Elbert Eli Farman (1831-1911)
Born in 1831 at New Haven, Oswego County, New York, the American jurist and ambassador Elbert Eli Farman showed an early penchant for academic pursuits and went on to study law after graduating from Amherst College. He co-managed the Republican publication and the Western New Yorker for a few years before moving to Europe in 1865 to study and travel extensively. It was during this time that he became well versed in French, German, and criminal, international, and civil law – studies and skills that would later serve him well in his diplomatic career. When he returned to the United States, he was appointed District Attorney of Wyoming County.
In 1876, after two successful terms as D.A., Farman was appointed Consul-General of the U.S. at Cairo, Egypt, a role that would lead to his next appointment by President Garfield as a Judge of the Mixed Tribunals of Egypt to hear and resolve disputes between Egyptians and foreigners occupying Cairo, Mansoura, and Alexandria at the time. His efforts and tenure on the Mixed Courts proved so productive for ushering in a new age of justice and order that he would oversee the establishment of the Native courts in 1883 following the British Occupation in 1882. It was during this tumultuous time of transition in Egypt that Farman took yet another appointment, this time by President Arthur, to serve as a member of the International Commission. This task of examining the claims of Alexandrian citizens for damages suffered from the bombardment and pillaging that occurred during the war of 1882 would be his last official task as a judge in Egypt.
Farman’s diplomatic legacy lives on in the red granite obelisk, Cleopatra’s Needle, that currently lives in Central Park just behind The Metropolitan Museum of Art and which had formerly stood in front of Caesar’s temple in Alexandria. Upon noticing that London and Paris each boasted their own obelisk, Farman swiftly mounted a démarche to have Egypt give the United States any one of their obelisks to be erected in New York City. Working with both the Khedive of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, and his son and successor, Mehemet Tewfik Pasha, Farman was able to secure the monumental gift in 1877 on behalf of the United States government. It speaks to Farman’s great diplomatic acumen and savoir faire that he was able to secure such a culturally significant Egyptian object for the American people. Unlike the London and Paris obelisks which had been given as commodities in exchanges between Egypt and the respective governments for services and favors rendered, Cleopatra’s Needle was bestowed upon the United States entirely free of any such pretense.
Thought to be specially commissioned, this exceptional and possibly unique timepiece produced by Patek Philippe in 1875 recalls the enduring spirit of discovery, diplomacy, and dignity from a bygone era. 'Form' watches by Patek Philippe are cherished rarities for collectors, however, according to reserach never before has a 'form' watch taken the shape of a backpack from the celebrated manufacturer. With such intricated detailing of the hat, tools, rolled blanket, and straps, one will notice on close observation just how much time and meticulous workmanship went in to the making of this exceptional timepiece.