Artemas Ward Sleigh 

Artemas Ward House


The conserved Artemis Ward SleighThis two-person sleigh was once owned by General Artemas Ward, a Major General in the American Revolutionary War and a Congressman from Massachusetts.


Ward was born in Shrewsbury, MA in 1727 to Nahum and Martha Ward. The sixth of seven children, he grew up under common conditions, but was accepted to Harvard in 1748. In 1750, he married Sarah Trowbridge and eventually fathered eight children of his own. After his marriage to Sarah, he returned home to Shrewsbury where he opened a general store. Ward would serve through both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, during which he obtained the rank of Major General and was General George Washington’s second in command. His associations with men like John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and George Washington, paved the way for his role as the first governor of Massachusetts, his participation in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, the Continental Congress, and the US House of Representatives. President John Adams declared that Ward was “…universally esteemed, beloved and confided in by his army and his country.”


Proper left side before treatmentThis sleigh was in poor and unstable condition due to damage sustained by a roof collapse under which it was being stored. Owned by Harvard University’s Artemas Ward House, an assessment and proposal was requested of B.R. Howard & Associates to determine the degree of damage sustained. The object was transported to our studios for documentation.


Though many pieces were retained after the vehicle was damaged, it was obvious that many fragments had been lost and damaged beyond salvage. The proper left side of the vehicle sustained the brunt of the damage, however, a significant split was found on the proper right side of the sleigh that appeared to have been unrelated to the other damage. The paint appeared to be original and was in excellent condition with only isolated areas of flaking paint. Additionally, the paint appeared to have been covered with a natural resin, which had darkened over time, becoming slightly opaque on the proper right side. The iron, on the other hand, had lost the majority of its original paint and varnish and was undergoing active corrosion. The vehicle as a whole was covered in a heavy accumulation of dirt, grime and bird droppings.


Proper left side after treatmentB.R. Howard & Associates was subsequently contracted by Harvard University to perform the necessary treatment to the Artemas Ward sleigh. The treatment commenced with an in depth documentation process, including extensive high-resolution digital photography of the object. The inside and outside of the object was then cleaned using a rheostatically controlled vacuum cleaner. The sleigh was then realigned and clamped into its proper orientation. With permission from the curatorial staff, a section of white pine—chosen because of its similar grain to the structure, as well as its similar behavior under temperature and humidity changes—was cut and fit to replace the missing segments of the sleigh’s proper left side. The vertical central batten, the forward edge of the arm rest and associated applied moldings, and the rear batten were also replicated using white pine. Additional repairs were repositioned or repaired with pine inserts and adhered using hot hide glue where necessary. Sections of ash were then sawn to match the original and the upper ends were steam bent to conform to the remaining sections of the curved dash. A pattern was then created for the missing center section of the dash and a replica was produced from that pattern using poplar.


Once all of the repairs were completed, all surfaces were cleaned and given an isolation barrier with a specialized reversible resin. Minor wood losses—or chips in the wood—were filled with water-soluble wood filler. All areas of repair were then in-painted and striped using a reversible paint palette; however, areas of painted design that were lost when the original sections were destroyed were not recreated. Recreation would have been based upon conjecture only and was therefore not done. The corrosion on the sleigh’s ironwork was then removed and the cleaned iron was coated with a specialized clear coating. Lastly, with the primary treatment complete, a second protective coating was applied and toned to match the aged varnish of the original sections of the sleigh. The completed vehicle was then photo documented and returned to the Artemas Ward House for exhibition.


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