DECORATED 1864 EASTER EGG BY A MEMBER OF THE 15th PA CAVALRY: WARTIME, WONDERFUL, AND WHIMSICAL

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Item Code: 945-516

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This whimsical, real Easter egg was apparently a gift from a member of the 15th PA cavalry to Samuel A. Henderson. Suspicion naturally settles on George Henderson of Companies C and A as the maker, but we have been unable to firm up the connection, but Easter Sunday fell on March 27 in 1864, and both “March” and “1864” are part of the carved decoration.

The top of the egg has an incised circle, which is then filled in with a geometric pattern crossed lines and squares. Below this, circling the egg, is the name “Samuel A. Henderson” with “March” more or less on the same line and the year “1864” vertically, reading upwards, with the last numeral just below the first letter of the name. The egg is decorated with leafy vines and three major motifs mixed in. One is an American flag, curling in the breeze, with a spear-point finial flag staff and flag cords, over the patriotic motto, “Long may it Wave.” Also prominent is a comic portrait bust of a smiling man, with antique, tall open collar, and balding head sprouting pointed shocks of hair at top and sides. Our best guess is that this is a popular comic stage actor of the time (indeed, we have the nagging feeling we have seen him in a period CDV portrait costumed for a famous role.) The last element is both comic and intriguing. The base of the egg has in script, “Anderson Cavalry.” Above this is a figure with riding hat mounted on, of all things, a rocking horse.

The Anderson Cavalry, of course, is the title of the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry, which had a very active record in the western theatre doing scouting, headquarters and escort duty, and taking part in numerous campaigns, losing 3 officers and 22 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded. “Samuel A. Henderson” does not show up in its rosters and we think it misses the point to look for him there. Most likely he was the recipient of this playful, gift Easter egg carved for him by a member of that regiment. He was likely a child, perhaps even the figure riding the rocking horse. If the carver was a Henderson as well, George Henderson would seem the only candidate in the regiment. A “D.M. Henderson” was discharged in 1863. George joined in January 1864 and was in both Company A and Company C during his term of service (he seems to have been absent when the regiment mustered out in July 1865.) In any case, this is a wonderful piece that could well be the expression of a new soldier’s missing his family and home.

The condition is excellent. The lettering and drawings are very visible, showing up as white against a thin light brown or deep tan. It would display very well in a collection of camp art, soldier valentines, illustrated song sheets and stationery. Needless to say, it is hard not to have a collector smile when they see it.  [sr]

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