Provenance - Independence Hall
Completed in 1735 as the Pennsylvania State House, it took two years to build Independence Hall home of the 1st Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence and where the Constitution was debated and put to paper.
During the renovation of Independence Hall in 1897-98, 16 of the original beams holding up the floor on which the giants of the era debated the future of the 13 Colonies were replaced under the supervision of the project manager and superintendent of the Independence Hall, Samuel Reeves. Rather than discarding the beams, Reeves retained possession of the old timbers.
In 1912 Reeves sold the beams to John S. McQuade a builder and member of the Philadelphia City Council for the purposes of cutting them up and making “relics”, but McQuade stored the beams for 12 years and in 1924 sold them to two brothers, Walter and Clarence Deisroth owners of a paper box company in Philadelphia.
The Deisroth’s reduced some beams to 100,000+ slivers and sold them as souvenirs during the Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926.
In 1956 the Deisroth’s company went into bankruptcy and at auction Mr. Henry Gouse a retired sales engineer and the Mid-Atlantic Tennis Champion of the 1940s bought the wood at auction, along with what was left of the timbers: thousands of chips and 20 gallons of sawdust, the byproduct of producing the 100,000+ slivers. Grouse stored the beams in a barn on his property on the outskirts of Philadelphia where he made gavels out of some of the beams and presented them over the years to President Eisenhower, President Nixon, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, and other political leaders. Grouse also donated 4 of the remaining beams to Independence Hall and the National Park Service (now the operator of Independence Hall) as confirmed in National Park Service letter acknowledging “the gift”.
In 1975 Gouse was in his 80’s and his ex-wife “reluctantly” sold the remaining woodpile to an artist and attorney from whose estate the Historic Pen Company was able to acquire the remaining Witness Wood®.
Mrs. Grouse only sold the Witness Wood® because of the high cost of living and her struggling economic situation, she simply could no longer afford to keep the timbers and sold the Witness Wood® with the understanding that it would not be desecrated.
The new owners subsequently cut up much of the remaining wood again into slivers, producing thousands of history cards and memorabilia that were sold during the Bi-Centennial in 1976 all over the country and in many major department stores.
The remnant wood has remained to dry out and deteriorating in storage since the 1970s until the History Salvaged acquisition.