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|Seal of the Chamber of Commerce of New York
Thomas Waterman Wood (1823-1903)
Oil on canvas, 1877
Gift of the Partnership for New York City, Inc.
The figure of Mercury, Roman god of commerce, trade, merchants, and profit, stands surrounded by symbols of the abundant natural resources of colonial New York. These images include the beaver, whose pelt brought wealth and prosperity to Dutch and English merchants and traders of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Chamber was chartered by King George III in 1770, hence the date MDCCLXX. The complete Latin phrase “non nobis solum nati sumus” translates as “We are not born for ourselves alone.”
Wood’s commission to paint the Chamber seal might have been generated by a renewed nationwide interest in early American history, spurred by the Centennial celebration of 1876. The painting was executed seven years after the centennial of the Chamber’s royal charter.