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Friday, December 11, 2015

Silver Menorah

This silver Chanukah lamp is one of three menorahs in the Rosenbach's metals collection .

William Abdy I (d. 1790), Chanukah lamp. London, 1786. Rosenbach. 1954.1818.
It is a bench form menorah with eight oil lamps;  originally there would have also been a shammash lamp, which presumably would have hooked into the socket on the right.

William Abdy I (d. 1790), Chanukah lamp. London, 1786. Rosenbach. 1954.1818.
 An inscription on the front of the menorah reads "PRESENTED TO S. A. SAMSON, BY Mr. Asher Samson 5596." In the Gregorian calendar 5596 translates to 1835/36, but the menorah itself is older than the inscription. The hallmarks on the reverse clearly indicate that it was made in 1786/87.

William Abdy I (d. 1790), Chanukah lamp. London, 1786. Rosenbach. 1954.1818.
 If you are not familiar with silver marks, the lion passant guardant indicates that the piece is sterling silver containing 92.5% silver; the crowned leopard's head indicates that it was assayed in  London,  "l" is a date mark corresponding to 1786/87, and the monarch's head on the far right indicates that the duty was paid.  The "WA" mark which appears above the hallmarks is the maker's mark for the silversmith, William Abdy, generally called William Abdy I to differentiate him from his son.

We don't know much about the Samsons mentioned on the menorah, but the piece is engraved with a scene of the biblical Samson fighting the lion, which seems to predate the inscription.

William Abdy I (d. 1790), Chanukah lamp. London, 1786. Rosenbach. 1954.1818.

I did a bit of poking around online in search of our Samsons and it turns out that a list of donors for a "Jews' Infant School" opened in 1841 lists an Asher Samson, S.A. Samson, and L.A. Samson as all living on Oxendon Street in London (near Piccadilly Circus).

Jews'Infant School, 127 Houndsditch ... Address on the opening of the School ... 14 Sept. 1841, with a list of Subscribers, etc J. Wertheimer&Company, 1841. Available through Google Books

The 1841 census, taken the same year as the subscription list was made, lists Asher Samson, age 55, Amelia Samson, age 55, and Lewis Asher Samson, age 35 as living together on Oxendon St, which suggests that Asher may have been the father and L.A.his son. Although he doesn't appear in the 1841 census, S.A. may have been another son, possibly the Samson Asher Samson, born around 1810, who is listed as a cigar manufacturer in the 1851 census and later dealt in glass and china (he is buried in Balls Pond Jewish Cemetery in London and you can see his headstone on cemeteryscribes.com).

All of this is very speculative however, and I may be barking up the wrong tree entirely; there may well be other Ashers and other S.A.'s out there. There are several Samson family trees floating around online  and I have not had the time to sort it all out--so if anyone is looking for a genealogical project, let me know.

Happy Chanukah to all who are celebrating.



Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster at the Rosen-Blog.





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