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Sign for Caulkins's Inn
probably about 1790s
Original Owner:Originally owned by Dr. Daniel Caulkins , American, 1746 - 1790
Original Owner:Originally owned by Elizabeth Smith , American, 1749 - 1839
Original Owner:Originally owned by Elisha Caulkins , American, 1789 - 1869
Maker:Maker Unknown
Paint on pine board, gold leaf
Primary Dimensions (height x width including hardware): 43 1/4 x 28 1/2in. (109.9 x 72.4cm) Other (height x width for sign only): 43 1/4 x 28in. (109.9 x 71.1cm)
Credit Line: Collection of Morgan B. Brainard. Gift of Mrs. Morgan B. Brainard
Gallery Copy: This sign is one of only a few surviving examples that can be confidently associated with a tavern operated by a female innkeeper. Elizabeth Smith Moore Caulkins was the second wife of the original owner, Dr. Daniel Caulkins. He died in 1790, leaving Elizabeth to take care of eleven children. She held the tavern license in her own name for twenty-five years, until the youngest son (then twenty-seven) married and took over the business. The image of the tree with the sun rising over the water’s edge might have referred to the inn’s actual setting on the Niantic River.
Description: Images: On both sides, landscape scene with tree on left, rising sun on right, possibly underlying versions of the same composition. Construction: Single board, grain oriented vertically, hand-sawn at top only to create decorative pediment profile; no skirt and no structural frame. Applied moldings, mitered at corners, are nailed to the outer edges of board on the sides and bottom, and across the faces of both sides at the top. Surface: The 1769 date and the lettering are executed in gold leaf, using a stencil. The 1839 date is yellow, as is the trim on the black frame and an earlier version of the lettering. The ground layer seems to be gray; the sun may originally have been gilded, as were the stars arcing overhead. Side 1 is heavily weathered, with 25-30% paint loss. The tree and sun are well raised above the background, with evidence of repainting guided by the raised outlines. The extent of wear suggests that the sign hung outdoors for many years, consistent with the inn's long operation by the same family. Side 2 had been obscured by a layer of black, possibly spray, paint.
Historical Note: Original location. The Caulkins family chose its property well, and the inn's enviable site may in part explain its longevity. Not only was it located in the Flanders town center, on the New York to Boston post road, but also at the crossroads of the Niantic road (now Connecticut Rt. 161), at the head of the Niantic River. It was thus convenient for both local and traveling customers, and both land and water-borne traffic. Although the house itself is gone, the site retains part of its original function as a McDonald's restaurant.
Inscription: On both sides, in pediment, "1769" over "1839" over "1798?", in name band at bottom, "E. CAULKINS." in gold leaf over "E. CAULKINS" in yellow paint.
Object Number: 1961.63.13
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