Rattle, Whistle, and Bells

Maker: Nicholas Roosevelt (1715–1769)

Date: 1755–68

Geography: Made in New York, New York, United States

Culture: American

Medium: Gold, coral

Dimensions: L. 6 1/8 in. (15.6 cm); 2 oz. 13 dwt. (82.3 g)

Classifications: Metal, Gold

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1947

Accession Number: 47.70


This rare and precious gold toy, with its elaborate chased and repoussé; ornament, might have been given as a lavish christening gift. It consists of a whistle, a piece of teething coral, six of the original eight bells, and a loop to hang a toy on a ribbon around the child's neck. Aside from being a teething device, the coral in the whistle and bells was thought to ward off enchantment and disease. As a token of protection and prosperity, whistle and bells were introduced in an eighteenth-century American portrait of Mrs. Jacob Hurd and child (64.114.2), and a seventeenth-century Dutch portrait of Jacques de Peyster (L.42.5.5). There are few examples of gold whistle and bells, all of which bear the marks of New York silversmiths. Other whistle and bells in the Museum's collection are 33.120.361, 1978.287, and L.2000.31.