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Silver Breastplate

Richardson, William & George
Place Made:
Richmond Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Engraved breast plate.

MAKER: Brothers William (1755-1809) and George Richardson (1761-1805) formed a partnership in about 1782 in Richmond, Virginia. They were the sons of John Richardson (b.1718/22) and Abigail Furnace Richardson (b.1727) of York Co., Virginia. It is not known where George apprenticed, perhaps with his brother William, who was apprenticed under Gabriel Galt (1748-1788) in the 1770s. The Richardson shop was an active one. They advertised often for their business (“an elegant assortment of silverwork, jewelry, hair devices, mourning and other rings, and they were still giving [the utmost value for old gold and silver.]”) and were frequently mentioned in advertisements by other tradesmen and merchants. Their shop was referenced in newspaper accounts of the fire of 12 November 1798 that burned most of the nearby businesses, including the Richardsonses’. The brothers closed the shop until rebuilding was completed–when it re-opened George Richardson had retired to Hanover Co., Virginia and William advertised alone. See Catherine B. Hollan, “Virginia Silversmiths, Jewelers, Watch- and Clockmakers, 1607-1860: Their Lives and Marks” (McLean, VA: Hollan Press, 2010).

RELATED OBJECTS: MESDA also has a sword that descended with this breastplate.

HISTORY: The breastplate and sword, complete with scabbard and (now missing) strap, descended from William Jones (1764-1847), a native of Gloucester County, Virginia, and a colonel of militia. He served during the War of 1812. He was a lawyer by profession, having read law under his brother-in-law, John Catlett. He married first Charity Buckner of Gloucester County, and second her cousin, Mrs. Eliza Cook.

According to family history, this and another sword were hidden during the Civil War under the eves of the family home, Marfield. The swords were not found until much later when the donors’ great uncle was putting a new roof on the house. He made the breastplate into a belt buckle for his daughter, Hetty Catlett Jones Bouldin. Mrs. Bouldin later gave the “belt buckle” to her niece, Sarah S. Rogers, one of the donors of the sword (See accession folder).

Credit Line:
Given in memory of Powell Burwell Rogers by his sisters.