MERIDEN — When a locally produced, prized silver sculpture known as “The Buffalo Hunt” was found in 2003, historians rejoiced that their search for the famed piece was over.
Plans were quickly made for Protein Sciences, the medical research company which was acquired by Sanofi Pasteur last year, to re-loan the piece, produced by International Silver Co in the 19th century, to the future American Silver Museum to be housed at Wallingford’s Johnson Mansion.
The large silver-on-bronze model was designed and patented by Theodore Baur, of the Meriden Britannia Co., for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. It is believed to be 15 inches wide, 27 inches long and 22 inches high. The detailed sculpture depicts a Native American on horseback slaying a buffalo.
After the first American Silver Museum, located on West Main Street, closed in 1996, “The Buffalo Hunt” had been displayed in the office of former Protein Science Corp.’s CEO Daniel Adams. Its location was a complete surprise to those historians looking for it, who guessed it probably went to Texas with the oil tycoons who bought out Insilco Co., formerly known as the International Silver Co.
As of 2003, Protein Sciences had official ownership of the 40-pound piece, and it was on permanent loan to the original American Silver Museum, but they got it back when the museum closed. Since Protein Sciences has been acquired by Sanofi Pasteur, the future of the sculpture and its whereabouts are unclear. Protein Sciences representatives could not be reached for comment.
Adams acquired the sculpture through a long line of company buyouts, mergers and building takeovers, according to a 2003 Record-Journal article.
At least two models of “The Buffalo Hunt” were later produced in 1882 and 1896, according to Ralph and Terry Kovel, renowned antique writers. One model, a smaller version, is currently housed at the Andrews Homestead in Meriden. It is not clear if the original, larger, model was the one on display in Adams’ office.
In 1985, officials with the Military and Naval Department of Illinois disclosed to International Silver that they were in possession of one of “The Buffalo Hunt” figures. The department had reportedly won the sculpture as a trophy, donated to the Illinois National Guard Rifle Team in 1903 by Senator Washburn of Minnesota for winning three Northwestern Rifle Association shoot-off competitions between 1891 and 1903. The Meriden Historical Society attempted to obtain the figure in 1985, but the National Guard retained ownership.
Allen Weathers, of the Meriden Historical Society, said he remembers viewing the large figure on display at the International Silver Co. before the company was bought out by two oilmen from Texas in 1988.
Former Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust President Jerry Farrell Jr., told the Record-Journal in 2003 that the sculpture was produced at the height of the city's craftsmanship in the silver trade.
"It's a very artistic piece and not like other things— where 40 million were created," Farrell said. "I think there were only six made."