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The Plate of Brass


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X-Ray of the 1936 Plate of Brass



 

For $3,500 Shinn sold the artifact to the California Historical Society who in turn presented it to the University of California. The CHS also furnished a sum of money to be used "for such test or tests as to determine the genuineness of the Plate as might seem desirable".


 

Testing of the Plate was performed by Dr. Colin G. Fink, Head of Electrochemistry, at Columbia University, Dr. E.P. Polushkin, a consulting metallurgical engineer for New York City and Professor George R. Harrison of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The examination was conducted using the most advanced scientific tests available and took more than seven months to perform. On September 16, 1938 they submitted their report to the University of California and concluded: "It is our opinion that the brass plate examined by us is the genuine Drake Plate referred to in the book, The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake published in 1628". An article containing a photograph of the Plate appeared in an article published in the Christian Science Monitor in 1939.


 

For decades the Plate was displayed around the world and it was considered by many to be the most famous historical artifact ever discovered in the western United States. Back to top


   

The Missing Set of Tools Used to Create Drake's "Plate of Brass" was Discovered near "The Treasure Site"

   

   

1976 Letter from Dr. Cyril Stanley Smith

Dr. Cyril Stanley Smith, a world-famous Metallurgist was asked to examine the Plate of Brass in order to determine if it was an artifact left by Sir Francis Drake. In this excerpt from a letter to James D. Hart of The Bancroft Library, Dr. Smith discussed his thoughts on the form of the tools used to create the Plate's inscription. The full-text of Dr. Smith's letter can be viewed via the "Internet Links" page.

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Excerpt from Letter


The Tracing Tools

In ancient metalworking terminology, the tools were known as tracers. Highly skilled Spanish metalsmiths used tracers to form the pattern of the metal "bezel" of rings (jewelry). The bezel holds the stone and is considered to be part of the "setting". Sir Francis used these tools as a rough pattern for the vertical lines in the text of the Plate of Brass. Back to top

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Close-up of Guilding on a Tracer

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Close-Up of Guilding on a Tracing Tool


   

Comparison of the Lettering on the Plate of Brass to the Results from Rolling the Tools onto Modeling Clay

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Note the similarity in the appearance and pattern of the letters in the Plate of Brass (top) and the forms, shapes and pattern created by rolling the tracer on modeling clay (bottom). Back to top


   

   

The Rod

The Rod was used to make all horizontal and diagonal lines on the Plate of Brass. The Rod also has other ancient metalworking features whose measurements match the lengths of the horizontal and diagonal parts of the lettering in the text of the Plate of Brass.

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Above and Below are the Edges Used to Create the Inscription on the Plate. The end of The Rod (bottom) was used to Make the Period marks.


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The Hammering Plate

After casting the Plate of Brass was hammered over the Hammering Plate to give it an older and more sophisticated appearance. After hammering, the edges of the Plate were sheared or cut in order to improve the appearance of the finished product. Back to top

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The Controversy about the Plate's Authenticity

 

The Publisher of this website had the opportunity to meet separately with Mr. Peter Hanff, President of The Bancroft Library and with Mr. Edward Von Der Porten, Former Head of the Drake Navigator's Guild. These two men were instrumental in creating the controversy surrounding the authenticity of the Plate of Brass. They conducted several press conferences since 1974 where they raised questions of the Plate's authenticity and they alone promoted the notion that the Plate of Brass was created as part of a hoax played on Dr. Herbert Bolton of UC Berkeley by the fraternal organization known as E. Clampus Vitas. There has never been any corroboration by anyone that their claims are true.


 

I met with Mr. Von Der Porten approximately six years ago at the beginning of the quest. I approached him in an effort to enlist his help in the recovery effort. Much to my surprise, he abruptly informed me in an almost threatening manner, that I shouldn't tell anyone about what I had discovered because they would think I was crazy. That was the end of the conversation!


 

I met with Peter Hanff in January 2003 to discuss my discovery of the "Tools" that could transform his "worthless fake" back into a "priceless artifact". After having a metallurgical assay performed on one of the "Tools" at his request, Mr. Hanff would never take my calls again! To make matters worse, in February 2003, Mr, Hanff and Mr, Von Der Porten held a joint press conference which promised new information about the Plate of Brass but actually was nothing more than a repeat of their same old story about the "hoax".


 

THE REACTIONS OF BOTH MR. HANFF AND MR. VON DER PORTEN ARE SUSPICIOUS AT BEST! STATE AND FEDERAL AUTHORITIES SHOULD INVESTIGATE THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE PLATE OF BRASS CONTROVERSY. PERHAPS THESE MEN HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE SUBSTITUTION OF A "WORTHLESS FAKE" IN PLACE OF THE "PRICELESS ARTIFACT". Back to top


   

The "Great Poste" to which the Plate of Brass was Nailed

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"The World Encompassed" states that the Plate of Brass was nailed to a great poste. The experts were unsure of what or where the "poste" actually was. A dictionary of Middle-English terms revealed that the word "poste" meant a stump in the 1500s. So, a great "poste" would be a large stump. The "poste" was discovered in 2005 on Greenbrae Ridge. The date June 17, 1579 had been carved into the stump in Roman numerals. Some of the Roman Numerals representing the date June 17, 1579 are clearly visible.


 

The Original Rod

 

There is no doubt that The Rod used to fabricate the "Plate of Brass" was cast at Nova Albion. Along the edge of the San Rafael Marsh the "Original Rod" was discovered. As shown in the photographs following this paragraph, the "Original Rod" is approximately the same length as "The Rod" and has the identical edge functions that were used to make the horizontal and diagonal lines of the inscription on the Plate of Brass.


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