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Look for hidden information!
Posted 5 Dec 2013, by Don
Sometimes one can find an indicator of the origin, the maker, an owner, or other provenance or history of a piece by looking very carefully for written or impressed writing. black_oyster_gb_2_r Case study:  I recently had a wonderful gameboard that had mellowed to a desirable, very dry surface.  It has a picture-frame molding, joined by cut nails, which usually indicate a 19th century date pre-1880, yet the nails, and the form of the board, were not of that of the earlier 19th century.  So roughly the gameboard was mid-19th century to 1880, yet could be a bit earlier.  Upon careful examination of the back, I found a faint inscription in gold ink.   It was virtually  invisible when looking at the back as a whole, I only found it when looking in bright light and obliquely across the surface.   Under magnification, it appeared to read Geo. (short for George), I thought I saw a middle initial A., and I could read below 3rd US CAV (cavalry).  For several minutes I hoped it was George Armstrong Custer!!!, but google review showed he was 7th Cavalry, not 3rd. black_oyster_gb_back_r Being  hard to interpret even under magnfication, I macro-photographed the area of the inscription under ambient light, then zoomed in to enlarge it further in Photoshop, and cranked up the contrast and the edge-sharpening.  More letters were now clear.  I thought it referenced a Colonel (still hoping for Custer!), yet was now able to interpret a last name that appeared to be 'Williams'.  I  then photographed the inscription in the dark with ultraviolet illumination, did the same enlargening and sharpening in Photoshop, and  comparing enhanced daylight and UV, I was able to interpret the inscription as:  GEO. W. WILLIAMS CO L 3RD US CAV." Which would translate to: George W. Williams, Company L, 3rd US Cavalry.  The 3rd U.S. Cavalry was active in the Civil War starting in 1861, and from 1876 to 1885, was on active service in the Indian Wars. black_oyster_gb_CAV_r By combining the information translated from the back, with the cut nail joinery and the very dry and patinated surface, I was able to solidify an approximate date of 1860 to 1880, although it could have been made earlier and later inscribed.  Finding the inscription on the back allows us to more fully appreciate the piece, and it is its HISTORY that most importantly separates an antique from a reproduction with the "look".  Further research on George W. Williams could help determine more specifically when it was used.  I think Mr Williams would be pleased that we are making a connection to him, and the passionate collector who now owns this piece has so much more appreciation of the gameboard because of it. black_oyster_gb_inscription_UV_r