Christie’s Americana Week sale takes place January 21-25 at Rockefeller Plaza in New York. The sale includes a unique watch key owned by Thomas Jefferson. The key contains a lock of his wife’s hair and is inscribed “Martha W. Jefferson Born 19 Oct. 1748, Died 6 Sept. 1782.” Jefferson, who never remarried, pledged to always remember his wife. It is believed that Jefferson commissioned this watch key as a means of fulfilling that promise.
Jefferson is known to have had a penchant for watches. Christie’s cites Silvio A. Bedini, “Thomas Jefferson, Clock Designer,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, who wrote “Probably more than any other of the notable American statesmen, Jefferson had a special interest in timepieces.” Christie’s also notes that Jefferson intended for each of his grandchildren to inherit a gold watch, indicating that he considered these personal timepieces ideal for remembering loved ones. Describing the key, Christie’s notes that the lock of hair has been scientifically examined and is consistent with a sample of Martha Jefferson’s hair from the James Monroe Museum collection.
This watch key is lot 256 in sale number 2287. The pre-sale estimate is $40,000 to $80,000. For more information, visit the Christie’s web site.