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Lot Number: 163
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c. 1777 Continental Navy Captain’s Uniform Button with “Rattlesnake” Vignette and "Don't Tread On Me" Legend Albert Reference NA-1

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c. 1777, Revolutionary War, Continental Navy Captain’s Full Dress Uniform Button, Albert NA-1, Partial shank, Choice About Extremely Fine.

This extremely historic, 21mm, American Revolutionary War, Continental Navy Captain’s Uniform Button depicts a central raised Rattlesnake, with legend: "Don't Tread On Me" underneath. Far nicer than the Albert plate example on page 87 (for this type / blank back). This button is made of gilt pewter with deep color having only traces of the gilt remaining, has a partial shank, being the only detraction to this excavated relic. The word "GILT" with seven small stars below appears on back, with a semicircle of stars below, circling the shank. Some gilding remains within the Snake on front and also on the back. NA-1 page 86 and image on page 87 in Albert. This is a very rare and historical piece of American Revolutionary War Naval History.

Provenance: Collection of Ambassador J. William Middendorf II.


According to the reference book titled, “RECORD OF AMERICAN UNIFORM AND HISTORICAL BUTTONS” by Alphaeus H. Alberts, 1969, this button is recorded as his “NA-1” meaning American Naval Button Number One.

Albert states that, “The first official regulation of the Marine Committee in Philadelphia, September 5, 1776, (headed by John Hancock) prescribed for officers (Captains and Lieutenants Uniforms): Blue Cloth... flat yellow buttons... Later, in the manuscript papers of John Paul Jones, preserved in the Congressional Library, we find the following original paper, which is endorsed “Uniform dress for the navy agreed to at Boston by the major part of the captains, March 1777”:

FULL DRESS FOR POST CAPTAINS - Dark blue coats... yellow flat buttons, with the impression of the rattlesnake and motto “Don’t tread on me” on each of them.

DRESS FOR LIEUTENANTS - ... instead of the rattlesnake they wear buttons with the impression of an anchor.”

Thus, these are the only two types ofContinental Navy Revolutionary War Officers buttons known, with this specific type worn by the major Captains, including John Paul Jones.
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Lot Number: 163
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Estimate Range: $2,500 - $3,500
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