Mount Farnham, Farnham Tower, Farnham Creek, Paulding Creek
George Paulding Farnham was an American jewellery designer and sculptor who worked for Tiffany & Co from the 1880s until 1908, including as head jewellery designer from 1891. His designs won multiple international awards and established Tiffany’s reputation as a world class jewellery house while pushing American jewellery design in entirely new directions.
George Paulding Farnham
- Born: 6 November 1859 in New York City
- Died: 10 August 1927 in California
- Married Sally Welles James in 1896, who became known as Sally James Farnham, a well known sculptor
George Paulding Farnham apprenticed at Tiffany’s as a jewellery designer, graduating to become a “general assistant” at the firm in November 1885. Just four years later, in 1889, he won a gold medal and widespread acclaim for his designs showcased at the Paris Exposition. Farnham’s designs included a series of 24 life-sized orchids, which were highly praised as a highlight of the exhibition. Farnham went on to produce a number of influential pieces and private commissions. For example, for those interested in horse racing, Farnham designed the Belmont Cup (or the Belmont Trophy) in 1896.
Farnham continued to work at Tiffany’s until conflicts with Louis Comfort Tiffany led him to resign in 1908. Farnham’s career is fascinating but often overlooked: there’s a book written about his life and work by John Loring that I’ve desperately wanted to read but haven’t been able to get my hands on (if you’re interested, it’s available at the Invermere Public Library).
It is unknown how exactly Farnham became interested in the Windermere Valley. The first mention of Farnham in the area was in September 1899, when he came to the Valley to look over a property known as the Red Line group on behalf of Robert Mulford, who had mining interests in the area.1 Mulford was also from New York City, and it is likely that he and Farnham knew each other socially. Possibly as a result of this trip, Farnham became one of the investors when a group known as the Fraser-Chalmers syndicate bonded (mortgaged) the Red Line group later that year.2
Farnham must have had a great deal of faith in the Red Line claim, as he took over ownership of the group entirely in March 1901. He also took up a bond (a mortgage) on two other claims in the area.3 Farnham renamed the Red Line claim the Ptarmigan, and the mine under his ownership was particularly active during 1902-1903. Farnham and his family – his wife and two children – visited the Windermere Valley repeatedly during this period.
Farnham’s association with Tiffany’s caused some confusion in various reports on the mine, with some suggesting that Tiffany and Co owned the Red Line mine or had some direct financial interest in it. This was not the case.
Unfortunately, the financial gains from the Ptarmigan Mine never really transpired. The high quality showings of ore on the surface of the property didn’t continue underground, and high costs of shipping reduced profits. Small amounts of ore were sporadically shipped into the 1920s, however the money Farnham put into the venture did not give any meaningful return, and his investment into the mine almost exhausted his personal fortune.
By 1923, the Ptarmigan mine was owned by the Farnham Estate of New York and had been closed for nearly 20 years.4 J.P. Farnham (likely second son James Paulding Farnham) of New York came out to the Valley a couple of times in the 1920s to look over the property.5
Interestingly Farnham’s wife, Sarah James Farnham, also had two crown granted mineral claims issued on the property in 1917, including the Iron Cap (5347 G 1 – 51.65 acres ), and the Red Line No 1 (5345 G 1 – 51.62 acres).6 By 1917 Paulding and Sarah had divorced, so it is possible that some of Paulding’s assets in the Ptarmigan mine had been transferred to his wife.
The mountain now known as Farnham was named such in 1902 in honor of Paulding Farnham and in recognition of his promotion of the Ptarmigan Mine. Described as “a sentinel of the range”, the mountain towers across the McDonald Creek valley from the Red Line claim.7 Paulding Creek also recognizes his influence in the area.
A Footnote: When a Jeweller Owns a Mine
It is perhaps not surprising that Farnham used his creativity in jewellery design to commemorate his ownership of the Ptarmigan mine. There are three objects made by Farnham associated with the mine: one of which is known to exist, and the other two which have been lost.
- The first is an object known as the “Ptarmigan Vase,” which was sold at Southeby’s New York in 2011. Designed by Farnham and constructed at Tiffany’s with the help of other artisans at the Tiffany workshops, the vase is an artistic commemoration of Farnham’s association at the Ptarmigan mines. On the face of the vase, there is a cross overlaid with text which gives a latitude and longitude of Paulding creek.
If you’re interested in art and learning more about Farnham’s work, I suggest reading the catalogue from Southeby’s, and even if you’re not you should check out a more detailed report on the vase just to look at the photos. It’s worth it.
(As a note about the catalogue information: there’s no evidence that Farnham purchased a ranch in the area. When he visited the valley he tended to stay with H.E. Forster at Firlands, or with Thomas Starbird at his ranch Blowfly (later Mountain Valley) on Horsethief Creek)
- The second object associated with Farnham and the Ptarmigan mine is briefly described in the newspaper The Outcrop in 1903. A note describes a paper knife (a letter opener) given as a Christmas present from Farnham to Robert Randolph Bruce. The knife was made of gold, silver, and copper, with the metals extracted from the ore of the Ptarmigan Mines, “and run together, giving a very pretty appearance. Mr Bruce’s initials are on it in raised gold letters and naturally he prizes it very highly.”8 It is unknown what happened to the paper knife, although if it does still exist, its ties to the Ptarmigan Mine are likely lost.
- Finally, a third object is described in association with the steamboat the Ptarmigan, which was itself named after the Ptarmigan mine. The Ptarmigan was launched in 1903, at which time Paulding Farnham offered an elaborately designed eagle to be added to the steamer.9 The gift was accepted, however unfortunately further description of the eagle or its fate has not been traced.
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