Vintage Views: George Washington’s wedding sword

Dr. William Prescott, the keeper of George Washington’s Wedding Sword and other curiosities here in Concord, New Hampshire.

Dr. William Prescott, the keeper of George Washington’s Wedding Sword and other curiosities here in Concord, New Hampshire. Concord Public Library


For the Monitor

Published: 02-04-2024 7:30 AM

There have always been people in this world that care a great deal about the past as well as the future. Perhaps they do believe that without knowledge of the past we are doomed to repeat history for better or worse. While some people with particular interest in history might be practical, there are also the dreamers and those with active imaginations. Regardless of the road that people follow, it is in the best interest of all that they did live and preserve history in the form of documented facts, stories, folklore and certainly artifacts. 

Concord, New Hampshire is very fortunate to be the home of many individuals that found history interesting. Lots of people have actually become a piece of the fabric known in history books, where adventures have been shared with stone faced portraits on yellowed pages. I would be challenged to attempt to mention the many notables in our community that have contributed to our wealth of historical knowledge, from both the past and the very present day. I will share  with you just one name, a simple name from our past. An individual that did indeed care about  history and with vast knowledge of history he also accumulated a most extensive and certainly  impressive collection of natural history.

I speak of Doctor William Prescott this day, born in Sanbornton on December 29th, 1788 he moved with his parents to Northfield when he was just eleven years old. He was the son of William Prescott and the grandson of William Prescott from Hampton Falls, a Captain during the Revolutionary War. Young William Prescott was a very intelligent child, he did well with his studies and eventually studied medicine under Dr. George Kittredge of Epping, followed by lectures at Dartmouth he received his medical degree in 1815. After Dr. Prescott graduated, he set about establishing his practice and traveled as he gained experience with his practices in  Gilmanton, Academy Village and Lynn, MS. The road he travelled eventually led to Concord, New Hampshire in the year 1845. 

In addition to building his medical career it is noted that Dr. Prescott also entertained his love of history in each community that he practiced. He was involved in local politics and was even appointed a surgeon during the Civil War, serving with the New Hampshire 10th Regiment. At the conclusion of the war Dr. Prescott again turned his attention to both literary and scientific  concentration and served his community again in many areas; a Fellow of the N.H. Medical  Society, the Strafford Agricultural Society, New Hampshire Historical Society as well as many additional positions both inside and outside of New Hampshire.

Dr. Prescott was certainly a very busy man, his marriage to Cynthia Parish produced four loving  children, two surviving to adulthood. During his life he also produced one of the most extensive  collections of natural history and maintained his collection right here in Concord in his very own museum.​

Dr. William Prescott and his New Hampshire Museum of Natural History was said to be the  largest collection of natural history and curiosities in the state of New Hampshire. His extensive  cabinet hosted more than 10,500 Natural History specimens as well as additional antiquities from around the globe. Each and every specimen contained within the collection of Dr. William Prescott was meticulously preserved and arranged with extreme skill and taste. Some of his  varied specimens included the eyeless fish from the waters of the Mammoth Cave, the Albino Squirrel, the Striated Ape, the American Eagle, Alligator, Copper Headed Snake, Scorpions and  a Tarantula. There were many varieties of shells, footprints in stone, petrified wood and even war implements of the South Sea Islands and Native Americans. A bounty of countless coins and  medals rounded out the collection.

Dr. Prescott further extended his collection to include many artifacts from the American  Revolutionary War as well as relics from Palestine, Herculaneum, Ephesus and other places from far away.

There was one item preserved and revered by both Dr. Prescott and the many visitors to his fine  museum in Concord, General George Washington’s Wedding Sword.

It is the person that remembers the past as he travels into the future that embraces the coming  generations. The historian is simply a time traveler, fascinating one and all with stories and lore,  as the past is recalled again and again.