Steamboat Commonwealth

Steamboat Commonwealth
J. Dean Benton, Providence, Rhode Island, ca 1864
MD 77

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The Norwich and New London Steamboat Company presented this unusual model to the Commonwealth's Captain, Jerome Wheeler Williams, in 1864. Built by goldsmith, J. Dean Benton, the model is made of 18-carat gold and coin silver. A music box concealed in the base played ten popular tunes of the day, while a clockwork mechanism operated the paddle wheels and walking beam.

This magnificent object is unquestionably one of the rare gems of the Museum's collection, and one of a small number (probably under 20, some of which may no longer exist) of precious-metal models, mounted on music boxes, by the same maker. The model features especially fine anchors, paddle-box "fans" and lunettes, chain guys, curved ladders, fretwork railing, window sash, panels, beam engine, fire buckets, and pump. Elegant inlaid wooden base, housing music box.


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