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Sign for Spencer's Inn
1810
Paint on unidentified softwood board, frame of ash or chestnut, unidentified hardwood, gold leaf, iron hardware
Primary Dimensions (height x width including hardware): 51 1/4 x 23in. (130.2 x 58.4cm) Other (height x width of sign only): 46 1/2 x 20 3/4in. (118.1 x 52.7cm)
Credit Line: Collection of Morgan B. Brainard, Gift of Mrs. Morgan B. Brainard
Gallery Copy: This sign is accompanied by family history linking it to Hartford innkeeper John Spencer. However, close examination reveals several ambiguous and conflicting features. Its shape, construction, and materials support the painted date of 1810. The swinging oval panel is less worn than the frame, suggesting that either the frame may have been reused or the panel replaced. The use of imagery drawn from the Pennsylvania state seal seems strange on an inn sign owned by a Hartford innkeeper descended from an old, local family.
Description: Images: on both sides, the state seal of Pennsylvania (an eagle atop a shield displaying a ship, a plow, and three sheaves of grain); no underlying image Text: on side 1: on upper rail, "1810" over [1810]; on lower rail, "I, SPENCER" over [I, SPENCER]; on side 2, both rails have thick black paint layer over [1810] and [I, SPENCER] Construction: Single board, suspended from top rail; horizontal rails with integral pediment and skirt; turned posts. Board is hand-sawn into an oval shape with scalloped edge; oriented vertically. Board has two battens, tapered along the edges and from end to end, inset across one side to counteract warpage, a practice occasionally encountered in furniture and painted panels. Battens appear to be original to the board. Each horizontal rail is tenoned through the turned posts and secured with two pins. The rails extend up and down to form a decoratively-shaped pediment and skirt (now missing). Applied moldings are nailed to the faces of the rails, forming a rectangular frame for text.
Technique Note: The surface of the center panel displays less wear than the frame. The rails were repainted, sloppily, with bronze powdered letters and black paint, apparently in an effort to increase the legibility of areas that had flaked severely; the original color may not have been black. The poorly drawn letters and numerals and the use of bronze paint suggest that this repainting may have been done by an amateur or owner. Historical Note: Original location. On the Windsor Road north of Hartford, near the Windsor town line.
Inscription: On side 1: on upper rail, "1810" over [1810]; on lower rail, "I, SPENCER" over [I, SPENCER]; on side 2, both rails have thick black paint layer over [1810] and [I, SPENCER]
Object Number: 1961.63.46
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