30 September 2012

A Commemorative Rook

Since the advent of the Internet, the cable, radio, and telephone chess matches of yesteryear have been relegated to the domain of chess history, from which their souvenirs occasionally appear shortlisted for Top eBay Chess Items by Price. The item on the left, titled 'Antique Chess Piece Commons v US Representatives Telegraph Match Trophy 1897', received 32 bids from 14 bidders, with a winning bid of GBP 411.41 ('approximately US $664.34). The price doubled during the last five minutes of the auction.

The inscription on the Rook reads, 'Chess match by cable between House of Commons London and House of Representatives Washington played over the lines of the Anglo American Telegraph Co. London and Western Union Telegraph Co. New York 1897. Contractors The Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Co. London'.

The item description informed,

An extremely rare antique 19th century Victorian white metal souvenir chess piece in the form of a Rook commemorating the historic match between the British House of Commons & the US House of Representatives in 1897, the match being played over two days by cable transmission the result of which was a draw.

This souvenir Rook was made by the brothers Carlo & Alphonso Guilianio, sons of Carlo Guiliano (1832-1895), the acclaimed Victorian era Italian Jeweller and bears their hallmark to the base. The elder Guiliano moved to London in 1860 and set up his own workshop in 1861. In 1874 he established a retail business, where he was patronised by Queen Victoria. By the time the chess piece shown here was made, Guiliano's sons, Carlo Joseph and Arthur Alphonse had taken over the business, which continued to trade until 1914.

As several examples of this piece are known, it seems likely that one was presented to each participant as a memento of the match. The last one of these that we are aware of came up for sale in Christie's South Kensington a few years back selling for £4375.00 hammer excluding commission.

OVERALL CONDITION: Very Good - We would remind bidders that this item is antique & pre-owned with associated light surface wear, we have left as we found it with untouched or polished patina straight out of a private estate collection here in Scotland - as shown above. Size (approx.) 3" high

Two information links included in the description were History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications : Cable Chess Matches and Collecting: Bonhams Auctions Rare Collector Chess Sets.

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