Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sir Francis Drake's Plate of Brass

State and local history is serious! Because some people have a horse in that race to a great degree, I would never post a jokey story from some state's history, particularly if it runs counter to the accepted wisdom.

However there is a society in California that sometimes plays jokes and pranks on each other. As the story goes, four members of the Anxious and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus* decided to play a trick on one of their members, Herbert E. Bolton of the University of California. Since Professor Bolton had been urging his students to look for the legendary Plate of Brass in northern California that was described by Francis Pretty as having been planted by Sir Francis Drake to formally lay claim to Nova Albion, as he termed the part of California that he discovered, the merry pranksters decided to do a prank on that topic.



BEE IT KNOWNE VNTO ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS.
IVNE.17.1579
BY THE GRACE OF GOD AND IN THE NAME OF HERR
MAIESTYQVEEN ELIZABETH OF ENGLAND AND HERR
SVCCESSORS FOREVER, I TAKE POSSESSION OF THIS
KINGDOME WHOSE KING AND PEOPLE FREELY RESIGNE
THEIR RIGHT AND TITLE IN THE WHOLE LAND VNTO HERR
MAIESTIEES KEEPEING. NOW NAMED BY ME AN TO BEE
KNOWNE V(N) TO ALL MEN AS NOVA ALBION.
G. FRANCIS DRAKE
(Hole for sixpence)

So they obtained a sheet of brass, and hand-carved the text to make it seem like the real deal. Then they planted it in Marin County near where Drake was supposed to have landed; and waited for someone to unearth it.

Someone did, in 1933. However, the original finder forgot about it for a while then tossed it out on the side of the road in another part of Marin County. Someone else discovered it in 1936, and there was a lot of fanfare about this find when it was brought to Herbert Bolton.

Things got out of hand, and the original pranksters were hoisted by their own petard. (Ouch!) This was because in part the University of California paid $3500 for it and it was announced at a meeting of the California Historical Society.

Anyway, there was some question from the start as to its authenticity. Still, it was displayed as a treasure in the University of California Bancroft Library until 2005. At that time physical, chemical, and even linguistic tests established that the Plate of Brass was a fraud. Well, damn!

However, what if Queen Elizabeth had pressed her claim to the Golden State? After all, California was not one of the original thirteen that declared their independence. 

In my opinion, the Bancroft Library should have continued to display the Plate of Brass. After all, it was a world-class prank!

*It doesn't mean anything.









10 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

i'd say it was a good prank! :)

John Hill said...

World class, indeed!

Big Sky Heidi said...

An excellent prank! Both Bolton and UC Berkeley were taken in.

Anemone said...

State history is so serious!

Mike said...

I'm going to plant a plaque that says my great grandfather leaves the state of Missouri to his great grandson.

Linda Kay said...

Well, the prank certainly was effective to get that many people to buy in. Too bad some of them didn't live to see all the effects. Thanks for linking in with you picture!

Chuck Bear said...

The whole state got pranked!

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...


It's a shame they didn't take the scientific tests that were yet to be developed.

Cloudia said...

World class indeed!




ALOHA from Honolulu
ComfortSpiral
=^..^=

Bilbo said...

John Boehner said at a news conference that he's found in the basement of the Capitol Building a brass plate inscribed by the signers of the Constitution that proves that Obamacare is unconstitutional, and that Obama is really a Kenyan-born Muslim.