The year 1972 was a busy and productive year. At the Board of Director’s Meeting on February 9, 1972, the President announced that the settlement had been completed on the new building at 505 North Market Street and that renovations were underway to transform it into the Society’s new library and administrative offices. This was also the year that the Society received the gift of a very fine Chinese carved ivory presentation cup that had originally been given to Secretary of State, Thomas Francis Bayard (1828-1898), by the first Chinese Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States. This gift from Robert H. Richards, Jr., a former president of the Society, was announced at the Annual Meeting on April 11, 1972.
Thomas Francis Bayard was born in Wilmington on October 29, 1828 to James A. Bayard, Jr. and Anne Francis. The Bayard family had a starred history in Delaware. Thomas Francis Bayard’s father and grandfather had both been U.S. Senators and his great-grandfather, Richard Bassett, had also served as Governor of Delaware from 1799-1801. Thomas Francis Bayard continued this family tradition, entering the U.S. Senate in 1869 and serving until 1885, when he resigned to become Secretary of State during the Cleveland administration. As Secretary of State, one of the issues he faced was that of unrestricted Chinese immigration into the United States, which he (like many Americans) generally opposed. It was probably during negotiations for the treaty of March 12, 1888, which prohibited Chinese laborers from entering the United States for a period of twenty years, that he acquired this cup during diplomatic gift exchanges with the Chinese minister, Chang Yen Hoon. Although from a rather dark period in American foreign policy, this fine piece still stands out as an eclectic high-light of our collections.