Monday, February 25, 2019

Etched Goblet

Back in the 1970s finding and identifying old bottles was a popular hobby on Ocracoke. For years, lacking village trash pickup or a community dump, islanders simply buried their trash or tossed bottles and other items behind their houses. It was fun searching for bottles, researching their provenance, and wondering about the lives of those who used them.

In 1973, while clearing the land for the Village Craftsmen, I was proguing* about near where my great uncle Wheeler and aunt Tressie's chicken coop had been when I spied a glass object buried in the sand. I dug it out and discovered a beautiful glass goblet etched with pintail ducks.

At the time there were few resources for identifying the origin of the goblet. But recently, as I was sorting through boxes in the attic I rediscovered the goblet. It is signed "Richard E Bishop." In 2019 it didn't take me long on the computer to learn about Richard Bishop.

Born in Syracuse, New York in 1887, Richard E. Bishop  was a noted artist, painter, and etcher. He graduated from Cornell University and settled in the Philadelphia area where he was a member of various artistic societies and clubs. Bishop was internationally acclaimed for his wildlife prints and etchings. He was the original artist for the Federal Duck Stamp program when it was established in 1936. Bishop died in 1975, just two years after I unearthed the goblet, at the age of 87.

I can only speculate about how a Richard Bishop work of art came to Ocracoke. However, since more than 50 Ocracoke men worked in Philadelphia with the US Army Corps of Engineers in the 20th century, it seems likely that one of them brought the goblet home. At any rate, the goblet is a beautiful reminder of uncle Wheeler and aunt Tressie, and their appreciation for art.

*Proguing is the present participle of progue, which is a variation of the obsolete term "prog" (going back at least to 16th century England & Scotland), meaning to search, prowl about, or forage for food or plunder. On Ocracoke it can be used to mean searching for seafood, or more generally for just poking about or jabbing at something.


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  1. I’m not sure which is more interesting the goblet or the meaning of proguing.

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