Skip to content

Personal tools

Personal Statements: Jewelry of Societies and Institutions

Some of the jewelry in Historic New England’s collection was worn to signify membership in a society, support of an institution, or belief in a certain conviction. These conspicuous pieces of personal adornment are insightful records that reveal what their original owners believed in, who they socialized with, what politics they followed, or simply where they were educated.

CLICK on image for more information



Phi Beta Kappa Medal
Probably Boston, Massachusetts, 1841
Silver
H. 1 3/8, W. 1 1/8, D. 1/8 in.
Gift of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Charitable Trust for Historic Preservation
2006.44.54
Inscription:
Front: “S P / SEPTEMBER 5th. / 1781. / S. H. Phillips”
Reverse: “F B K”

The Phi Beta Kappa society was founded by five students at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia on December 5, 1776. The original secret fraternal organization (the first woman was inducted by the University of Vermont chapter in 1875) was formed to recognize academic achievement and to provide an environment in which open discussion was encouraged and protected. Subsequent chapters were founded at Yale in 1780 and at Harvard in 1781. This medal was owned by Stephen Henry Phillips, Harvard Class of 1842. These medals were given by the graduating class to members in the rising senior class. The design of the medal has changed very little over the years. The front includes the letters “SP” for Societas Philosophiae and the date of the founding of the Harvard chapter. The reverse includes the Greek letters Phi Beta Kappa and a hand in the lower right corner pointing to stars in the top left corner. Early medals have three stars representing friendship, morality and literature, but later medals feature as many stars are there were chapters in the society.

back to top


Pin
Probably Providence, Rhode Island, c. 1850
Gold
H. 9/16, W. 5/16, D. 1/8 in.
Gift of Miss Frances L. Chace
1954.130
Henry Thurston Chace (b. 1834)
Providence, Rhode Island, c. 1850
Daguerreotype
Gift of Miss Frances L. Chace
1954.129

This pin was originally owned by the donor's father, Henry Thurston Chace (b. 1834). Henry was a volunteer fireman of the “Water Witch” engine company # 6 of Providence, Rhode Island. Henry's father, John B. Chace, was the fire warden and his five brothers were also volunteer firemen. The Providence Fire Department began around 1754 and was an all volunteer organization until 1854.

back to top


Pin
Morton Winthrop Brown (1839-1862)
United States, 1861-1862
Butternut
H. 15/16, W. 15/16, D. 3/16 in.
Gift of Miss Mabel L. Josselyn
1941.146
Inscription:
“Carved from a peach / stone by / Morton W. Brown / 1839-1862”

According to the donor this brooch was made by Morton Winthrop Brown (1839-1862). Butternut pins were worn during the Civil War by a faction of Northern Democrats called Copperheads or Butternuts who believed that the federal government did not have the right to stop a state from succeeding from the Union. The butternut was chosen because Confederate soldiers’ uniforms were dyed with butternut dye stuff. It was also favored because the cross-section showed two joined hearts which was seen as a symbol of the unbreakable bond between north and south.

back to top


Belt Buckle
United States, 1861-1865
Gilt metal
H. 1 ½, W. 1 5/8 in.
Gift of Mr. G. Marshall Lindley
1952.148
Inscription: “Union”

This military-style lady’s waist buckle is decorated with various patriotic symbols and classical personifications of America. At top is an engraved American bald eagle with splayed wings holding a Union banner in beak; on the left is Columbia holding a shield of stars and stripes; on the right is Justice holding a set of scales above her head; and the bottom features a shield of stars and stripes surrounded by six American flags and surmounted by a bear. This belt was most likely worn by a woman to show her pro-Union sentiments during the Civil War.

back to top


Badge
United States, c. 1875
Silver
H. 1 ¼, W. 1 3/8, D. ½ in.
Gift of Mrs. Benson P. Wilkins
1951.6
Inscription:
Front: “POLICE”
Reverse: “1875”
Clasp: “PAT / 1864”

The reverse of this police badge reveals that is was fashioned from an 1875 silver dollar. The badge was originally owned by the donor’s father, Roscoe Alonzo Fifield of Methuen, Massachusetts. Roscoe was an assistant engine man for the Methuen fire department and a special member of the police department. It is not known why Roscoe was awarded this distinctive status.

back to top


Lapel Button
United States, c. 1894
Bronze
Diam. 5/8, D. 5/16 in.
Gift of George C. Winslow, Jr.
1940.872
Inscription:
Front: “GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC / 1861 VETERAN 1866”
Reverse of front: “PAT. MAY 22, 1894”
George Carlos Winslow (1834-1909)
Frank B. Conlin
Boston, Massachusetts, c. 1890
Cabinet Card
Gift of George C. Winslow, Jr.

