Eyewitness

Time capsule: Valuable silver urn of 1774 at the Nelson Gallery of Art

Oct. 8, 1950

This silver urn on display at the then Nelson Gallery of Art had a storied history. Here’s the original caption:

“A valuable silver piece lost twenty years was located in time to be included in the Mid-Western silver exhibit currently at the Nelson Gallery of Art. This large urn was made in 1774 in Philadelphia by Richard Humphreys, colonial silversmith. It later was presented by members of the Continental Congress to Charles Thomson, secretary of the Congress who had served faithfully without salary. Thomson passed it on descendants.

“About 1920 its whereabouts became unknown. Then, a short time before the exhibit here opened, it was learned by an exhibit staff member that the urn is currently owned by Dr. Charles Chamberlain, Fort Smith, Ark., a descendant of Thomson’s. Dr. Chamberlain agreed to lend the urn for the gallery display.

“It is one of the ten most valuable silver pieces in the United States. Here, Mrs. Charles Lamkin, an exhibit hostess, admires the beautiful object.”

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