This sterling silver cup was awarded to Charles Appleton Longfellow in 1887 for his performance in what was probably a shooting competition at an exclusive club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
The Country Club was formed in 1882, and was the first country club established in the United States. Although now known for its strict and limited membership selection and its role in the development of the game of golf in the U.S. - it has hosted numerous U.S. Opens and the 1999 Ryder Cup - when the club was first established golf was not one of the activities available to members. The first six golf holes weren’t put in until March, 1893, only a month after Longfellow’s death. The Country Club was originally formed as an institution that concentrated on horseback riding and other outdoor pursuits, such as shooting sports, both pastimes that Charles Longfellow enjoyed.
The Country Club’s well known reputation for privacy means that we do not have a record of Longfellow as a member, but it is quite likely that he did belong. Longfellow was part of the wealthy Protestant class from which membership in such clubs was almost exclusively drawn at the time, and he belonged to other similar organizations in Massachusetts including the Eastern Yacht Club in Marblehead, and the highly selective Somerset Club in Boston.
The cup was apparently awarded in November, 1887, as it is engraved with "Thanksgiving", a holiday celebrated in different forms and on various dates until it became a federally recognized holiday in 1864. That, and the line designating the piece as the "Autumn Cup" place the event firmly at that time of year. The meaning of the line "Black birds" is unclear; the competition may have involved shooting at live birds released from special traps, a popular activity in the late 19th-century.