What does a Gothic Revival coffee pot from Ball, Black & Co. have to do with Millard Fillmore and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals? An inscription, “Lucy S. Lord From Mrs. Millard Fillmore,” led us to discover the story of the second oldest ASPCA in the country and its impact on Buffalo, New York Society in the second half of the 19th century
A beautiful piece of silver made for Ball, Black & Co. in the Gothic Revival style, the coffee pot would have fit in perfectly with the castle-like mansion on Niagara Square in Buffalo, New York where Millard and Caroline Fillmore lived from 1858 until his passing in 1874. After his sudden death, Caroline became more and more reclusive, dying in the mansion in 1881 after a long illness
In 1873, the year before his death, 13th president Millard Fillmore co-founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Buffalo, New York along with Dr. Rev. John C. Lord. One of the oldest chapters in the United States, the Erie County ASPCA was crucial in establishing laws and regulations protecting animals of all stripes. Lucy S. Lord was the niece of co-founder Dr. Rev. John C. Lord and herself heavily involved in the ASPCA. The founder of the Humane Education Department, in 1892 Miss Lord established the Humane Poster and Creative Writing Contest for schoolchildren in Erie County still held annually today.
In a letter dated November 15, 1873, to Mr. James Brooks, who asked Fillmore for advice in founding a Humane Society in Rochester, New York, Fillmore said “[T]he ladies have been the chief workers in this good cause, and among these Mrs. Lord, wife of the Doctor [Rev. John C. Lord], [and] his niece Miss Lucy Lord… have been faithful and persevering regardless of all opposition, and they and their good sisters who have enlisted in the cause, are entitled to all the praise. Let their noble example be followed by the ladies of Rochester, and we shall see a revolution in public sentiment alike creditable to the human species and beneficial to the brute creation.”₁
Lucy S. Lord herself provided a story of President Fillmore’s lifelong concern for the welfare of animals included in the Millard Fillmore Papers published by the Buffalo Historical Society.
I now recall an incident of President Fillmore’s boyhood days as related by himself once at one of the meetings of our society. “When I was a thoughtless boy,” said Mr. Fillmore, “I took the life of a mother bird. I remember my father was greatly grieved, and said, ‘Millard, do you realize what you have done? You have taken the life of a mother and have left her children to die of starvation in the nest. How would you like to have a great giant come along and kill your father and mother and leave you alone without food or care?’ My father’s rebuke sank so deeply into my heart that since that day I never have taken the life of a living creature.”₂
Moran’s will continue the generous legacy established by Millard Fillmore and Lucy S. Lord by donating the buyer’s premium from the sale of lot 55 to our own Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA. Many of us at Moran’s are adoptive parents of dogs or cats; this coffee pot is a reminder to all of us of the good work the ASPCA has provided for over 150 years and it is our pleasure to contribute to the cause.
₁Severance, Frank H. Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society. Buffalo, NY: Buffalo Historical Society, 1907.
₂Fillmore, Millard, Lester W. Smith, and Arthur C. Detmers. Microfilm Edition of the Millard Fillmore Papers. Buffalo, NY: Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society and State University College at Oswego, New York, 1975. Page 517.