

W.T. & Co.

      The first time I saw this California Gold Rush rococo revival masterpiece I was completely overtaken by its beauty.  This clasp draws more attention than most and is recognized by collectors as the top California Gold Rush clasp. The foliate edges & 31 stars surrounding the EUREKA seal are unique to this clasps design. Many of these have casting variations on the front as well as on the back & none are exactly the same. Some of these are W.T. & Co. back marked while others are not. The W.T. & Co. tongues have a T. cast in the back. This may have represented the correct location of the top when this was created.
Typically speaking a back mark such as this would be from the manufacturer. It would be odd to have a belt manufacturer request to have his abbreviated company name cast on the back. Other clasps that are recovered in the same context as the EUREKA are marked very clearly for the consumer.  Bondy Brothers belt manufacturers, W. Taussig , Pollack Brothers , (Pollock)  have listings in directories and newspapers describing their occupation.  None of the known 1850s clasps recovered in California are from companies who stamped or cast their own brass clasps to date.

To my knowledge the W.T. & Co. back mark was first mentioned to be the abbreviation for William Taussig & Co. in the 1996 book titled American Military Belt Plates.  I have been skeptical of it being the mark of William Taussig & Co. for quite some time.   In the last few months I worked for many hours to come up with something solid in my research & at one point thought the mark may be attributed to the pioneer brass foundry of William Thompson Garratt & Co. of San Francisco. I waded through everything I could find and I had a change of thought.  If I can’t pin down W.T. & Co. maybe I could unlock the mystery of the other known W.T. & Co. clasp.
Notice the six pointed stars as seen on the EUREKA clasp and many others.

California's Admission Day event on September 9, of 1850 was a very important event and since the seal created by Major Garnett had already been adopted on September 29, 1849 at the Constitutional Convention in Monterey California. This time frame would fit in perfectly with what is to come knowing these two clasps were produced during the early part of the California Gold Rush. The EUREKA seal depicted on a clasp would have been known to most in California by late 1850 and I felt this other clasp may have been created for another well known event in United States history.
Image courtesy Michael O’Donnell

I started by carefully studying each object depicted on the clasp and making a note of them. I decided to start with the center or tongue portion first since that is where the main subject is typically placed. The following information I gathered is as follows.  There is a mounted military officer with a cocked hat or wheel hat and sheathed sword. His right hand extended leading rank of infantry into battle. I believe what is behind his right hand is actually a gun or piece of artillery on a hill top. The horse is quite beautiful with a flowing tail and perfect gate. Next we see a rank of soldiers advancing toward slanted masonry fortifications to our left. The inner belt loops are spread wing federal eagles. There isn’t much room left for any more American Patriotic motifs. At first glance I noticed these fortifications resembled those present in famous battles of the Mexican American war, 1846-1848
The wreath portion of this clasp is truly amazing. Many of the elements on this clasps wreath are depicted in the poster above of Rough & Ready and battles of the Mexican American War. A star at the top and bottom , Unfurled United States flags on the left and right flank  , drums, Trumpet or bugle, crossed cannons , saber for cavalry and musket for infantry  would be recognizable to anyone and would suggest a special victory or event for a V.I.P. such as Major General Zachary Taylor running for presidency .

Notice the likeness of Major General Zachary Taylor and his celebrity war horse “Old Whitey” & the patriotic United States motifs which appear on the brass clasp.
Siege of Vera Cruz March 9, - March 29, 1847
The battle of Chapultepec September 12 - 13 1847


Old Zach marked Bowie knife
California Gold Rush Rough & Ready artifacts I have dug on private property with owner’s permission.

Researched and written by:
Nicholas Kane
All clasp images Nicholas Kane

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