Marvelous Pirate Relic on the Auction Block

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A unique relic of the Age of Piracy will be on display at the venue of the California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Oakland, California, on February 6th and 7th, 2015, at the Oakland City Center Marriott Hotel. The 17th century stoneware pitcher with “ostrich egg finish,” given by the notorious pirate Captain William Kidd to the “proprietor” of Gardiner’s Island, off Long Island, New York, is destined for the auction block, to be sold by PBA Galleries the morning of Sunday, February 8th. The pre-sale estimate is $80,000 to 120,000.

In the summer of 1699 William Kidd, Scottish-born seaman, known privateer, suspected pirate, was safe in New York harbor, just returned from an adventurous, and evidently quite profitable, venture in the East Indies. Some treasure he had stashed on Caribbean Islands, some he and his men had spent on wine and women, and some he retained on board ship. His swashbuckling ways, however, had ruffled not a few feathers, and he was sought on charges of piracy. A financial backer in Boston, coerced by fear of his own prosecution, had promised Kidd clemency if he would come to that city and surrender to authorities. Thus lured, Kidd embarked for Beantown, but stopped on his way at little Gardiner’s Island, owned by John Gardiner. There he befriended Gardiner, giving him several gifts, and also a task, to safeguard “several bales and boxes containing gold, silver, jewels and cloth of various sorts.” These he left, to be retrieved when his good name was finally cleared. Among the gifts Kidd gave to Gardiner and his wife was some “gold cloth,” and the unassuming, utilitarian pitcher, filled with dried fruits for the Gardiner children.

Kidd was never to return for his treasure—upon his arrival in Boston he was clapped in irons, thrown into prison, and, after a year in mostly solitary confinement, transported to England. In due course he was placed on trial, a sensation at the time, an event which was to cement his place in pirate lore. He was found guilty of piracy and murder, and hanged on May 23, 1701, his body gibbeted  over the River Thames at Tilbury Point—as a warning to future would-be pirates—for three years. The treasure buried on Gardiner’s Island, or much of it, was turned over the British officials. The pitcher and a few other objects stayed with the Gardiner family, relics of that fateful summer of 1699.

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The pitcher, or jug, has remained in the Gardiner family to this day, passed down from generation to generation. At some time after 1881 it was supplied with an engraved silver base, delineating the descent through Lucretia Thatcher (Perry) Osborn, to whom it was given as a wedding present—at likely the same time it was reinforced with a silver band around the middle, on which is etched “The Kidd Pitcher” and “Sent by Captain Kidd to Mrs. John Gardiner on Gardiner’s Island July 1699”; a silver rim around the top was also added.  Around 1916 Lucretia Osborn loaned it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. It was returned to the family not less than a decade later, and is currently owned by the great, great granddaughter of Lucretia Osborn, who now places it for sale. This is a unique opportunity to see, and perhaps possess, an object once belonging to one of the most memorable of pirates, famous to this day, still a household word after more than three hundred years.

For more information please contact PBA Galleries at pba@pbagalleries.com

PBA Galleries

Auctioneers & Appraisers

133 Kearny Street, 4th Floor

San Francisco, CA 94108

415-989-2665

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