On a recent outing to an unplanted field in Salem County, NJ, among other finds (King George III copper, colonial tombac coat button, 1894 Indian Head penny) I located a colonial cufflink. As I unearthed it, I immediately noticed a crude design, which in my experience is often the case with 18th century cufflinks. At first, the image looked like the letters “D” and “R” intertwined with rays above them. However, through the magic of social media—this time a colonial coins and relics Facebook page—two members quickly provided a more accurate ID: The image was of a woman resting on an anchor. On the surface, this design conjures up a romantic vision of a young maiden longingly waiting for her beloved mariner to return to port after a long time at sea. However, through further research (and more online magic), I learned that this image is an age-old allegory used to symbolize undying hope.
Thus, in the reflection that followed this find, something became clear to me: Amid a very uncertain time of rough living conditions, short lifespans, and uncertain futures, the colonial wearer of this cufflink not only literally wore hope on their shirtsleeves, but (much more significantly) they held unyielding hope in their heart. We can learn a lot from our forbearers!
There’s a story behind every artifact. Most of these stories remain dormant like the fields in which they are buried. This latest find is yet another example of how metal detectorists can give them voice!