Washington Evening Journal
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It’s called an escutcheon [es-CUTCH-eon]. It’s a large [25-inch by 30-inch] oil-on-canvas work of art, painted in vibrant colors of blue, red and gold. Captain Warren Beckwith’s escutcheon is one of Henry County Heritage Trust’s most prized artifacts.
In 1868, Civil War veteran John P. Reynolds of Massachusetts patented a system of displaying a veteran’s service record as a work of art. The general design was a shield with portions designated to the veteran’s ranks, positions, units, and the battles in which they participated. These paintings ranged in price from $5 to as much as $125 or more.
By 1875, Reynolds had taken on Walter C. Strickler as a partner. Strickler’s role was traveling around the country selling escutcheons to individual veterans, he also made presentations at local Grand Army of the Republic posts and set up a display at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The company displayed the escutcheons of several well-known leaders including Generals U.S. Grant, William T. Sherman and Philip Sheridan. The Reynolds-Strickler partnership ended by 1888.
It is not known when Captain Warren Beckwith’s escutcheon was commissioned, or by whom, but it most likely dates to the 1880s. The complete Civil War record of the 4th Iowa Cavalry is carefully documented in script with great detail, showing the various ranks of service Beckwith attained while serving with the 4th.
Captain Warren Beckwith was one of Mt. Pleasant’s best known and most prominent citizens. He helped found the extensive Western Wheeled Scraper Company, which eventually relocated to Aurora, Illinois. Captain Beckwith married Luzenia Porter, and their family enjoyed an influential role in the community affairs of Mt. Pleasant. In 1897, the Beckwiths’ youngest son Warren married Jessie Lincoln, granddaughter of Senator James Harlan and President Abraham Lincoln.
The Beckwith Escutcheon can be viewed upon request, as it awaits minor restoration. The Henry County Heritage Center Museum, located at 403 W. Madison St. in Mt. Pleasant, is open Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. and other times by appointment by calling 319-385-4983.