Alexander Cartwright Jr. Memorial Locket with Portrait and Lock of Hair

Sold For: $0

Auction Year: 2012 spring

Lot: 965

Item Year: 1839

Category: Pre-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

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Rare nineteenth-century double-sided funeral locket created in memory of Alexander Cartwright. One side of the locket features a small illustrated portrait of Cartwright, while the opposite side contains numerous strands of (presumably) Cartwright's hair. This is a brooch, with the locket portion mounted on a bevel supported by the oval frame. In that way the locket can be displayed with either the portrait or with the hair showing in the front. Lockets such as this, holding human hair, were very popular during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and produced and cherished as memorial pieces, to preserve and honor the memory of a deceased loved one. The significance of this piece, of course, is that it memorializes Alexander Joy Cartwright, who was one of the original members of the New York Knickerbockers. It was during his time with the Knickerbockers, in 1846, that Cartwright is credited with having formulated many of the modern rules of baseball. In 1849 he left New York and headed west to claim his fortune during the California gold rush. Failing to strike it rich, he continued on to Hawaii, where he ultimately settled. In addition to introducing the game of baseball to the Hawaiian Islands, he’s also credited with founding the first fire department in Honolulu. A successful businessman, he later became an advisor to Hawaii’s royal family. Cartwright passed away in 1892 at the age of seventy-two. His contributions to the game of baseball were formally recognized in 1939, when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This is an extremely unusual piece and because of our unfamiliarity with it we submitted it for examination to the world's leading expert in lockets of this type: Leila Cohoon, who owns Leila's Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri. Ms. Cohoon was kind enough to personally examine and provide a letter (which accompanies the piece) in which she provides both the results of her examination and offers historical information regarding the locket. While she can offer no opinion as to the authenticity of the hair, she does make note of one interesting fact: the hair enclosed here is comprised of both head and beard hair. In part:

The hair on the back is in the Prince Albert pattern named after Queen Victoria's husband. It was a very popular pattern and many brooches were made using this pattern. The little squiggly things are real gold which was often used in these arrangements. The design was made using a combination of human hair from the top of the head and beard hair. I have many made from human hair but this is the first time to see beard hair used with human hair. The beard hair is coarser than human hair from the top of the head. The fastener on the back has been replaced at some time. The brooch itself is handmade and gold filled. Not pure gold and beautifully engraved. On the painted side according to my jeweler has the older crystal. The edges are rougher and not set as perfect as the hair side. On the hair side it is possible that the crystal has been replaced. My jeweler said no knife or scrape marks deep enough to indicate the brooch has been open. It has a moving bevel indicating a time period when you were called an eccentric if you wore hair showing. Many of the brooches in my museum are on a bevel. Seen under the jewelers glass on the lapel of his coat is a piece of the same gold as on the back showing it was all done at the same time.

Robert Edward Auctions regularly passes on opportunities to offer the hair of famous persons (Lincoln, Elvis, Washington, etc.) specifically because we believe it is virtually impossible for us to authenticate hair with certainty. While that is also the case here, we make an exception in offering this item because it is such a fascinating and unusual piece. The fact that this is a nineteenth-century piece and appears to have never been opened, in addition to the fact that the hair includes beard hair (which according to the world's foremost expert in hair jewelry, is extremely rare and the first example with beard hair she has ever seen in over fifty years of specialized study in the field) leads us to believe it is exactly what it is purported to be: a memorial locket containing the hair of Alexander Joy Cartwright. At the very least it is one of the most unusual items we have ever seen relating to Cartwright and one that would make for an outstanding conversation piece. This is one of several extraordinary Alexander Cartwright items that have been consigned to this auction by an advanced collector with a longtime special interest in Cartwright. Items relating to Alexander Cartwright are, of course, extremely rare. After years of searching, his entire Cartwright collection consisted of only three items. Each is special and unique in its own way. The other items, the 1839 signed edition of The Club and the Alexander Cartwright painting by Charles Furneaux, are offered separately in this auction. The locket (2.25 x 1.75 inches) displays only light wear and, as noted in the letter, the fastener on the reverse has been replaced at one time. In Excellent to Mint condition. Reserve $2,500. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $0

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