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The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 2, January 9, 2022, Article 14

RESEARCHING THE NEW YORK NUMISMATIC SOCIETY

Recently American Numismatic Society Librarian David Hill and Joel Orosz authored an ANS Pocket Change article about a little known incarnation of the New York Numismatic Society which may well have been the first numismatic association in the United States. A key piece of information in their article came from a newspaper article pasted into a book produced by Charles Ira Bushnell which Joel purchased from John Lupia.

John had discovered this tidbit earlier and added it to the draft of a planned second volume of his book on American Numismatic Auctions. John has since expanded his research with additional references to the organization, and published it on his website. With permission we're publishing an excerpt here - see the developing research online via the link below.

Thank you! Great discoveries. It seems Bushnell was a member of the first numismatic society in the United States, which predated the Numismatic Society of Philadelphia and the American Numismatic Society (both founded in 1858). -Editor

This essay is dedicated to John W. and Regina Adams, Dave Bowers, Joel Orosz, and David Hill, and fond memory of the late Eric P. Newman.

What follows is part of an over all work on the history of collecting in America. It is interesting to note that there are two distinct personalities regarding collecting. First, is the collector of one degree or another, from the light collector to the hoarder. Second, the opposite personality that can't wait to dispose of things. The curious thing is they frequently marry.

Below ... are the titles of the ... organizations as they appear in antique printed texts. The third one cited is the monkey wrench in the works. The fourth one is odd since in the American Journal of Numismatics (AJN) it is referred to as the organization that publishes the Journal at a loss. Later on the AJN office moved to Boston and their numismatic society is cited as the publisher. It is possible the last two below are organizations belonging to the last half of the 1860's. So far the bulk of the evidence would suggest the that but no certain documentation has surfaced as yet that can definitively reveal the dates of their initiation. Yet one never knows for certain about such things until New York State Archive records of their incorporation can be found to settle any questions once and for all. I have contacted the New York State Archives requesting various records and await further communication from them. The fifth is not affiliated with New York but with Philadelphia, and does not contribute to the scope of this essay on New York.

For easy reference I've listed John's section headings here.

  • New York Numismatic Society, 1852?/1853-1855?
  • American Numismatic and Archaeological Society, 1858 to present
  • Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York, circa 1840's, 1850's, or 1860's?
  • American Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York, occurs variously in the American Journal of Numismatics
  • The Numismatic Society of Philadelphia of 1857 renamed The Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia , 1865
  • Second New York Numismatic Society, 1864 to 1866
-Editor

New York Numismatic Society, 1852?/1853-1855?

Lincoln 1853 Fixed Price List Right: Fred Lincoln's 1853 American edition of his Fixed Price List (FPL) on Greek, Roman and English coins. This copy Ex-Fisk P. Brewer, the numismatist at Yale University who donated this to the library. Now deaccessioned.

Frederick Lincoln (1830-1909) is the eldest son of William Simpson Lincoln, Sr. (1803- 1872), and brother of William Simpson Lincoln, Jr. (1844-1922), and Edgar Lincoln (1851-1916) all of them renown English numismatists, stamp and coin dealers with correspondents in America. The Lincolns came from Lambeth, Surrey, England where William Sr., began as a bookseller in the 1840's and eventually dealt in foreign postage stamps beginning in 1853. Fred and Edgar specialized in Roman coins.

  Lincoln 1853 Fixed Price List detail New York Numismatic Society

The fact that Fred Lincoln was a corresponding member of the New York Numismatic Society tells us that among the literature in England at least by 1853 one learned of it and wrote to an address, was elected a corresponding member, and received correspondence and perhaps its literature all prior to Lincoln's publication of his 1853 FPL. We do not know the month this was published which could clue us in if the New York Numismatic Society was formed sometime in 1852 or earlier. Coin dealers are known to typically publish a FPL at the beginning of the year. If this is the case here then we must concede that the New York Numismatic Society must necessarily date to at least the last half of 1852. I have searched but not found a notice in the 1853 Numismatic Chronicle, or perhaps I was negligent and missed it. Yet somewhere in the literature or newspapers read by members of the English numismatic community some notice or notices existed either in 1852 or 1853.

Fred Lincoln mentions on the cover of his FPL of ancient coins that he is a corresponding member of the New York Numismatic Society. We're glad he published this fact since his mention of it in his 1853 publication assists us in dating this organization which seems to have become obscured and lost in the shadows of the monolithic and monumental American Numismatic and Archaeological Society founded several years later by some of its membership. It is very possible that something of that Society will surface soon and be discussed by its owner or discoverer. It is even possible that something of that Society is within my own collection that has become forgotten, neglected, or simply buried in any of over 600 binders and several large bins of material plus a very large and extensive library.

So dear reader take heed and look about your own collections to see if anything there might contribute to this early American numismatic history and the founding of the first New York Numismatic Society. I've always suspected that throughout earlier American history there were such strong ties among some collectors in different places that formed circles, perhaps called a brotherhood, committee, association, society, or some other sort of group name other than society which were a bit more informal and on a more social basis. After all their friendships were within learned societies. They were already members of societies though as yet had not attained self consciousness of themselves as a united entity distinct as a specialized numismatic group from within their own societies. It was from these earlier formed associations among collectors that the formal Society emerged.

