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History Bytes

History Bytes: The Rochambeau Spoon

During the Comte de Rochambeau’s visit to Providence in 1780, he was the guest of Deputy Governor and Mrs. Jabez Bowen. As a token of appreciation, Rochambeau gave them a sterling silver stuffing spoon, engraved with the Rochambeau coat of arms. The spoon was later donated to the Newport Historical Society and is one of our most treasured possessions.

In 1970, the Newport Historical Society and the Gorham Silver Manufacturing Co. of Providence entered into an agreement to produce silver plate reproductions of the spoon. Sold mostly through the Tilden-Thurber jewelry stores, the spoon was a bargain at $24.95. Every year the Newport Historical Society receives phone calls from people who have stumbled across these reproductions as “ancient family heirlooms.” Unfortunately, the authenticity of these priceless keepsakes is somewhat diminished by the “GORHAM” stamp on the underside of the spoon, and the anchor hallmark flanked by the letters EP (electroplate).

History Bytes: President James Monroe’s Visit to Newport

Two hundred years ago today, on June 28 1817, Newport hosted a visit by President James Monroe as he travelled through New England. The president arrived from Stonington, Connecticut on the famed U.S. Revenue Cutter VIGILANT accompanied by Capt. John Cahoone, Oliver Hazard Perry (most noted for his heroic role in the Battle of Lake Erie), and other dignitaries. Salutes were fired from Fort Adams and Fort Wolcott as the schooner toured the harbor. Later, President Monroe visited Tonomy Hill with its commanding view of the town and bay, and attended a reception with Rhode Island governor Nehemiah Knight and a welcoming committee.  The following day, President Monroe attended services at the Episcopal, Baptist, and Congregational churches. He later paid a special visit to William Ellery, one of four surviving signers of the Declaration of Independence. At the end of the day, the president visited manufacturing sites at Fall River, then sailed to Bristol and Providence.

Image:  Building contract for the Revenue Cutter Vigilant dated 1812, drafted and signed by William Ellery, as well as Capt. John Cahoone and ship builder Benjamin Marble.


History Bytes: Valuable Services Rendered

On May 31, 1869, the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations passed a “Resolution in acknowledgement of the valuable services rendered by Miss Ida Lewis of Newport.”

Ida Lewis, the famous keeper of the Lime Rock lighthouse, made her first rescue at the age of 16 and continued to save lives until she was 64 years old. However, it was a rescue in the spring of 1869 that catapulted her onto a national stage. That March Ida rescued two soldiers from drowning when their boat capsized in the harbor. In appreciation of Ida’s dedication to her job as the keeper of Lime Rock, and in appreciation of her heroism, the following was passed.

Resolved: That this General Assembly desires to recognize the heroism of Miss Ida Lewis of Newport in repeatedly saving the lives of drowning men in at the risk of her own and we are proud that one of our own citizens by her courage and humanity has won the admiration of the whole country.

Resolved: That a copy of these resolutions be sent to Miss Ida Lewis of Newport.

You can view the Resolution, as well as other items and memorabilia from Ida’s life, on display in the exhibit Ida Lewis: a Newport Story. Located at the Newport Historical Society Research Center. Summer 2017.

Image: General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island & Providence Plantations May 31 1869 Resolution