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05 January 2011

The Antique Sewing Box Mystery - Part 1

One of the decidedly non-genealogical routines associated with the California Genealogical Society is a fund-raising device that's become a standard part of our full day seminars – the silent auction. Members donate things that appeal to others who bid on them. The auctions serve as a place to browse between lectures and they are 100% profit for the society.

Our last silent auction was held on October 30, 2010, at Google All the Way with Lisa Louise Cooke. That auction was pretty much like all the others until it turned into The Sewing Box Mystery.

One of the donated items was an antique black-lacquer sewing box with mother-of-pearl inlay. Member Diana Wild bought it at a small antique shop in London in 1996 or 1997.  She never used it for its intended purpose but kept it as an ornament in her guest room.




It was Nancy Servin who set the whole thing in motion when she took a close look at the sewing box.
I was looking at it, and I opened the inside top of the box. It had a mirror in it with a mother-of-pearl clasp. It unfolded open to a shallow pocket, and in the bottom of the pocket was a slip of newspaper that was the size that you find in a fortune-cookie. It was so shallow in there and the pocket was fragile. I had no tweezers with me, but had a cat comb in my purse (don't ask) which was narrow enough to get into the bottom of the pocket and bring up the piece of newspaper.
It was an obituary (!) cut out of a London paper. (I think Diana said she got the box in London). No date, no paper named, but the name, age, and month and day of death were in the obit.

CREIGHTON. – 24th June, at 28, Ferme Park-rd,
London, N., Richard Creighton, in his 67th year.
No flowers.
New member Rusty Keilch had the winning bid and is now the proud owner of both the sewing box and the obituary.

What are the chances that a sewing box would travel from London to California with a hidden obituary in it, and ended up at a genealogical society silent auction?

As you can imagine the research got started within twenty-four hours. Stay tuned for The Antique Sewing Box Mystery Part 2.
 
Photograph and scan courtesy of John Keilch.

Copyright © 2011 by Kathryn M. Doyle, California Genealogical Society and Library

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