This lapel button belonged to Colonel George Carlos Winslow (1834-1909), a Union veteran of the Civil War who is pictured above in uniform around 1890. The Grand Army of the Republic was founded in 1866 by Benjamin F. Stephenson in Decatur, Illinois. Membership was open to Union Civil War veterans of the various armed services who served between 1861 and 1865. Its mission was to support the huge veteran population by helping to provide pensions, medical care for the disabled, and support to orphans and widows. In 1868, it declared May 30th as a day to honor those who had fallen in battle, which today is recognized as Memorial Day. Members also founded the Old Soldiers Home, which eventually became the United States Department of Veteran Affairs.

back to top


Bowdoin School Pin
W.C. Dorrety
Boston, Massachusetts, 1914
Gold filled, enamel
H. 11/16, W. 11/16, D. 3/16 in.
Gift of Rosalie Warren
1996.27
Inscription:
Front: “BOWDOIN SCHOOL / 14”
Reverse: “W.C. DORRETY / BOSTON / 387 WASHIN ST / GOLD FILLED”
Harvard College Class Day Committee Pin
United States, 1897
Gilt metal, enamel
H. 1 7/16, W. 1 7/16, D. 5/16 in.
Gift of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Charitable Trust for Historic Preservation
2006.44.148
Inscription:
Front: “1897 / CLASS DAY COMMITTEE”
Back: “J.D. PHILLIPS”
Cuff Links
United States, Early 20th Century
Silver, enamel
H. 5/16, W. ½, L. 5/8 in.
Gift of Lydia G. Chace
1938.39 a,b
Inscription: “Brown”

New England is home to thousands of schools including the nation’s oldest public school, the Boston Latin School founded in 1635, and the oldest university, Harvard, founded in 1636. Historic New England has a significant collection of items associated with institutions of learning, including personal adornments. The most common school jewelry form is the pin. Rosalie Warren’s pin commemorates her 1914 grammar school graduation from the Bowdoin School located on Myrtle Street on Beacon Hill. James Duncan Phillips was a member of the Harvard class of 1897’s Class Day Committee. Class Day is celebrated the day before graduation and is a less-formal, student-focused event featuring a keynote speaker chosen by a student committee. Past speakers are from a wide variety of backgrounds and have included journalists, civil rights leaders, presidents, and actors. Other school pieces in the collection, like the enameled silver cuff links with waving Brown University pennants, are simply intended to advertise the wearer’s alma mater and school pride.

back to top


Membership Badge of The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
The Bailey, Banks & Biddle Co.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1931
Gilded silver, enamel, silk
H. 1 1/16, W. 1 ¾ in.
Gift of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Charitable Trust for Historic Preservation
2006.44.167 a,b
Inscription:
Front: “MASSACHUSETTS / NATIONAL SOCIETY OF THE COLONIAL DAMES OF AMERICA”
Reverse: “BB&B/SILVER" "FILIAE CONSERVANT VIRTUTES MAJORUM" "Anna / Pinggree [sic] / Wheatland / No 709 / 1931”
Case: “THE BAILEY, BANKS & BIDDLE CO.”

The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America was founded in 1891 with the aim of preserving American heritage through preservation efforts, patriotic service, and education. Membership is open to women who are descendents of distinguished men who resided in an American colony before 1776. This membership badge was purchased by or for Anna Pingree (Wheatland) Phillips (1870-1938) in 1931. The inscription “709” refers to her membership number, which are awarded consecutively as people joined.

back to top


Victory Pin
United States, 1941-1946
Painted metal
H. 2, W. 2, D. 1/8 in.
Bequest of Katherine L. Rust
1947.212

V for Victory pins were worn during World War II. Due to war time shortages and restrictions jewelry makers had to improvise and experiment with available materials.

back to top

 

Personal Statements: Jewelry of Societies and Institutions