While looking glasses were undoubtedly made in Virginia using imported mirrors, the majority were probably imports like this one. The use of spruce as a secondary wood confirms that this looking glass is a British import. An inscription on the backboard of this looking glass reads “this glass was brought from England by John Humber who helped to throw the tea overboard from the ship when we rebelled against England.” John Humber (b.1705) was born in England and immigrated to Virginia in the 1730s. A family history suggests that he was apprenticed to a tailor in Henrico County. Later he purchased land in Hanover County. John Humber was married to Betty Meeks and the couple had a son, John Humber (1735-1806), who married Elizabeth Christian of Goochland County. Based on the style of the looking glass, it was probably first owned by John and Betty (Meeks) Humber.
The reference to throwing “tea overboard from the ship” may refer to an incident called the Yorktown Tea Party. On November 7, 1774 a group of Virginians boarded the ship Virginia at Yorktown and threw two half-chests of tea overboard in protest. It could also be apocryphal.
DESCRIPTION: Looking glass with double-arched top. The looking glass consists of a square frame of spruce joined with dovetails. A thin mahogany molding is mitered and applied onto this frame. Evidence of gilding remains on the on inner moulding closest to the looking glass. The arched top of mahogany veneered spruce is applied to the frame with glue. The looking glass is sandwiched into a rabbet in the frame by a spruce backboard and wrought nails.
RELATED OBJECTS: The MESDA Collection also has a portrait of Elizabeth (Christian) Humber by the Payne Limner that shares the same provenance as this looking glass (MESDA acc. 5984.1)