The citation of the New York Numismatic Society in Livingstone's Law Register (1854) : 458 reads: "[Founded] for the collection and preservation of Coins". Nearly every entry in the book gives the year the organization was founded. The New York Numismatic Society is one of the few exceptions to this rule and is without any date of the organization. From the description of the purpose of the Society it seems like they were establishing a state or city numismatic society as a repository for a vast collection. It apparently existed for at least about three years or perhaps more. But to keep a physical collection one needs real estate. They must have had a property given or purchased for this purpose and should be listed in a city directory, but no such entry has been found. Perhaps it did not have its own building but was housed in the Astor Library, for example, which opened its doors to the public in 1854. The building was nearly completed in February 1851 and had at that time 28,364 volumes.

Were the founders of the first New York Numismatic Societies trustees and board members of the Astor Library? Is there any evidence in the Astor Library Annual Reports? Or, were the founders of the Society an offshoot of the New York Historical Society? So far none of this is known or the collections whereabouts. Whatever collection existed cannot be traced so far through a sale of any kind and one wonders if it was absorbed by the ANS on its founding in 1857? Or, was it the coin collection of the New York State Library catalogued by Richard Wistar Davids, known primarily for having edited the Catalogue of the Coins and Medals, Ancient and Modern, New York State Library, published in 1853? It makes sense putting the thin piece of evidence in Livingstone's Law Register that the New York Numismatic Society was a Society of New York State collecting coins for the State Library.

American Numismatic and Archaeological Society, 1858 to present

The ANS was apparently the second, or perhaps, third or fourth numismatic society in America by 1858. Though this might be a sobering or somber fact to some it in no way diminishes the preeminence and prestige of the inestimable ANS which is the longest active numismatic society in America. Besides in 1958 the ANS historian Howard Adelson had to concede that the Numismatic Society of Philadelphia predated the ANS by several months.

Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York, circa 1840's, 1850's, or 1860's?

DePeyster bookplate Member of the Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York Right: DePeyster says he's a Life Member of the Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York, bookplate in G. Auchinleck's, The War of 1812. A History of the War Between Great Britain and the United States of America (Toronto, 1852). The latest date cited among the honoraria is April, 1866. Though he is not yet a member of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society according to their own records he does boast of the other New York society which amply demonstrates these are two separate and distinct organizations. Of course, though the latest date on the bookplate is 1866 it does not preclude that some of the societies listed are not more recent in the late 1860's or even 1870's. But we shall follow the wisdom of Occam's razor and stick to the facts as they are evident in the document since it is supported by subsequent editions of his bookplate in 1869, and 1883. The DePeyster family were Abolitionists. In his 1883 bookplate DePeyster proudly advertises that he is a Patron for the Association for the Benefit of Colored Orphans.

American Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York, occurs variously in the American Journal of Numismatics.

Apparently what we now call the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society (ANS), may have been initially called the Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York, a name and title that can still be found in its house organ the AJN, with the prefix American added. The citation by John Watts DePeyster in 1866 that he is a Life Member of the Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York and fourteen years later adding on that bookplate he is a also a member of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society opens the question of the original date of that organization. Could it have been organized before 1858 or earlier? The clear distinction between the two names is that the ANS is a national organization, whereas the latter was either intended as a New York State organization, or a local one for the city. Could it have been a city or state society from which the ANS had sprung into being?

The ANS was the national society whereas the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York is clearly a city or state society that appears to have been formed to support the ANS and its activities but also used the AJN as their house organ together with the ANS, and for sharing that they paid for its publication. We see these names so frequently reading the period literature we are jaded by them and do not recognize the forest for the trees. Yet on scrutiny these are clearly two different entities in print and coinages acting as one. The social elite formed the ANS and its membership was the same for the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York since as a city collectors club they paid the bills. It seems that the ANS as a national society was the birth child of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York which created in those meetings held at the home of Augustus B. Sage at 121 Essex Street on March 15, 1858 with Henry O. Hart, James D. Foskett, James Oliver, and Edward Groh, to for the ANS to become the national repository of their collections of numismatic items, literature, correspondence and served as their business office.

The Lincoln Memorial medal of 1866 (ANS 1915.82.1) bears the inscription or legend The American Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York. These two organizations have been deemed as one and the same by the ANS, but why two names that are distinctly corporately separate? Currently, research is awaiting a reply from the New York State Archives for records of incorporation.

The Second New York Numismatic Society that dissolved and merged with the ANS in 1866 was formed in 1864. It is possible that the older New York Numismatic Society dating to at least 1853, or possibly 1852, already had its roots formed a few years earlier in the 1840's called by an earlier name the: "Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York", and is cited in John Watts De Peyster's various bookplates as we find them in the following three books that once formed a small part of his vast library : Dossabhaee Sorabjee, Idiomatically Sentences in the English, Hindostanee, Goozratee, and Persian Languages (Bombay, 1843); Tom Owen's, Anecdotes and Letters of Zachary Taylor (NY: Appleton, 1848), and later on in G. Auchinleck's, The War of 1812. A History of the War Between Great Britain and the United States of America (Toronto, 1852).

