Listed is a fine quality American, Art Nouveau sterling silver match safe in repousse relief, featuring an Indian chief with elaborate full regalia headdress decoration. It has a hinged top, and a nicely detailed match strike to the bottom. A monogram with non discernible initials completes the decoration on the reverse side (could be “J.T.L.”—just a guess).
It is marked “Sterling” on the inside storage compartment where matches are kept (see image). The image is indicative, and exactly the same as an Unger Brothers pattern, so probably by them. Unger Brothers of Newark, New Jersey sometimes sold their molds to the likes of Gorham and other nearby silver makers, so could also be by one of those silver makers. The American Indian was still a popular subject at the turn of the century; probably circa 1905 manufacture.
Dimensions: 2 5/16″ high x 1 3/4″ wide x 1/2″ deep
This match safe is in excellent all original condition with no restoration of any kind. There are no dents. It has a few minor scratches.
Match safes were popular from 1870 through 1920 and were used to keep wooden friction matches dry and contained so that they would not rub together and combust prematurely in one’s pocket. The wooden match wood be struck against the ribbed surface at the bottom to ignite (see image). The advent of matchbooks and the popularity of the cigarette lighter in the 1920’s brought about the demise of the match safe.
Provenance: This particular piece is from the George Cross collection. George died in 2007 and was known for his discerning quest for quality and rarity. He collected saloon items and Western memorabilia.