About This Artifact
Charles W. Morgan (1796-1861) was a businessman who owned or invested in several commercial ventures: a candleworks that produced high quality spermaceti candles, sperm oil for lighthouses, textile and paper mills, iron works, coal mines, railroads, banks, insurance companies and land. In 1841 he managed 10 whaleships, including his namesake, the Charles W. Morgan.
The style of the signet ring befits a man of Morgan’s wide-ranging influence and power. Made of gold, it is set with an intaglio bloodstone. The image on the ring is that of the mythological griffin, a creature with the head and extended wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. The griffin was noted for its strength, swiftness and ability to see great distances. Other details include engraved leafy scrolls on the shank exterior, with the initials C.W.M. engraved on the interior. The ring was most likely used to impress the image of the griffin on a wax seal used to secure the back flap of an envelope or a letter sheet.
Questions for Further Thought
- Why do you suppose Morgan chose the image of the griffin for his signet ring?
- What might the griffin tell us about his personality?
- Do you think there is any special significance to the bloodstone?