- Historic Sites
Drake’s “Plate Of Brass”
April 1959 | Volume 10, Issue 3
In the summer of 1936 a young man named Beryle W. Shinn was picnicking on a hillside near San Quentin, California, on the north shore of San Francisco Bay, when he found a metal plate approximately five inches wide by eight inches long. Thinking it might serve to cover a hole in the floor of his automobile, he picked it up and kept it, and only later did he notice that one side was covered with writing. Dr. Herbert E. Bolton of the University of California, to whom Shinn took the plate, then deciphered the inscription:
IVNE 17 1579
BY THE GRACE OF GOD AND IN THE NAME OF HERR
MAIESTY QVEEN ELIZABETH OF ENGLAND AND HERR
SVCCESSORS FOREVER I TAKE POSSESSION OF THIS
KINGDOME WHOSE KING AND PEOPLE FREELY RESIGNE
THEIR RIGHT AND TITLE IN THE WHOLE LAND VNTO
HERR MAIESTIES KEEPEING NOW NAMED BY ME AN TO
BEE KNOWNE VNTO ALL MEN AS NOVA ALBION.
The discovery of Drake’s “plate of brass,” if this indeed was it, was announced at a meeting of the California Historical Society in April, 1937, and a fund was collected by several society members to purchase the plate and present it to the university. Metallurgical examination subsequently confirmed the age of the plate, and one further objection to its authenticity—the fact that it turned up where it did, inland from the sea—was removed when William Caldeira, a chauffeur, came forward to announce that he himself had found it three years earlier and thrown it away near San Quentin when his employer showed no interest. The spot where he claimed originally to have come upon the plate was not far from the bend in the coast that is known—apparently with good reason—as Drake’s Bay.