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AMOS DOOLITTLE: Connecticut's Paul Revere

   Like Paul Revere, Amos Doolittle, born in Cheshire, was a colonial-era silversmith who ventured into creating and selling engravings. As with Revere, Doolittle the engraver is chiefly remembered for scenes connected with the Revolution. Like Revere, Doolittle was an aggressive patriot. If he wasn’t, like Revere, the raw material for legend, he nevertheless put in long and effective service in the New Haven Governor’s Guard militia.
   Doolittle, along with artist Ralph Earle, was given special leave to travel to the site of the Lexington and Concord battles.  The two young soldier-artists got to the site ten days after the events happened.  While Earle sketched the scenery, Doolittle interviewed survivors and witnesses. The four Doolittle engravings that resulted are considered, like Revere’s engravings of the Boston Massacre, icons of the Revolution.
   There is a quirky twist to Doolittle’s military service. When the British invaded New Haven in 1779, Doolittle, picking off redcoats with his musket down at the harbor, was right in the thick of the militia’s defense. When it became obvious that they couldn’t stop the British, the rebels, including Doolittle, retreated to their homes.  Doolittle ran in to his house, where his wife was sick, and threw his musket under the bed. When the lobsterbacks finally showed up at the door, an English lady who was staying with the Doolittles stepped out into the street and requested of the officer a guard of the house, which he promptly provided.  A few of the troops were suspicious and went in to search the house. They found the musket under the bed, and, for a few minutes, things looked dark for Amos. Then the English lady, as cool as could be, explained to the soldiers how the law required everyman to have a gun in the house, and the owner of that gun was as great a friend of King George as they were themselves. Thanks to this lady’s fantastic line of British BS, Amos was saved.
   At an auction at Winters Associates in Plainville in January of 2014, two of Amos Doolittle’s engravings, “A View of the Town of Concord,” which shows British troops assembling in the town, and “A View of the South Part of Lexington,” showing the British and patriot battle lines, sold together for $471,500, including buyer’s premium, to a private collector who wished to remain anonymous.

 
This silver spoon made by Amos Doolittle recently brought $350 at auction. Inset: Amos Doolittle's maker's mark.

Auction catalog description:

Amos Doolittle (Cheshire, CT, 1754-1832), two early colored engravings depicting events from the Battles of Lexington and Concord, both laid down on cardboard: Plate II, "A View of the Town of Concord", showing British troops assembling in town, burning Provincial stores, and surveying Provincial movements from cemetery look-out; and Plate IV, "A View of the South Part of Lexington", showing battle lines and movements between British and Patriots, missing area of print in-colored by hand, measuring approximately 1 1/2" l. x 1" w. appearing approximately 3" above Doolittle name, both prints inscribed "A. Doolittle, Sculpt." LR corner, both with considerable toning, small tears, water stains, areas of discoloration, and loss, both frames with c. 1912-1952 Kennedy & Co. emblem and Peck Library, Norwich, CT stamp on frame paper verso, both matted and framed behind glass, both removed from frames for examination, both measure approximately ss: 13 1/2" h. x 18" w. [Provenance: deaccessioned by a Connecticut Museum that originally acquired prints sometime between 1888-1900, believed purchased for library by Henry Watson Kent, first librarian of the Peck Library at the Norwich Free Academy. Kent, an 1884 graduate of the Norwich Free Academy, later enrolled in Columbia University's first "Library Economy" course instructed by Melville Dewey. Kent was one of the founders of the Walpole Society and the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Research indicates that these engravings are not reproductions by Meriden Gravure or R.R. Donnelly. Further close-ups available upon request.] 

Estimate $ 5,000-50,000

 


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