Norman Epstein Hoard
A collection of jewelers and watchmakers tools dating from 1760 to 1920.
Norman Epstein was a well known antiques dealer living in the Mattapan section of Boston just east of Blue Hill Ave. His home and barn were among the oldest remnants of what was once a farming community in the 18th century. Epstein specialized in architectural elements salvaged from the demolition of many of Boston's older buildings; he also bought antiques and artifacts wherever and whenever he could in New England. At some point in his career he was able to obtain for the Shelburne Museum in Vermont many of the hand tools now in their collection. He also apparently salvaged large quantities of dies and other artifacts from the jewelry making industries of Attleboro, MA and Providence, RI. The Norman Epstein hoard represents one fragment of his acquisition of the industrial remnants of this industry. Probably belonging to a single owner, the collection is significant in reflecting the absolute dependence of early American craftsmen on English tools. The tools in the hoard that date after approximately 1820 begin to show the marks of American makers. Tools in the hoard dating from after the Civil War are all made in America. The Epstein hoard is particularly interesting in the wide variety of maker's marks on its jeweler's files, which come not only from England, but from other European nations, and later from the United States.
The dovetail box in which the hoard is located appears to date from the last years of the 18th century and has an intriguing brass label on its lid marked "Bertie Faxon Brookville #4" and seems to be of the same age as the box. If anyone has additional information as to the identity of Bertie Faxon, please contact The Davistown Museum. It should be noted that the Liberty Tool Co. has salvaged and recycled a number of hewing axes and other edge tools marked "Faxon". The origin of these tools, found in the Quincy, MA, area, was a mystery until the publication of the Directory of American Toolmakers, which notes a Richard Faxon working in Braintree, MA, circa 1795, and probably earlier. He was almost certainly the maker of the tools salvaged by the Liberty Tool Co. in the mid-1970s.
Tools from the Epstein hoard on display at the Museum.