Salmon P. Chase Commemorative Silver Pitcher
Engraved Silver Pitcher Presented To Salmon P. Chase
By The Colored People Of Cincinnati, May 6, 1845
This silver pitcher was presented to Salmon P. Chase by Mr. A. J. Gordon in a ceremony on May 6, 1845 on behalf of the free black people of Cincinnati as an expression of gratitude for Chase’s efforts in defense of the slave Samuel Watson.
Watson was being conveyed on the steamboat Ohio Belle from Arkansas to Virginia by a slave handler when on January 21, 1845, the boat landed at Cincinnati. Watson stepped off the boat and went missing for a brief period before being located, seized and detained by his handler. The matter was then taken before a magistrate to obtain a certificate for his removal. Mr. Watson and his handler were subsequently brought before Judge N. C. Read who had to decide if Watson was a fugitive slave subject to recapture, or was now a free man by virtue of his presence in a free state.
Salmon P. Chase, a well-known lawyer, abolitionist, and advocate for fugitive slaves, was one of three attorneys who represented Watson in court. Chase made a spirited and powerful closing argument that Watson was in fact now a free man, but the judge rejected Chase’s points and allowed Watson to be retaken by his handler and returned to Virginia to resume a life in bondage.
Although Chase lost the case, the free black population of Cincinnati had watched the case carefully and were moved by the passion and force of Chase’s arguments. A decision was made to present Chase with an engraved silver pitcher for his work on the Watson case and for “public services in behalf of the oppressed.” The pitcher was fabricated and engraved by the Cincinnati firm of E. & D. Kinsey. The presentation ceremony took place on the evening of Tuesday, May 6, 1845 at the Union Baptist Church.
Chase later served as a Senator from Ohio, Governor of Ohio, and Secretary of the Treasury in the Lincoln Administration. President Lincoln appointed Chase Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1864.
The pitcher remained in the possession of Salmon Chase’s descendants until it was donated to Cincinnati Museum Center in 2013 by Chase’s great-great grandson, William Benjamin.
Additional Library Resources:
R.B. Pamphlets 326.973 A227
This pamphlet recounts the case of Samuel Watson and the presentation of the silver pitcher to Samuel Chase on May 6, 1845.
Albert Bushnell Hart (Author)
GENERAL B C487 Ha
This biography of Samuel P. Chase mentions the pitcher and states that he used is as a punch bowl for lemonade while he was the governor of Ohio. (See pages 82-83)
Harold Holzer (Author)
GENERAL q973.7092 H762
A rumor was circulating in 1860 that Abraham Lincoln was present at the presentation of the Chase pitcher. Lincoln responded to the rumor saying, "I have never yet seen Gov. Chase. I was never in a meeting of negroes in my life; and never saw a pitcher presented by anybody to anybody." (See page 154)
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