Rare George Washington (in military uniform) Burl Snuffbox

Burlwood with horn liner (faux tortoiseshell)
Circa: 1800
Size: 3 1/8" (d)
This box eluded me for 25 years. French pressed burl boxes with American subjects are extremely rare. Up until a few months ago, I had only known of this subject through an example held at Winterthur and another at Sulgrave Manor (Washington’s ancestral home). Coincidentally, before acquiring this box, I learned of a different Washington burl box (which I also acquired) that is based on the Houdon portrait. The design of this box appears to be modeled after the 1791 “Eagle Cent” designed by John Gregory Hancock of the British firm of W. and Alexander Walker.

The quality of the box is excellent with great details on Washington's military uniform. The copy encircling Washington is legible and reads in French, “George Washington comm[ander] en chef de l’arm Anglo America elu par le Congress en Fev 1777. Née Virginia en 1733.” Translated as, “George Washington commander-in-chief of the Anglo America arm elected dictator by the Congress in February 1777. Born Virginia in 1733.” Washington for the record however, was elected commander-in-chief in 1775, and was born in 1732 (or 1731 on the Julian calendar).

French pressed burl snuffboxes were typically made from from around 1800-1820. I have seen maybe a hundred different subjects. They were made from steel dyes pressed onto steamed-heated wood discs and then details were further chased and finished.

While some boxes were double sided, most bottoms had a geometric, decorative design like the bottom of this example. Washington died in 1799 and this may have been made around the time as a commemorative box.


Condition: Excellent, save for a small, natural occlusion in the wood to the right of Washington (around 3:00).

Price: SOLD