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Souvenir relic wood presentation gavel made from a 17th-century oak beam salvaged from the town hall (Hotel de Ville) in Verdun, France, after the building sustained heavy damage during a major German offensive in 1916, during World War I. The mallet head is encircled by a silver band with engraved inscriptions. The gavel is boxed en suite with a rectangular relic block, presumably from the same beam. One side of the block has been planed and finished with a wood stain to match the gavel, the other side has been left in its rough state. The gavel and block fit into a custom mahogany box with simple scalloped decoration around the outer top and bottom edges and lined inside with green felt. The inscriptions explain that the wood was furnished by Victor Schleiter, the Mayor of Verdun in 1932 and the gavel presented to Lt. Col. Chalmers R. Wilson, who had served as Signal Officer of the 37th Division of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) of the U.S. Army during World War I.
Verdun is a town in northeastern France that became strategically important during World War I because the ring of fortresses surrounding it formed one of the main barriers on the road to Paris for the German invaders. A long battle was fought in 1916, destroying much of the town and producing heavy casualties on both the Allied and German sides—some 70 cemeteries remain as a legacy in the area. The 17th century Hotel de Ville (town hall) has since been restored and is the site of a war museum.
Victor Schleiter was a popular mayor of Verdun, known as “Mayor Builder” for his role in the 10-year period of reconstruction of the town after World War I, which was formally celebrated in June 1929. He served as a deputy mayor from 1919 to 1924, then as mayor. In 1933, while still in office, he died in a train accident, and the grieving town erected a memorial to him the following year.
Inscriptions on silver band:
Turned by L. Rayot out of a beam from War-torn Hotel de Ville erected 1623 Verdun France. Wood furnished by V. Schleiter, Maire de Verdun.
Presented to Verdun Command No. 1 Golden Helmet. Chalmers R. Wilson, Marechal. By H. Fabert, French Consul. 1932.
Meyer, Franck. “Monument of the Month – September 2010: Monument to the memory of Victor Schleiter.” Verdun-Meuse.Fr. 1September 2010. http://www.verdun-meuse.fr/index.php?qs=fr/lieux-et-visites/monument-du-mois---septembre-2010---monument- (28 February 2012).
“Verdun.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 2012. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/625493/Verdun (28 February 2012).