Green Clay’s Beaker (080811_078)

Green Clay’s Beaker

Unknown artist dated 1813

Cattle horn with a worn silver dollar bottom

3¼” high

Ref. No. 080811_078


This cup was presented to Green Clay for his role in leading 1200 Kentucky volunteers in the relief of Fort Meigs. The eight-acre fortification, with William Henry Harrison in command of a 1,100-man militia, was besieged in early May of 1813 by the British Major General Henry Procter who commanded the Crown’s Western Frontier campaign from his Detroit post. Procter had nearly 1,000 British and Canadian troops allied with 1,250 Native Americans who were led by the Shawnee chief Tecumseh. The British established batteries for eleven cannons across the Maumee River along with two gunboats holding nine-pound cannons. The Kentuckians’ rescue of the fort was ultimately successful which enabled Harrison and his militia to leave with Clay in charge of a 100-man militia. A second siege on the fort was later thwarted after Harrison’s departure when under Clay’s command.

The engraved beaker depicts four cannon batteries placed atop a knoll across the river from the well-rendered fort including blockhouses and sentry positions. This is perhaps a very accurate, contemporary image of the fort. Opposite is an engraving by this skilled hand of the United States’ national symbol above the presentation inscription to General Clay. A worn Liberty silver dollar bearing the date 180_, was used for the bottom. The underside of the coin has a crudely engraved B CLAY, which was likely added a generation later by a son (Brutus). A short crack is the only apology for this well-cared for beaker, which survives in otherwise pristine condition.

Clay’s beaker first left the family when sold at public auction from the estate of Cassius and Bethel Clay on Oct. 21, 1978 in Mexico, Missouri. Engraved powder horns are a relatively common accouterment of the early frontier. Undoubtedly the maker produced powder horns as well, which may assist in the identity of the carver. Horn cups seldom survived, if ever made in any significant numbers. When found, they are more often English than American. This is a superlative example in every aspect of a very scarce form.