A House In Scotland, An Antique Find & The American Civil War - Buyer's Regret

Discussion Favourite Finds


Ahoy there!  Welcome to this week's instalment of 'Blog Post Monday'.

Sometimes in this job you stumble across the most unbelievable pieces in the most unlikeliest of places.  Sometimes you find an incredible piece and decide not to trust your gut, and you then have to live with the subsequent regret of not having bought that special piece.  Well, both scenarios happened to me recently and I've been waking up most mornings since thinking about the item...  In fact, I've become so obsessed that I decided to spend countless hours researching the piece, despite not owning it and furthermore, without any means of finding or contacting the person who was selling it!  I've got myself in a right ol' pickle over this!

So, as always, get that kettle on and sit tight as I share with you an incredible piece, with an incredible story, with incredible value, which was offered to me and I regretfully turned down...


Image:  the fascinating find


Well, let me begin by painting the picture for you...

It was a Saturday morning, just a few weeks ago, when I was working my way around a car boot sale at York Racecourse and I came across a gentleman who specialised in house clearances and who was selling some bits and pieces.  I got chatting to him as there were a couple of pieces that I'd asked to look at, both of which happened to be favourite pieces of his.  It turns out that he'd stood at Newark Antiques Fair the day before and had decided to stop off at York Car Boot Sale on his way back home to Scotland.

One piece that I'd asked to look at didn't seem much on first glance, but then the gentleman began telling me the story...

During a house clearance at a council house in Scotland, this gentleman had found a dish of broken bits of tat, I guess we all have something like it in our own homes.  It's either a dish of tat or a drawer of tat!  Anyway, when he found this particular piece buried within the dish, it was filthy, completely black, so you couldn't see any of the engravings. Before choosing to just dispose of it, he rubbed it with his finger and some of the dirt came off to reveal parts of the engravings, so he thought he'd have a proper look when he got home.


Image:  the fascinating find 


He cleaned it up, tested it and found that it was made of solid silver.  He began researching the name 'T. Salter' and to his amazement, it kept bringing him back to a Captain Titus Salter (1722–1798) who was an American military commander during the American Revolution and helped draw up the defense of Portsmouth.  In fact, his home in Portsmouth is documented in a photograph held by the Library of Congress and is now a site of area walking tours.

Now, this was as far as the seller's research had gone.


Image:  the fascinating find


However, having woke up one morning thinking about the item, I set about researching the reverse side myself and this was when it got very interesting...

You'll see from the photograph above that it was engraved with the name 'Sam Drowne', along with the wording 'Portsm. N.H. Fecit.  So, I started my research with the word "fecit".  This is actually Latin, meaning "he made".  With that, it became apparent that 'Sam Drowne' may have actually been the maker of this piece.  This is when I began researching silversmiths of that period and found the man we were looking for, 'Samuel Drowne'.

'Samuel Drowne' (1748-1815) is a well known American silversmiths of the 18th century based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  So, this ties in with the wording 'Portsm.' on the piece.  According to records, like many other American silversmiths of the time, Drowne was an ardent supporter of the patriot cause and was apparently concerned in an affair which is considered by many historians as marking the beginning of the Revolution, the 'Boston Massacre'.


Image:  An illustration of the Boston Massacre 5th March 1770 


The 'Boston Massacre' was a confrontation in Boston on 5th March 1770, in which a group of nine British soldiers shot five people out of a crowd of three or four hundred who were abusing them verbally and throwing various missiles.  British troops had been stationed in the Province of Massachusetts Bay since 1768 in order to support crown-appointed officials and to enforce unpopular Parliamentary legislation.

Amid tense relations between the civilians and the soldiers, a mob formed around a British sentry and verbally abused him. He was eventually supported by seven additional soldiers, led by Captain Thomas Preston, who were hit by clubs, stones, and snowballs. Eventually, one soldier fired, prompting the others to fire without an order by Preston. The gunfire instantly killed three people and wounded eight others, two of whom later died of their wounds.


Image:  An illustration of the Boston Massacre 5th March 1770 


On March 12, 1770, Boston residents held a town meeting, which was how local government decisions were made.  At the meeting, a committee was appointed to produce an account of what happened on the 5th March 1770 to send to officials in London.  'Samuel Drowne' was one of 96 residents of Boston to give sworn testimony to justices of the peace about what happened between the British soldiers and residents of Boston.  These accounts were taken by ship to London on 1st April 1770.


Samuel Drowne testified that:

"About nine o’clock of the evening of the fifth day of March he saw about 14 or 15 soldiers of the 29th regiment, some were armed with swords or bayonets, others with clubs or fire shovels. They came upon the people of the town and abused some and violently assaulted others. Most of the townspeople did not even have a stick in their hands to defend themselves. Most of the soldiers went to King Street. Drowne followed them, and saw them fighting with people there. Drowne thought that there were no more than a dozen people there. When the soldiers arrived, most of the people left. Some of them were first assaulted by the soldiers. Then the soldiers went towards the main guard house. At the same time, five soldiers and a corporal armed with guns came out of the guard house. By this time, there were two hundred people on King Street. Drowne saw Captain Preston, whom he knew well, with a number of soldiers armed with guns near the Custom House. Drowne believed that most of the crowd left after seeing the armed soldiers. No more than twenty or thirty remained on King Street. Those who remained were mostly sailors and other persons who were poorly dressed. Several of them dared the soldiers to fire. Drowne then heard Capt. Preston say to the soldiers, “Damn your bloods! Why don't you fire?” The soldiers did not listen and Preston immediately said “Fire.” The soldiers fired randomly."


Eight soldiers, one officer, and four civilians were subsequently arrested and charged with murder, and they were defended by future U.S. President John Adams.  Six of the soldiers were acquitted; the other two were convicted of manslaughter and given reduced sentences. The two found guilty of manslaughter were sentenced to branding on their hand.

The Massacre was a signal event leading to the Revolutionary War.  It led directly to the Royal Governor evacuating the occupying army from the town of Boston. It would soon bring the revolution to armed rebellion throughout the colonies.


Image:  a plaque at the entrance to the Granary Burial Ground in Boston.


So, there you have it ladies and gentlemen.  An astonishing piece of American history, uncovered during a house clearance of a council house in Scotland and offered to me for purchase at York Car Boot Sale, to which I refused...  In my defence, it was offered to me at quite a high price.  Nevertheless, having done this research and seen the significance that these names have had during that important period of American history, it would have probably been worth the investment...!



In fact, during my research I actually found a silver American Revolutionary War Eagle-Pommel Officer's sword of a Captain Samuel Storer, which also happened to bear the name of 'Samuel Downe'.  That piece sold at auction for $24,292.50...



Well, that's it for this week folks.  I hope you've enjoyed this little insight into the gut wrenching world of missed opportunities.  As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, particularly if you've ever suffered from any buying regret...!



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So, until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!




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  • Don Drown on

    is the silver drown piece up for sale?

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