An Australian Colonial silver snuffbox by Alexander Dick inscribed 1829
A rectangular table snuff box with ribbed walls and rounded corners and deep foliate border to the lid surrounding a panel, which is finely engraved with an image of a two masted schooner. The lid opens to reveal a gilt interior and a testimonial engraving to the inside of the lid, which reads “The passengers on the Falcoln (sic) beg Capt. John Adams to accept this small token in admiration of his Seamanship on the passage to Port Sydney 21st day of May 1829“. The box’s plain base is hallmarked for Alexander Dick using the format of three lines: “Dick”, above hallmarks consisting of Lion passant, Leopard’s head, Letter E and Sovereign’s head, all above “NSW”
Only one other box by Alexander Dick is in a public collection (MAAS / Powerhouse Museum) and is of later production being marked for 1835.
As well as this, this would be the earliest known snuff box produced in the colony by a known maker, two others exist (the NMA Governor King snuff box of 1801 and the MAAS Walter Stevenson Davidson box 1808) but firm attributions to a local maker have not yet been confirmed.
Perhaps more significantly, for some time, there has been much speculation about the quality and the complexity of items manufactured in the early years of the colony, creating a belief that items of this sort were produced by Forrester and Barclay in Tasmania and retailed in NSW. The date inscribed in this box, completely relegates that idea to myth as it is prior to the arrival of both Barclay and Forrester; Barclay arriving in1830 and Forrester in November of 1829 and shows that items of complexity were in fact being made prior to 1830.
From a social perspective, the date of presentation of this box is a mere five days before Dick was indicted for the sale of stolen spoons and one wonders whether he had any sense of what lay ahead. For more information about Alexander Dick please see the entry in the Australian Dictionary of biography: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/dick-alexander-12886
Background and Context:
the population of the colony of NSW in 1828 was 36,598 (15,728 were convicts)
Research and Reference:
Shipping records indicate a 2 masted schooner registered to New South Wales named the Falcon built in 1829 by John Duffus and Co, Aberdeen being 149 tonnes and being wood with a copper shield. The engraving to the front of the box shows a two masted schooner. The schooner was wrecked in the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand in 1840. If this is the ship this box celebrates, it would have most likely been its maiden voyage and the engraving was made as a portrait of the Falcon.
Dimensions and weight:
Dimensions: 90 x 61 x 20mm