A highly rare and historically significant American gold thimble attributed to Paul Revere Jr. will be sold on May 21 at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers
in Chicago. The only other Revere thimble is a nearly identical example in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and it is known that only four attributed Massachusetts thimbles exist. The three other Colonial thimbles are in museum collections, making this thimble the only one left in private ownership. The thimble is part of a single-owner auction of the Ann Blakeslee Black Collection of Thimbles, Needlework Tools and Vertu.
Ms. Blakeslee Black began her collecting odyssey around 1961, traveling the world in her search for the rarest and best. She called on museum curators for education and advice, as well as a small circle of fellow thimblers with whom she kept in touch via round-robin letters. Her collection includes 272 lots of fine needleworking tools, vertu objects and thimbles in diverse materials ranging from porcelain to silver, gold and platinum. Highlighting the auction are a selection of 18th century American silver and gold thimbles, English and Continental silver and gold thimbles from the 16th century through the 19th century, English and Continental porcelain thimbles and a selection of 29 Meissen porcelain thimbles of the 18th century.
An early American gold thimble by Samuel Vernon of Newport, RI is especially rare in that it bears a hallmark. Few hallmarked thimbles are known to exist, since even in England thimbles were exempted from hallmarking standards due to their small size. The Vernon thimble and a later gold thimble by Jacob Hurd in the Garvan collection at Yale are the only known surviving 18th century Massachusetts thimbles bearing hallmarks.
Meissen porcelain thimbles are similarly rare. It has been said that few more than 250 18th century examples are extant today, and Ms. Blakeslee Blacks collection includes 29. These tiny porcelain collectibles were never meant for practical use, but rather as luxurious status symbols and showmanly examples of extraordinary workmanship. Even under magnification, the quality of the painting is outstanding, having certainly been executed using single strands of hair.
Preview for the auction will begin May 16 and continue until May 20. The auction will commence at 12:00 noon on Wednesday, May 21 in Chicago.