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Sign for the Vernon Hotel
1834
Maker:Made by William Rice , American, 1777 - 1847
Paint on pine board and moldings, smalt, glass flakes, flocking, gold leaf, iron hardware
Primary Dimensions (height x width including hardware): 81 x 63 3/8in. (205.7 x 161cm) Other (height x width of sign only): 75 1/4 x 63 3/8in. (191.1 x 161cm)
Credit Line: Gift of the Sabra Trumbull Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, Rockville, Conn.
Gallery Copy: This sign, painted by William Rice, was probably among the largest signs created in its time. The sign bursts with imagery; an eagle perches atop the three grapevines of the Connecticut State seal amongst a field of stars. Cannons poke out from the corners. Draperies hang down either side, perhaps a reference to Manchester’s development as a textile mill town. The bold colors and images, the size, and the use of sparkly smalt on the surface make this sign stand out, even among other impressive examples.
Description: Images: On both sides, in central panel, eagle perched on shield-like cartouche displaying the arms of Connecticut, with stars arcing in sky overhead; on side border panels, ornamental scrolls and drapery with fringe and tassels. Both sides are similar but not identical. No underlying imagery. Text: On both sides, in name banner on top border panel, "VERNON" over "MANCHESTER"; in name banner on bottom border panel, "HOTEL." On side 2 only, above name band, "1834". Construction: Two boards, grain oriented vertically, set within channeled moldings. The ends of the side moldings are cut to the shape of the inside contour of the top and bottom moldings, so that the top and bottom moldings can slide over the ends as the large signboard expands and contracts across the grain with changes in humidity (see fig. 18 for detail of this construction on another Rice sign). Four additional boards, sawn at their outer edges to create an elaborate decorative profile, are attached to the outside of the moldings. The top and bottom barge boards abut the molding and are held in place by a few large, toed-in nails. Because the side moldings must move with the central panel as it expands and contracts, the side barge boards are secured to the moldings by long screws set in metal tabs in the long hanging brackets.
Technique Note: Surface notes: Ground layer is grayish-white. Guidelines were probably used for laying out lettering. Gold leaf was used for the stars, eagle, and names, including the artist's signature. Coarsely ground iron oxide was used to create the sparkly effect in the black spandrels. On side 1 the scrollwork on the outer border has been edged with a sharp tool and slightly relieved. A 1955 town history states that "Miss J. Alice Maxwell had [the sign] redecorated." The extent of this redecoration may have been minimal, as painted the surface appears to be original except for small sections of in-painting and re-painting related to the name change. Historical Note: Original location. The site of Rich's Hotel in Manchester has not yet been determined. The King tavern was located about fourteen miles east of Hartford, along the Hartford and Tolland turnpike, which provided a through route to Boston by 1810. The brick tavern house was built ca. 1820-21 by Col. Lemuel King, reportedly for the use of his son, Hezekiah. It passed to two additional proprietors by 1847, when it ceased operating as an inn. In 1867 it was purchased by the town of Vernon for use as the poor house. It was demolished ca. 1960. The northeast section of Vernon, including the King tavern site, was incorporated as the city of Rockville in 1889.
Object Number: 1960.9.0
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