Sailor Made Sea Chest Beckets & Mounts Ca 1850 American

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Sea Chest handles
mounting cleats

From the H. Wells Henderson Collection.

Presented is a pair of sailor made fancy rope
work chest handles called beckets and their rarely found mounting cleats. They were used as on sea chests during the
19th Century.  Seaman took great pride in making these, and the  fancier, and more complicated they are, indicate
how experienced the sailor was.  Only seaman, with years of experience were able to create such intricate works of “marlin
spike” seamanship. Fancy ones, such as this, commanded a great deal of respect from shipmates.
In an earlier auction
this Summer a pair of beckets without mounting cleats brought $2500.00 at the Thomaston Place Auction Galleries in

Maine and they didn’t have this distinguished provenance

IMPECCABLE PROVENANCE. These beckets are from the J. Wells Henderson collection. As A founder of Philadelphia’s
Maritime Museum, Henderson held his first exhibition in 1957 at the Peabody Museum of Salem, now Peabody Essex. 
Much of the collection is documented in his “Jack Tar”: A Sailor’s Life 1750–1910 which illustrated many
of the pieces that had been off the market for six decades or more. The carved and painted figure of “Jack Tar”
featured on its cover, sold just below estimates at $337,000. 

Beckets are made around a core of rope or twine called “marlin”. The general shape
is formed by taking a varying number of strands and whipping them together using small twine, binding them and leaving
the ends open to be made into eyes or grommets. The result is then covered by fancy rope work, which includes macramé stitches
and embellishments such as “Turks heads” and “monkey fists”. The final step is to form the bolt rope which passes through
the eyes and has Turks head on the ends. A wooden cleat is used to attach the Becket to ends of the chest.

THE TEAK WOOD CLEATS: Typical of the period are the wood cleats with carved
diamond and star designs that were used to accent scrimshaw and wood carvings of American design.

The blocks are 7
1/4“L x 2 7/16“ W x 1“ T

            A set of 19th C Beckets with rarely
found carved wooden cleats
         The back of both. Note broken strands of macramé
on left

OVERALL SIZE:  10 1/2“ L x 2 3/8“ W x 1 5/8”

WEIGHT (2)  4 lbs 4 oz

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