The 1895 gold scroll (1910.2683.1).
On February 15, 1895, one month after the Original Edifice of The Mother Church was completed, Mary Baker Eddy was presented with this beautiful gold scroll, engraved with an invitation for her to visit the finished church building. The invitation was presented to her by Edward and Caroline Bates and reads:
Dear Mother: — During the year eighteen hundred and ninety-four a church edifice was erected at the intersection of Falmouth and Norway Streets, in the city of Boston, by the loving hands of four thousand members. This edifice is built as a testimonial to Truth, as revealed by Divine Love through you to this age. You are hereby most lovingly invited to visit and formally accept this testimonial on the twentieth day of February, eighteen hundred and ninety-five, at high noon.
The First Church of Christ Scientist at Boston Mass.
By Edward P. Bates,
Caroline S. Bates
To the Reverend Mary Baker Eddy,
Boston, January 6th, 1895
The Bates’s had been instrumental in shepherding the completion of the church by the end of 1894 exactly as Eddy had desired, despite many complications and problems with suppliers and the possibility of striking workers. However, once the church had been completed, the Board of Directors made a grave oversight and forgot to invite her to the dedication of the church. On a visit to Eddy at the beginning of 1895, Edward Bates was shocked to hear her say “Six thousand of my students could be there and enjoy the services and the dedication of the church. Several members of my household went down but I was not invited.”1 Thus Bates set to work to create a grand invitation for her. When she was presented with it – with the date of the dedication service inscribed at the bottom – she was understandably grateful and very emotional.
In Edward Bates’s reminiscence he writes:
Mrs. Eddy read the invitation and was overcome by her feelings. . . . [she] embraced Mrs. Bates and wept on her neck. Afterwards she took me by the hand and laid her head on my shoulder and said nothing. When she recovered her composure she went to the table and, looking at the invitation, said: “That is the most beautiful thing I ever saw in my life.”2
An indication of how much Eddy treasured the scroll was the pride of place it had at her home, Pleasant View, in Concord, New Hampshire. It was lavishly presented in a satin-lined box of green velvet and was placed on display in the middle of her parlor. From this photograph you can see how large it is — measuring 26 inches long by 9 inches wide, and an eighth of an inch thick. It is fairly heavy, too. For a while Eddy even had it displayed at a prominent jeweler’s store in Concord, so others could see it. It was made by the renowned silversmiths Gorham Manufacturing Company, who fashioned and engraved a metal sheet and then heavily gold plated it. Gorham, based in Providence, Rhode Island, has long been famous for its innovative tableware designs, selling many silver services to the White House and notable families over the years.
Attached to the scroll by a white silk ribbon was also a gold key. This is a key to the “Mother’s Room” in The Mother Church, a room specially furnished and set aside just for Eddy, but later dismantled and no longer accessible. The key was made from Mrs. Bates’s own gold jewelry, which had been melted down in order to produce it.
There is an interesting postscript to this presentation.3 On learning of the Bates’s gift, the Board of Directors realized that they had not thought of inviting her. On March 21, 1895, they presented Eddy with a model of the cornerstone of The Mother Church. Into the replica of the cornerstone — created by the French Pond Granite company — the Directors inserted a gold box inscribed with their signatures, made by Shreve, Crump and Low, a Boston silversmith. When The Mother Church Extension was completed in 1906, the Directors immediately presented Eddy with an invitation quite similar to the Bates’s original invitation. However, instead of being of gold plate, theirs was of solid gold!