By Emily Halonen
Nineteenth-century DC governor Alexander Shepherd always thought big. Sometimes his ideas brought him trouble, but when it came to a silver mine in Mexico, his idea paid off in a big way. This weekend, a pricey piece of that legacy—an inscribed silver flask—goes on the auction block at Sloans & Kenyon auction house in Chevy Chase.
Assuming office after the Civil War, Shepherd enacted many public-works projects that breathed new life into the war-weary city. Unfortunately, his large-scale projects racked up a large deficit, which forced him out of office and eventually out of the country.
Shepherd moved his family to Batopilas, Chihuahua, Mexico, where this time his big idea brought him riches. He purchased a silver mine, which yielded loads of the metal. Wealthy beyond his imagination, Shepherd later returned to DC and commissioned Gorham, the silver and crystal company, to create 15 sterling-silver flasks as promotional gifts for various Mexican and American officials.
The flask Sloan & Kenyon is auctioning off this Saturday—which features a reverse-etched portrait of Shepherd—was a gift for Shepherd’s brother-in-law, Andrew C. Bradley, a judge on the District Supreme Court and is inscribed with the words “Alex Shepherd to Andrew C. Bradley 1888.” The flask came to Sloans & Kenyon from the Bradley family in Chevy Chase, who originally owned the land around modern-day Bradley Boulevard.
As Stephanie A. Kenyon of Sloans & Kenyon says, the flask is “one of our more interesting items—certainly the most exciting silver item.”
The flask will be auctioned this Saturday, September 15, as part of a larger auction running September 14 through 17. Like to place a bid? Prepare to cash out the children’s college fund. Sloans & Kenyon estimates it will to sell for $20,000 to $30,000.
Sloans & Kenyon Auctioneers and Appraisers
7034 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase