From the Drayton Hall Collections: Elizabeth Bull Drayton’s Mourning Pendant

by Sarah Stroud Clarke, Archaeologist & Curator of Collections

The Drayton Hall collections span centuries and generations of Drayton family members. This month we are highlighting an object that is related to the John Drayton (1715-1779) family through marriage. Pictured below is the front (left) and reverse (right) of a mourning pendant honoring Elizabeth Bull Drayton (c.1716-1751).

morning pendant duo black

Elizabeth was married to John’s older brother Thomas Drayton (c. 1708-1760). Thomas and Elizabeth were married at St. Andrews Parish on December 30th, 1730 and during the course of their 21 years of marriage had ten children, only three of whom appear to have survived to adulthood. One of their children, William Drayton (1733-1790) became a chief justice and corresponded with both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. There is yet another interesting connection between the Drayton and Bull families in that Elizabeth Bull Drayton’s younger sister, Charlotta Bull (1719-1743) became John Drayton’s second wife; a connection most likely made through Thomas and Elizabeth. John and Charlotta were married on November 14, 1741 following the death of his first wife, Sarah Cattell Drayton, who was buried at St. Andrews Parish on December 24, 1740.

This mourning pendant most likely belonged to Thomas and Elizabeth’s daughter Mary Drayton Fenwick (1734-1806), who was 17 at the time of her mother’s death. Mourning jewelry such as pendants and brooches were most often worn by women upon the death of a loved one. The front of this pendant is a black stone, possibly obsidian, painted with gold leaf the inscription: ELIZ:, DRAYTON, OB 6, NOV. 1751, AET:35, meaning Elizabeth Drayton, Died November 6, 1751 at the age of 35. According to the records of St. Andrews Parish, November 6, 1751 was the date of Elizabeth’s burial at the church. The reverse of the pendant contains a beveled piece of leaded glass covering a plait of finely woven blonde hair belonging to Elizabeth Bull Drayton. It is clear from the wear pattern of the loop at the top of the pendant that this object was well worn. Many thanks to Grahame Long, Chief Curator at the Charleston Museum, for his knowledge pertaining to mourning jewelry and assistance regarding this object.

Drayton Hall Museum Collection, NT 85.1, Measures: 7/8”x1/2”. Gift of Mr. Peter Barratt.

Profile on William Henry Drayton

Portrait courtesy of the Library of Courtesy.

Portrait courtesy of the Library of Congress.

If Charles Pinckney (1751-1824)—Continental Congressman, signer of the U.S. Constitution, Governor of South Carolina, and minister to Spain—is considered to be a “forgotten founder” by historians,  then so to is William Henry Drayton (1742-1779). 

But, it is William Henry Drayton—Chief Justice of South Carolina, Continental Congressman, and signer of the Articles of Confederation (1778)—that perpetuated what has become the time-honored tradition of celebrating the establishment of our nation with a “grand fireworks” display on the “glorious anniversary” of Independence. 

Although not the first pyrotechnic exhibition, Drayton felt it essential to carry on with commemoration of the signing in 1779, even if the day fell on a sacred Sunday or in the midst of the yet uncertainty and casualties.  He believed it would be “calculated for improving bodily strength—to make Men athletic & robust,” a moral boost for a weary nation and so it was!

Unfortunately, William Henry only lived a few months after his arguments for continuing commemoration in the Continental Congress.  His death at the age of thirty-seven in September of 1779 ended the trajectory of this young founding father, but his contribution, although brief, laid another course in the foundation of the United States of America.

If you are interested to learn more about William Henry Drayton, please read Keith Krawczynski’s William Henry Drayton: South Carolina’s Revolutionary Patriot.

What is it? William Henry Drayton Mirror Knob

W.H. Drayton mirror knob RESIZED for blog

Late 18th century mirror knob. Copper alloy, enamel, and iron. Gift of Mr. John Mayer. Photographed by Russell Buskirk.

This unique object from the Drayton Hall Museum Collection illustrates the popularity of Revolutionary War patriot William Henry Drayton. While research on this item is ongoing, this object is thought to be a mirror knob used to help support the frame of a mirror to the wall; an explanation of mirror knobs can be found in the 1904-1905 edition of House BeautifulOther potential terms for this item include cloak pin or curtain pin. Whatever its use, the bust of W.H. Drayton is depicted in black on white enamel. Copper alloy with dot decoration serves to frame the ‘miniature,’ the reverse is brass with a threaded iron shaft. The image is taken from the Benoît Louis Prévost engravings of Pierre Eugène Du Simitière’s c.1777 portraits of American patriots which included William Henry Drayton. It is important to note that Du Simitière is also the artist that painted the 1765 watercolor depicting Drayton Hall.