Monday, August 30, 2010

Credit where credit is due

Reading about my fondness for miniatures, follower Chase kindly sent along links to the microscopic art of Mykola Syadristi and a website about micro-miniatures. The 1st paragraph of the latter referenced a Sing Sing inmate named A. Schiller who, when he died in the 1800s, was found with 7 pins in his pocket on which he had carved the entire text of the Lord's Prayer. A search for more details yielded countless repeats of the anecdote verbatim. One comment suggested that the story of Schillerhoax, so I pressed on. Snopes was no help, but I found a site stating that the engraving was done by Charles A. Baker. As it turns out, that too was incorrect - a factual error promulgated by Ripley's Believe It or Not! - but it contained the detail I needed: that the pin was displayed at the 1915 world's fair in San Francisco (4th image). So after another successful attribution, I am pleased to share the verified details.

Swedish immigrant Godfrey Emanuel Lundberg (1879-1933), a noted engraver in Spokane, took on a personal and professional challenge in 1912. Five years earlier, Paul P. Wentz had engraved the Lord's Prayer on a brass pin head (3rd image) with a diameter of 2mm (.079"). Lundberg (1st image) hoped to better this by engraving the 65 words on the head of a corrosion-resistant gold pin with a diameter of less than 1.2mm (.047"). He conditioned himself by exercising and avoiding coffee and tobacco, had an extremely fine tempered steel tool manufactured, and devised a means of clamping his arm and hand rigid to steady everything but the tips of his fingers. Working late at night or early in the morning to avoid the vibrations of trolley cars and traffic, Lundberg still went through more than 200 pins before achieving his objective (5th image). "I came near giving up the job....I wouldn't undertake a feat like that again for any amount of money," said Lundberg, who suffered a nervous breakdown afterward. His 2 brothers had the pin authenticated and exhibited in the Palace of Liberal Arts at the Panama-Pacific Exposition (2nd image), where it was greeted with praise and amazement. Even Wentz, the engraver of the earlier and larger pin, took his hat off to Lundberg. The gold pin received a gold medal in engraving and prompted an offer from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to work on plates for U.S. currency. (When he declined, the Department of the Treasury surveilled him to make sure he was not using his talents as a counterfeiter!) After thousands had seen it at the fair, it was displayed around the country and photographed through a microscope. After the tour, the pin was secured in a bank vault, where it has been seen by only a few people since 1917.

Click here for further details and more photos.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You may add your comments here.