[GRANT, Ulysses S.— GRANT, Julia, First Lady]. Carved Applewood and 18-karat Gold Jewelry Suite, Browne & Spaulding, Jewelers, New York City, 1865.
A UNIQUE SET OF JEWELRY PRESENTED TO MRS. ULYSSES S. GRANT MADE FROM WOOD CUT FROM THE APPLE TREE UNDER WHICH GENERAL GRANT'S OFFICERS MET GENERAL LEE ON THE MORNING OF THE SURRENDER AT APPOMATTOX, 9 APRIL 1865
Comprising a hinged hair comb, a brooch, and a pair of earrings with acorns and oak leaves with black enamel accents set in 18-karat yellow gold, hair comb set with 14 acorns and 24 leaves, earrings each set with 3 acorns and 2 leaves (evidence of later screwbacks), brooch set with 3 (of 4) acorns and 6 leaves (brooch lacking one wooden acorn). Laid in original fitted velvet-lined box marked Browne & Spaulding, upper lid with gilt presentation statement from the jeweler (some light rubbing).
Provenance: Mrs. Julia Dent Grant (presentation case from the jeweler; brooch engraved on back: "Mrs. Genl. Grant from Browne & Spaulding"; pencil note in her hand laid in: "I wish this to go to my dear Grandson Ulysses S. Grant, 3rd Fred's son. J. D. G. May 14th 1901"); by descent to present owner.
On the morning of April 9th, 1865, Lee sent Grant a letter requesting a meeting to discuss his army's surrender. Lt. Colonel Orville E. Babcock and his orderly, Captain Dunn, took Grant's reply to Lee, who they found resting under an apple tree near the Appomattox River. Lee, his Aide-de-Camp Lt. Colonel Charles Marshall, and Private Joshua O. Johns rode toward Appomattox Court House, accompanied by Babcock and Dunn. Marshall and Johns rode ahead of Lee to find a place where the Generals could confer when they encountered Wilmer McLean, who offered that Lee and Grant could use his home. In the late afternoon of April 9th, 1865, Lee surrendered to Grant, ending the Civil War.
After the surrender, many historic artifacts were taken by soldiers seeking souvenirs, including portions of the apple tree under which Lee sat. Writing a history of his regiment, John L. Smith publishes a letter he wrote to General Grant, October 3, 1884: "Dear Sir, I have read several articles in the papers of late alleging that the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox was not under an apple tree...on the morning of April 9, 1865, our regiment was lying near the hill. I was early at the spot and secured a piece of the tree. A number of officers were there also...and one of your orderlies was there and got a branch for you at the time. From this latter a set of jewelry was made by the Messrs. Browne, Spaulding & Co., of New York, for your wife, according to a paper I saw at the time" (History of the Corn Exchange Regiment..., 1888, pp. 675-676).
Smith publishes Grant's response in full along with a facsimile of the note, written October 16, 1884: "General Lee was seated on the ground, with his back resting against an apple tree, when General Babcock delivered to him my answer to his letter requesting an interview for the purpose of arranging terms of surrender. Lee was conducted to McLeans' house, within our lines, before I got up [to the front]" (ibid, pp. 676-677).
"A PRESENT FOR MRS. GRANT": On the front page on August 26, 1865, The New York Times remarked on the set of jewelry created for Mrs. Grant: "The acorns cut from the wood of the famous, but no longer existing, apple tree at Appomattox Court-house, under which the terms of surrender of LEE's army were agreed upon. ...The effect of the combination is exceedingly good." Harper's Weekly published an account as well as an illustration of the present set of jewelry on September 19, 1865 (Vol. IX, No., 454, pp. 565-566). Another less-complete set, comprising a brooch and earrings (but without the hair comb), was made by Browne & Spaulding after the present set at William Cullen Bryant's request for his wife. (See the sale of "A Portion of The Library of William Cullen Bryant," Anderson Galleries, 1908, lot 407, later sold Skinner Auctions, 1 March 2015, lot 13).