Mar 10, 2020 - Sale 2533

Sale 2533 - Lot 24

Price Realized: $ 1,250
Show Hammer Price?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 400 - $ 600
(BRYAN, WILLIAM JENNINGS.) His presentation "Swords into Plowshares" peace treaty paperweight. Nickel-plated steel, 3 x 3 x 4 inches; minor wear and period patina. Np, 10 December 1914

Additional Details

The famed populist orator William Jennings Bryan, after running unsuccessfully for president three times, reached the height of his career as Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson in 1913. With war brewing in Europe, he made pacifism and neutrality the main themes of his tenure, and boasted of signing thirty peace treaties with other nations.
In November 1914, to celebrate these achievements, he purchased some decommissioned swords from the United States Army and had them cast into paperweights in the shape of plows, thus turning the biblical quotation "They shall beat their swords into plowshares" into literal reality. These were originally intended for distribution to his diplomatic counterparts in other nations, with some additional examples set aside for his American friends and supporters. In addition to the biblical quotation, each plowshare bears two quotes from Bryan: "Nothing is final between friends" and "Diplomacy is the art of keeping cool"--which was apparently first uttered by Bryan at a conference of refrigeration engineers on 16 September 1913. The present example is engraved with a gift inscription from Bryan to F.L. Seely on 10 December 1914. Fred Loring Seely (1871-1942) was an Atlanta newspaper editor who had supported Bryan's 1908 presidential campaign.
Bryan's diplomatic career came to an end soon afterward, brought on by Germany's May 1915 sinking of the RMS Lusitania, which killed 128 American passengers. Bryan argued for continued neutrality, but the mood of the president and the nation was against him; he resigned a month later. By April 1917, the United States was at war.