England, circa 1870. A fine inlaid sewing box made by the Trinity House lighthouse keepers during the second half of the 19th century. The top of box features marquetry inlay with three racing topsail sloops and a lighthouse in the distance, and framed inside an inlaid banding. The front of the box is designed similar to the top with two inlaid topsail sloops and matching banding. The back and sides are figured rosewood veneer. The hinged lid opens to an interior with a removable tray, fitted with 8 divided wells, three with wooden lids and a pin cushion in the center. The box interior is covered with a celery green and gold paper and the lid is covered in royal blue velvet and trimmed with gold foil and a basket of flowers in the center. The box survives in good original condition with only minor loss of the box veneers. Measures 13" wide X 9 3/4" deep and 5 7/8" tall.
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Trinity House was the name for the lighthouse service in Great Britain in the 19th century. While on station, the keepers of lighthouses and lightships made exceptional boxes with fancy wood inlays, including marquetry and parquetry, often featuring sloops, lighthouses and other nautical symbols of the period. Sizes typically fall in the 6- to 12-inch range. The keepers sold these boxes directly to the captains of sailing vessels using Trinity House services. Surviving examples are rare, including still banks, storage boxes, valuables boxes and writing boxes.
A similar tradition was followed in the United States, where keepers of the Nantucket lightship made high-quality baskets for their families and/or for sale to island visitors.