Alexander James Strachan supplied gold boxes to the royal goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge & Rundell and Wakelin & Garrard. He was referred to as the 'Paul Storr of gold boxes' by Arthur Grimwade (London Goldsmiths, 1697-1837: Their Marks and Lives, London, 1976, pp. 672-73). The view of the battle of Waterloo is taken from a print drawn and etched by George Cruikshank (1792-1878), engraved by James Rouse in 1816. It was published in 1817 as part of an 'historical account' of the 1815 campaign by William Mudford. The subtitle at the bottom of the print reveals that the famous caricaturist drew on eyewitness accounts of the battle: 'Delineated under the inspection of officers who were present at that memorable conflict'.
Born in Wapping, Sir William Curtis (1752-1829) made his fortune in the Greenland Fisheries as a manufacturer of sea biscuits. Between 1785 and 1795, Curtis rose from being Alderman to a Member of Parliament for the City of London and finally Lord Mayor. The scene on the front of this box is made relevant when learning of Curtis’ keen support of Pitt and subsequently of the war with France. In 1802, he was created Baronet for steady voting, however by 1818 he was at the bottom of the polls due to his Tory voting. The Times on July 2nd 1818 described a group of Curtis’ friends ‘highly respectable merchants and traders’ as meeting at a dinner at the City of London Tavern where they expressed their thanks and regrets to Sir William. A Mr. Brown ‘hoping his addressing the chair would be reckoned no intrusion’ demanded that their ‘bare expression of gratitude’ be demonstrated by ‘something worthy of being handed down to posterity – a handsome piece of plate, which might be pointed out centuries hence, as a memorial of his merits and their gratitude.’ Sir William’s obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine in March 1829 mentions that the presentation took place at the Draper’s Hall of ‘a gold snuffbox worth 200 guineas, containing their sentiments in a most affectionate address’. Clearly extremely touched by the gesture, Sir William included the snuff box in his will, with a portrait of himself by Lawrence, given to him by George IV, as an heirloom to be preserved at his home at Ramsgate (City Scraps, 19 October 1878- Noble Collection, Guildhall Library).
For another box by this goldsmith see lot 27.