Plates Of The Society of The Cincinnati

Feb. 7, 2024, Lot 608, Society of the Cincinnati set of 12 plates, selling at the Potomack Company

Never imagined I’d be running a conceptual art and dishware blog, but here we are.

The Society of the Cincinnati is a hereditary organization founded in 1783 by Henry Knox so the officers of the American Revolution—and their descendants—could keep in touch. Around 5,500 men in the US and France were deemed eligible to join, and 2,150 joined within the first year. There are 13 affiliated societies in the US, plus one in France. George Washington was invited to be the first president.

Washington disapproved of the hereditary and primogeniture aspect of the Society, and so that section was stricken from the group’s founding articles. It was put back in after Washington’s death in 1799. [Alexander Hamilton was the second president.] Each eligible officer may be represented by one male living descendant at a time.

The Society of the Cincinnati has a giant palazzo on Massachusetts Avenue in Dupont Circle in DC. In 1960, this set of plates handpainted with the crest of the Society was produced by Delano Studios of Setauket, LI, a small porcelain painter which also made such dishes as the commemorative plate for Eisenhower’s 1953 Inauguration, and the Sayville Yacht Club’s 1967 Nationals.

They are now for sale, from the estate of Mrs Mary Lee Bowman of McLean, who passed away in late 2022. Bowman was a renowned hostess and supporter of the Virginia steeplechase, and a seven-time golf champion at the Chevy Chase Club, which inaugurated an annual women’s tournament, the Bowman Cup, in her honor.

In 1960 she married A. Smith Bowman, and moved to his family’s 7,240-acre farm, Sunset Hills, where his family operated what was long Virginia’s only legal whiskey distillery. The farm is now the city of Reston. Bowman was a descendant of Col. Abraham Bowman, who fought in the American Revolution. So maybe the plates were not Society of the Cincinnati swag, but were made as a wedding gift from/to a Society member. Mrs. Bowman is survived by several loving relatives, including her nephew Robert E. Lee, V.

Lot 608: Set of 12 Society of the Cincinnati Porcelain Plates, est. $150-250 (sold for $750) []
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