Alexander Robey Shepherd (1835-1902) helped restore Washington D.C. after the Civil War as Chariman of the Board of Public Works, then as Governor 1873-74. He was forced out in 1880, bankrupt and disgraced, and moved to Batopilas Mexico to run a silver mine in the Sierra Madres. There, he struck it rich, and on his return to the States and to D.C. - the occasion for parades - he handed out these monumental, special-order Gorham flasks.
Sam Hough found the flasks in Gorham's special cost book, completed May 16, 1888; the total order was for 46 flasks. Formerly in Gorham's design library was an 1885 volume with two large folding maps and 19 photographs of the Batopilas site, showing the genesis of the design. Making the flasks required almost ten hours each, with more for casting. The etching, though, required 40 hours of work for each flask. The total price for each flask, including a bag to protect it, was $80. Other examples of Shepherd's flasks are in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Brooklyn Museum, and the National Museum of American history.
Below is the text of a Gorham label, which presumably originally accompanied each flask:
The silver from which the accompanying Flask was made is the product of the mines at Batopilas, Mexico, of which Governor Shepherd is the manager.
On one side is an etching of the Hacienda San Miguel constructed by him for the reduction of crude ores into bar silver, with the Sierra Madre mountains rising in the back ground.
The border is an application representing the Pitaya tree, a fruit bearing cactus.
On the reverse side is a portrait in profile which will be readily recognized.
- Gorham Manufacturing Company, New York.
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