The E-Sylum:  Volume 7, Number 9, February 29, 2004, Article 10


Although Bob Leonard makes a good case for this particular
instance being government work, the question remains about
whether mint engravers could perform outside work. Dick
Johnson writes:

"Charles Barber was no different from other engravers at the
U.S. Mint. They were all allowed to do non governmental
medal jobs both in and outside the Mint with the proviso
?that it did not interfere with their required Mint duties.?

The date of the Barber letter mentioned in last week's E-Sylum,
1891, was at a time when engravers at the Philadelphia Mint
were still using their old Hill reducing machine (acquired from
William Wyon September 1867). Mint engravers would use it
only for making device punches, however, not for the entire
model. It was not until 1906 when the Philadelphia Mint
acquired their first Janvier die-engraving machine that the Mint
was equipped to make a full coin or medal die or hub entire
from a metal pattern.

The Bureau of the Mint requested Henri Weil (later to own
Medallic Art Co with his brother Felix) to instruct Barber and
other Mint engravers how to use the Janvier when they
acquired this modern ?reducer? in 1906. (Mint officials had
purchased the Janvier die-engraving pantograph from New
York City's Deitsch Brothers who imported it from the Janvier
company in Paris. Henri Weil had been trained by Victor
Janvier himself in Paris; Henri worked for the Deitschs at
the time operating their Janviers. The manuscript papers of
his brother, Felix, tells this story, even Barber's attempt to
sabotage work on the Mint's new machine.)

And even then it was not until 1920, after Barber's death in
1917, that we can document that Mint engravers finally used
the Janvier to reduce a complete model, for Anthony de
Francisci's silver Peace dollar. Previously, new coin models
from outside sculptors whose models included lettering and
all ? St-Gaudens? 1907 $20 and $10 gold coins, Pratt's $5
and $2  gold, Brenner's 1909 Lincoln cent, Fraser's 1913
Buffalo nickel, Weinman's 1916 Mercury dime and Liberty
Walking half dollar and MacNeil's 1917 Liberty Standing
quarter ? were all reduced intact from the sculptors? original
models, not by mint engravers, but by that same technician
who tried to train them, Henri Weil, in his tiny plant in New
York City, then known as Medallic Art Company..

Barber's request in 1891 for an oversize model ?three or four
inches larger than the medal required? proves he would
reduce this on the Hill machine. His further statement
?requiring considerable labor to finish? meant that he would
add lettering by hand with punches. He amplified on this
technique in his report on the engraving department published
in the 1896 ?Annual Report of the Director of the Mint.?
Barber never changed from this routine right to the end!

Incidentally, the recipient of that letter was Henry H. Zearing,
who was working on his first medal, for the Colombian
Exposition, at that time he wrote Barber.

The cataloger of that A.L.S. mentioned in last week's
E-Sylum didn't know that outside medal work was permitted
by the Mint. The fact that for nearly 100 years there was no
press in America to strike large medals. Any American medal
over two-inches HAD to be struck at the Philadelphia Mint
(or be struck in Europe). Thus U.S. Mint engravers did
private medals with full sanction and blessing of their Treasury
Department bosses. They did this for a large number of clients
from circa 1792 (Rickett's Circus) until 1948 (for even such
private medals as a wedding anniversary medal, Julian PE-5,
and dog show medals, UN-19, UN-20).

In the 20th century, however, U.S. Mint engravers built
studios in their home and sent models of their private jobs to
Medallic Art Company or other medal makers. John R.
Sinnock was the first to do this in 1926, the year after his
appointment as U.S. Mint Chief Engraver. This had the
appearance at least of not conflicting with his Mint duties.

Every chief engraver since then did private medal jobs which
were struck y American medal makers. Gilroy Roberts even
modeled medallic portraits of Clyde C. Trees, his successor
William Trees Louth, both as president, and all the directors
of the board of Medallic Art Company over a 30-year period.
(The relationship between Roberts and Medallic Art was
quite close, until Joe Segel hired Gilroy away from the
Philadelphia Mint to work for Franklin Mint.)

American medal companies began forming in 1892 (thank
you, Colombian Exposition!) and had full medal making
capability by 1910, even for large-size medals. During
depression years of the mid 1930s, however, Clyde Trees
was attempting to keep his little company afloat by obtaining
any medal job possible. It irked him to see private medals
being struck by the U.S. Mint in direct competition. He
mounted a campaign for the U.S. Mint to stop accepting
such commissions. He insisted these should go to private
American industry.

Trees beat this drum constantly in the 1930s and 1940s,
but it was not until 1948 that the mint stopped this practice
for any new private medals. Even so, those private jobs, as
award medals already in yearly production, did not run their
course until 1962, when the last private medal was struck,
two years after Trees had died.

The fact government employees doing private work on
government time and equipment might even still exist. When
I was in the military service in 1953 I became active in the
founding of the Middle Atlantic Numismatic Association (with
Walter Breen, Eldridge Jones, Ed Rice, Arthur Sipe, Joseph
French Maley, Roger Cohen and many others). I had type
set and I printed for secretary Jones the MANA dues notices
in the print shop where I worked in a super secret spy
factory in Washington DC. Wow! By admitting that now I
hope the statute of limitations has run out after 50 years!
[I also set type there for an advertisement I ran in the
?Antiquarian Bookman Yearbook? near that time to purchase
any out-of-print books on ? what else? ? numismatics!]"

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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