Drake’s “Plate Of Brass”

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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:

BEE IT KNOWN VNTO ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS
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.

FRANCIS DRAKE

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.

Ed.