Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Image Herring-Farrel and Sherman of New YorkQ: I hope you can tell me something about this decorative piece of iron. It was found by a friend in the deep woods near a river bank in southern Georgia in the 1950s. As he was walking he stepped on something hard, pushed the leaves aside and dug this out of the ground. I spray-painted it gold long ago. What is it and is it worth anything?

A: This is a plate that was originally attached to the front of an old iron safe made by Herring-Farrel & Sherman of New York. It was held in place by screws that went through the "eyes" of the dolphins on the sides. The company won a bronze medal in 1867 for fire-proof and burglar-proof safes that were made of wrought iron, steel bars, and patented crystallized iron, which was advertised as "the only metal which cannot be drilled by a burglar." Several companies made safes advertised as fire-proof and tests were run on various brands to see which were best. The plate you have pictures a safe in a test furnace and four men nearby. Two of the men appear to be burglars, while the other two men represent the owners of the company. A bronze safe plate similar to yours, but with original gilt finish, sold at auction a few years ago for $173. It was made by Silas C. Herring & Co. and includes the date May 18, 1852. Since the company name on your safe plate is Herring-Farrel & Sherman and it includes the date Feb. 7, 1865, Herring evidently merged his company with the other two safe-makers after 1865.

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