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Sign of the Bull's Head
Original Owner:Originally owned by Captain Aaron Bissell Sr. , American, 1722 - 1787
Original Owner:Originally owned by Epaphrus Bissell , American
Original Owner:Originally owned by Captain Aaron Bissell Jr. , American, 1761 - 1834
Original Owner:Originally owned by John Alderman , American, 1768 - 1856
Maker:Maker Unknown
Paint on pine board, iron hardware
Other (height x width of sign only): 56 x 36 1/2in. (142.2 x 92.7cm)
Credit Line: Collection of Morgan B. Brainard. Gift of Mrs. Morgan B. Brainard.
Description: Images: on both sides: head and neck of horned bull, extending to edge of board, with tree trunk, grass, flying birds, sky in background; side 2 has been repainted. Construction: Single board; single, molded, horizontal rails; columnar posts; applied pediment brackets. Board is set vertically and hand-sawn at top and bottom to create decorative pediment and skirt profile; board passes through full-width mortice cut through each rail and is held by nails. Thin, columnar posts are tenoned vertically into both top and bottom rails. Three turned finials are saddled over the top of the board, with triangular extensions added to finish the lower points of the pediment; turned drops are doweled into the lower ends of the posts. Moldings are applied to the top and bottom of both faces and to the side edges of the signboard, creating a rectangular "picture frame." Surface: Side 2 (with buckshot punctures) was overpainted in the early 20th century, using a thick, glossy paint in highly contrasting shades of black, white, green, blue, and brown. The overpainting altered side 2 significantly, reinstating the earlier date and name, and creating a streamlined, hard-edged, modernistic counterpart to the softly weathered original. On the turned columns, horizontal rails, and framing moldings, repainting extended only to the picture plane, leaving these sections curiously two-toned when viewed directly on edge. The bull's heads are "mirror images," and may have originally been drawn with a template, although the overpaint makes accurate reading difficult.
Historical Note: Original locations. The town of East Windsor was separated from Windsor in 1767; in 1845 the section known as East Windsor Hill became part of the new town of South Windsor. Auction notices for Aaron Bissell, Jr.'s estate in 1836 provide a detailed description of his extensive landholdings, which ran from the Hartford road to the Connecticut River on the west and the Scantic River on the north, with "the road to Bissell's Ferry running across said land." South of the Ferry road "is the place so long and so well known as Bissell's Tavern; 105 acres of land, with a House, three large barns, and out-Buildings convenient for a large Tavern, and as good a place for such an establishment as any in the country." North of the Ferry road, opposite the old homestead, was Bissell's "country seat," a two-story brick house built in 1813. The inn was purchased by Daniel Gilbert Sperry and continued in business as "Sperry's Hotel" through at least the mid-1840s. David Bissell's inn (during the ten-year period of its existence) was located at the ferry landing itself, presumably drawing off some of the river traffic. John Alderman's inn was located three doors south of Aaron Bissell's, on the Hartford road, possibly on Bissell property. Alderman is not recorded as owning a house in East Windsor; his only known property being a 1-1/2 acre lot on the west side of the road, where he set up a distillery.
Inscription: On side 1: on pediment, "1797" over "1760"; on apron, "J. ALDERMAN" over "A. Bissell"; side 2, repainted ca. 1910-20, has three sets of dates on the pediment, "1760" over "1797" over "1760"; and three names on the apron, "A Bissell." over "J. ALDERMAN" over "A. Bissell".
Object Number: 1961.63.7
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