Overall: 8 1/2 x 3 3/4 x 5/8 in. ( 21.6 x 9.5 x 1.6 cm ) Silver Weight: 8 oz (troy) 5 dwt (257 g)
engraved: along shaft above bit: "To John S. Giles, Esq., Treasurer / from the WIDOWS of the NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT / 1863" engraved: on front of bit: "Presented / April 15th 1863" stamped: along side of bit: "WM GALE & SON / 925 STERLING"
Skeleton key with cast stem and applied rectangular geometric bit; stem accented with cast auricular foliate drops at end; oval loop handle with auricular foliate accents at top.
On April 15, 1863, the Widows of the New York Fire Department presented this silver key to John Spencer Giles (1799-1881), a devoted long-term member of the New York Volunteer Fire Department. Among his many offices, Giles served as treasurer of the Widows and Orphans Fund, where he dispensed thousands of dollars in pensions to families of fallen firemen. Keys have a long history as symbolic gifts. In the United States, the gift of ceremonial keys represented an official bestowal of power as well as an honorary welcome or access to a city or organization.
Gift of Mrs. Stephen Weart Giles, in the name of Stephen Weart Giles
John Spencer Giles (1799-1881), who married (1st) Mary Anne Thorne (1803-1846); probably to their son John Christie Giles (1825-1893), who married Isabella Lee Weart (1827-1890); to their son Stephen Weart Giles (1849-1914), who married Virginia Walker (b. 1853), the donor.
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.