Fourth-of-July collectible fit for a queen

ANTIQUES

July 04, 1993|By Lita Solis-Cohe and Sally Solis-Cohen

Hobart G. Cawood was Superintendent of Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia for 19 years, during which he presided over Fourth of July ceremonies at the place where it all began. When he left the U.S. Park Service in 1991 to become president of Old Salem Inc., the historic community in Winston-Salem, N.C., Mr. Cawood brought along his collection of patriotic caps, T-shirts, hats, suspenders and ties; one bow tie has stars on one side of the knot, stripes on the other.

"I have enough red, white and blue to go to any Fourth of July celebration without a problem," he said.

When asked what he considered the most desirable Fourth of July collectible, Mr. Cawood didn't hesitate for a second, proclaiming: "The small Liberty Bell replica, cast from a piece of the original, which collector Set Momjian presented to Queen Elizabeth II at Independence Hall on July 6, 1976, during the Bicentennial celebration.

"You can't find anything better than that. The Queen ordinarily doesn't accept gifts, but she made an exception for that special piece of history."

Mr. Momjian, a Philadelphia-area resident, in 1976 was given a small nugget of the Liberty Bell which had chipped off during the bell's preparation for the 1876 Centennial. The patriotic souvenir had descended in the family of Mrs. Catherine Wilson, who headed the Independence Hall museum in the 1870s. Mr. Momjian recalls that he had six bells, each about 1 1/4 inches high, cast from the relic; they're inscribed and numbered 1 to 6.

He presented No. 1 to Gerald Ford during the Bicentennial festivities; gave No. 2 to the Queen, a descendant of George III, from whom the Colonies gained independence; Nos. 3 and 4 went to Mr. Momjian's sons; and No. 5 he presented to Jimmy Carter during the 1977 inaugural celebration.

RTC The big question for collectors is to whom bell No. 6 will be given. President Bill Clinton is a possibility, according to Mr. Momjian.

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