The atmosphere was electric with the zeitgeist of national societies and institutes. On 27 September 1842, John P. Brown, First Dragoman of the American Delegation at Constantinople published his letter of that date as a public notice in the Commercial Advertiser and Journal, Buffalo, New York, 28 November 1842, bequeathing his vast collection of coins gathered in his travels in the East to the National Institute, Washington, D.C. This was the national repository for coin collections at that time. Certainly, this sparked ideas in the numismatic community to think about state and local collections that already existed for many years within their learned societies that one society should be formed exclusive to numismatics respectively as a national numismatic society.

John Watts DePeyster would have been twenty years old in 1841, and apparently active as a numismatist from boyhood as all were from their classics classes at school. He was an old blue-blood of New York with great-great grandfather, and great-great-great grandfather who were mayors of the city.

He introduces himself in his 1866 and 1869 bookplate as a Life Member of the Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York leaving us wondering if it might refer to an earlier appellation for the first New York Numismatic Society? It is curious that his second bookplate dating from 1869 never refers to the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society though their records indicate he was a member in 1867, but rather, he only lists the Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York, to which he proudly announces himself as a Life Member. This status of memberships changes on his later bookplate of 1883 when he mentions both the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society, and Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York, and the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia clearly as three separate and distinct organizations. In 1875 DePeyster declined the office of Vice-President of the ANS deferring to his nephew Frederick. Say 1883 he no longer concealed his membership in the ANA but acknowledged it. Consequently the individual Society called the Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York is separate and apart from the ANS. There is no evidence so far to attribute this organization to an alternative name for the second New York Numismatic Society or as a referent to the ANS.

Second New York Numismatic Society, 1864 to 1866

New York Numismatic Society has been dissolved Right: The second New York Numismatic Society formed in 1864 published its dissolution notice and merger with the ANS, The Daily Memphis Avalanche, Friday 23 November 1866.

Robert Hewitt, held a meeting of numismatist in his residence on January 23, 1864 forming the second New York Numismatic Society.

Howard L. Adelson, The American Numismatic Society 1858-1958, pages 41-43; and Dave Bowers cites this more precisely in his American Numismatics Before the Civil War 1760-1860, page 129, footnote 2 "the "majority of the members" who signed a resolution to dissolve the New York Numismatic Society effective July 31, 1866 included these names: William Anderson, Charles DeF Burns, James Earle, Joseph E. Gay, Robert Hewitt, Jr., Joseph N. T. Levick, John F. McCoy, John A. Nexsen, W. C. Prime, William H. Strobridge, and Loring Watson none of whom had been associated with the American Numismatic Society during the 1858-1859 era of Augustine B. Sage's involvement." This could be supporting evidence that these men upon dissolution formed a new society, the Numismatic and Archaeological Society of New York. This has yet to find supporting documentation.

I have not been able to discover a record of incorporation for the New York Numismatic Society. One would think had they been they would have a corporate seal, logo, issued a medal and tokens to distribute to members and have a house organ publish the minutes of their meetings, by-laws, and other, notes, and literature. Bushnell in his book, An Arrangement of Tradesmen's Cards, Political Tokens and Election Medals, Medalist, &c. (1858) never mentions any. Perhaps this was the impetus behind Augustus B. Sage's Numismatic Gallery of medals of illustrious numismatists to make up for lost time. What manner this earliest New York Numismatic Society had is yet to be discovered and with such enthusiasts as we have today as we did then I'm sure these details are imminent.

Of recent date we find such enthusiasts in Joel Orosz and David Hill who perhaps were poking at me to publish this brief introduction to the establishment of the first known numismatic society in America when they ran there brief articles in various publications December 2021. Apparently I needed the nudge since I had mistakenly thought this matter had already been known by one of the Deans of American numismatic history. Once I understood I was not stepping on anyone's toes I seized this opportunity to create this very brief introduction to the subject. This is but a thumbnail sketch for a fuller volume to be published as an ebook sometime in 2022. So check back here from time to time to catch the announcement.

The early numismatic society names and name changes are confusing, but all part of the rapidly developing mid-19th century numismatic scene.  Some of these names no doubt refer to what we now know as the American Numismatic Society.  Hopefully New York state archives and other potential sources will reveal additional information enabling today's researchers to sort this out.   John's discovery of an early incarnation of a New York Numismatic Society is exciting.  Check your libraries as he suggests.   Hopefully in time we'll develop a handy chart to clarify the chronology of events that brought about all the short- and long-lived numismatic organizations that reflected and shaped the numismatic hobby and science in America. -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
NEW YORK NUMISMATIC SOCIETY (https://sites.google.com/a/numismaticmall.com/www/numismaticmall-com/new-york-numismatic-society)

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
FIRST U.S. NUMISMATIC SOCIETY? (https://www.coinbooks.org/v24/esylum_v24n52a09.html)

Kolbe-Fanning E-Sylum ad 2020-05-17



Wayne Homren, Editor

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