The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 40, October 4, 2015, Article 9


Last week Mike Locke and Dan Owens wrote:

The following draft (in two parts) is a research paper on the M.E. Hart Co. without a definitive conclusion. We are asking readers of The E-Sylum for their help in solving this mystery. If you come across any M.E. Hart Co. advertisements, Shreve & Co. employee records from 1915-1916, or contemporary numismatic publications that reveal the namesake or provide additional information regarding the M.E. Hart Co., we request that you publish your findings in The E-Sylum, or send them to us via the email link on Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Here is the second and final part. Please let us know if you have any information to help Mike and Dan in their quest. -Editor

Coins of the Golden West

Will The Real M.E. Hart Please Stand Up?
Mike Locke and Dan Owens research paper, compiled by Dan Owens.

Zerbe and Hart Cross Paths. Early on in our search, we tried to find a concrete link between Mary E. Hart and Farran Zerbe. As Hyder pointed out in his article, it is certainly plausible that they crossed paths in their travels. Noted ANA member Edgar H. Adams wrote in the October 1915, edition of The Numismatist that he, Zerbe and other ANA members toured the Expo together during the ANA convention noting visits to a number of displays including representations of Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and a Mexican village.

Zerbe's Money of the World exhibit housed in the Liberal Arts building was the “Mecca” for the members. ANA members also visited the Italy, France, Cuba and Canada buildings with the Canadian display being chosen by members as being the best. Adams did not mention if they stopped by the Alaska exhibits.

At the Lewis & Clark Centennial held in Portland Oregon from June to October 1905, the floor plan shows that the American Numismatic Association's exhibit with Zerbe serving as agent was positioned right next to the Pacific Coast Steamship Co.'s Alaska Exhibit.

1909 GW coin In two separate stories published in the Daily Alaska Dispatch in January 1905, Mrs. Hart allegedly had gotten into a dispute with Alaskan Governor Brady during the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis. She had been appointed to organize, manage and host the Alaska display there but reportedly would not be connected with the Government sponsored Alaska exhibit at Portland.

However, the Oregonian on June 11th, 1905, noted that Mrs. Hart was invited to spend a week at the Expo because of her hostess role in St. Louis. There is no doubt that she would have been attracted to the Pacific Coast Steamship Companies Alaska display and most certainly would have crossed paths with Farran Zerbe in the next booth.

Candidate No. 3 Bruno Ferdinand Fera was born in New Jersey on September 1st, 1873. His resume included a stint as a Manhattan New York jeweler before he worked as a department manager for Shreve & Co. in San Francisco for a number of years. Shreve & Co. made the copper framed cases that some of the Coins of the Golden West token sets were housed in. In addition they manufactured a similar style case for the Panama Pacific International Exposition Commemorative coin set in both single and double sizes. The double sized case allowed both the obverse and reverse of the coins to all be displayed on one side.

Eskimo Parka coin In 2014, lot 2114, in the Stack's Bowers Americana Sale was an original copper frame for a ten piece or double size 1915 Panama Pacific commemorative coin set. On the back of this extremely rare item was a sticker reading COINS/OF THE/GOLDEN/ WEST/M.E. HART/CO./560 POWELL/STREET/SAN/FRANCISCO/, with a handwritten price of $12. Hence the M.E. Hart Co. also sold all of the various cases for the P.P.I.E. coins.

More importantly, Fera was listed in the 1915 and 1916 San Francisco City Directories at 560 Powell street. Thus he was at the right place at the right time and in all likelihood rubbed elbows with the proprietor of the M.E. Hart Co.

The Chesterfield Apartments did not house that many tenants. Was the 560 Powell street address a post office box drop off for the M.E. Hart Co. or did someone with the last name of Hart in fact live in the building?

Candidate No. 4 On April 26th, 1916, the San Jose Evening News wrote that Mrs. Marie Hart was reportedly awakened at 4 o'clock in the morning and found a burglar at work in her room at the Chesterfield Apartments, 560 Powell street. She jumped out of bed and made a rush at the thief, but the burglar beat her to the door and ran out into the street.

Thus she stepped forward into the light, as the most promising candidate for the long lost token dealer. Marie Hart was at the right place, at the right time and had the correct first initial and last name.

Did Mrs. Marie Hart like Mr. Fera work for Shreve & Co? A follow-up search through five contemporary newspapers for additional information about the attempted burglary, revealed no further news reports. At this point, a subsequent search through genealogy records has failed to yield anything of value.

Coins of the Golden West Thus we began to look back and wonder if Marie Hart was a reporter's misinterpretation of Mary E. Hart. She certainly had the personality of someone who would chase a burglar from her room. Even though the apartments appear to have been upscale, they did have a transitory nature to them. On the other hand, if this was true, why didn't the reporter identify her as the so-called first lady of Alaska? She was well known to the press having written and or appeared in dozens of news items over the years.

We did find that Mary E. Hart, the journalist had spent the first four months of 1916 in Missouri visiting relatives before returning sometime in April to Corte Madera. In 1916, she listed her in town address as the Palace Hotel. Thus Mary E. and Marie Hart could have been two separate individuals.

Coincidentally, in a 1920 San Francisco Commonwealth Club membership list, the name of T.W.H. Shanahan, Superintendent of the San Francisco Branch Mint, can be found listed at the 560 Powell Street address. Just who was the proprietor of the M.E. Hart Co.? The evidence points to Farran Zerbe, along with the assistance or namesake of Mary E. Hart, Bruno Fera, Marie Hart, or a combination of the preceding names? However, like William Hyder we have not yet found the fabled "smoking gun" that positively identifies that person or persons.

I would like to thank Robert Leonard for his helpful suggestions.

All images except 560 Powell Street, courtesy of Mike Locke at

So what do readers think? What do you make of the different candidates? Anny other thoughts on this numismatic mystery? -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

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