Thanks for posting. I like to check old cannon fables aka provenance when possible, especially with Spanish cannons which interest me more than some others. Here’s the Julia description:
“RARE SPANISH 3-POUNDER BRONZE CANNON CAPTURED BY AMERICANS AT VERA CRUZ DURING THE MEXICAN WAR.
SN 697. Cal. 3″ bore. This 3-pounder Howitzer has great provenance, once being in the US Cartridge Collection, previously cataloged in the 1899 catalog of the A. E. Brooks Collection. This gun was on display at the St. Louis World Exposition in 1904, along with other captured cannon from the Battle of Vera Cruz. Like other 3-pounder late-18th and early-19th century 3-pounder Spanish Howitzers, overall length is 30″ with a 3″ bore. The associated carriage dates from the 19th century and has Brooks inventory number “2229” stamped. There is also a metal plate with a previous number “2153” which is possibly the previous collection number of A. Gerald Hull Collection of Saratoga, New York. Gun is in beautiful condition with smooth bronze and SNd on one trunnion “No 169”. PROVENANCE: Augustus Gerald Hull Collection,( 1858-1893); A. E. Brooks, Hartford, Connecticut, 1893; US Cartridge Collection, 1902; sold in auction by Robbins H. Ritter, East Hartford, Connecticut, 1942; Butterfield & Butterfield Auction. CONDITION: Very good overall including accompanying carriage. Tube has light mustard patina with numerous small dings and dents expected after 200 years. 52863-3 JS (6,000-8,000) – Lot 134”
Since the catalogs of two earlier collections it was in are online, I looked. The Julia description adds a few things to the descriptions in the earlier catalogs. Julia is the first to describe it (accurately) as a Spanish howitzer. The earlier descriptions left its nationality out and didn’t mention anything about capture, instead implying (my reading anyway) that it was used by US forces at Vera Cruz in the Mexican War. Specifically, both the Brooks (1899) and the USCC (1903) catalogs state: (see photo for identical text.)
Continuing: I couldn’t find a reference mentioning this cannon as part of the 1904 St. Louis Exposition, but I didn’t spend much time looking, but since it was property of the US Cartridge Company at that time, if they had an exhibit in St. Louis, the claim is at least believable, but if not I’d seriously doubt it was there.
I’ve found no reason to believe the earlier catalogs’ statements that this small howitzer was at the Battle of Vera Cruz employed by either side. I’ve been through the deck logs of all the ships that made entries regarding captured cannons and nothing this small was mentioned, as I recall the smallest guns taken aboard were 8-pounders. Some ships described each captured cannon in great detail including all markings, and some only gave material (mostly bronze), caliber, and length. Most of these pieces are on display at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD.
To put the Spanish howitzer’s “anecdotal” provenance in perspective, here’s a photo of the descriptions of all eleven cannons in the USCC collection in 1903. Note that most of the descriptions trace the cannons to their presence at a famous historical event (Battle of Yorktown, Spanish Armada, Siege of Petersburg, etc.). I have no doubt that most if not all of these connections were simply dreamed up by a former owner of the piece. My cannon collection once consisted of about 250 pieces which I researched using infinitely better resources than were available to the owners of these 11 pieces ca. 1900, and I was only able to trace a small fraction of mine back to when and where they were in service.
I should mention that I can’t find fault with the auction house for the description they produced. They would have used information received from the consignor and added any additional information they could find in credible sources, which to me constitutes due diligence. I can’t detect any intent at deception, and in any case, “Caveat Emptor” always applies.
By now I’m fully convinced that old cannon fables never die, and that nothing I can do will kill them. My earlier research on “The Cortez Cannon” is proof. I concluded that the sign on a small Spanish cannon in the Museum of The United States Navy, described as dating from 1480 and having been brought to the New World by Cortez, could not be correct, and sent them my information. I suggested they change their signage to at least use terms such “is said to have been” rather than misleading museum visitors. I was told there were no funds to replace the small paper sign. When I visited the museum about a year later the small sign had been replaced by a much larger, more durable sign. The text was identical to that of the previous sign. Old cannon fables never die.
I have no comment to make on the current Julia catalog. But to be fair, I have corrected Julia catalog entries on two separate occasions and they corrected both at once based on the information I provided. In one case it almost certainly diminished the value of the item. Even specialized auction house can’t know everything. I also know that auction houses have been known to add embellishments in order to enhance the value of something they are offering. Always buy the item offered not the story and you seldom will go wrong.
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