E-Sylum Feature Writer and
American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this
article on collector Charles McCormick Reeve. Thanks!
Charles McCormick Reeve
I have written a lot of biographical sketches and developed some favorites among the subjects.
One of those is Charles McCormick Reeve. Perhaps that is because of his connections to
Reeve first came to my attention as I was doing pedigree research on U. S. large cents. The Elder
sale of November 5, 1937, was titled,
The General McC. Reeve Collection and Others. Who, I
wondered, was McC. Reeve. Once I learned the name, I remembered it.
The catalog had this description:
SPLENDID COLLECTION OF U. S. CENTS. The Property of
Brigadier General C. MCC. Reeve of Minnesota. Lot 683 was a 1794 Cent, Hays 8, a piece that
I had not realized that Charles McCormick Reeve and Charles Wyllys Betts were on the same
1870 Yale expedition until doing research last week. There are other similarities between the two
and some differences.
Charles Wyllys Betts was born in Newburg, New York, on August 13, 1845. Charles McCormick
Reeve was born Danville, New York, on August 7, 1847.
Both men came from prominent and successful families. Betts was the son of a judge. Reeve was
the son of a general.
Betts graduated from Yale College in 1867. Reeve graduated from Yale College in 1870.
Reeve was a leader of the Yale Glee Club. Betts sang in the Trinity Church choir.
Both received law degrees and practiced as lawyers.
Betts was active in New York society and belonged to such clubs as the Union Club, the Country
Club and the high prestige Knickerbocker Club. Those clubs did not exist in Minneapolis. Reeve
was the founding president of the Apollo Club, a choral music society. He was also active in
fraternal organizations, The Masons and Oddfellows.
Betts was a member of the American Numismatic Society in New York City. The Northwest
Coin Club was not established in Minneapolis until 1933 when Reeve was 86. His name does not
appear on my membership records.
Betts bought land on the shore of Lake Agawan on Long Island in an area that was developed
into prime real estate. Reeve bought a 250 acre farm on the south shore of Lake Harriett. His
investment paid off as the property was developed into choice neighborhood lots. He donated
land for a park around the lake. I have run around the park and through his farm many times.
Betts wrote about his experiences in
The Yale College Expedition of 1870. Reeve wrote How We
Went and What We Saw: A Flying Trip Through Egypt, Syria and the Aegean Islands (1891). I
haven't figured out how they flew, years before the Wright Brothers.
Betts died at age 41. Reeve lived nearly to the age of 100. He became the oldest living graduate
of Yale and possibly the oldest living veteran of the Spanish American War. He is buried at
Lakewood Cemetery on property on the north side of Lake Harriet across from the original
Reeve farm. I have visited the gravesites of William Lanphere, Elias Rasmussen and A. M.
Smith at that cemetery.
Betts donated parts of his collection to Yale in his home town of New Haven and parts to the
American Numismatic Society in New York. Reeve gave parts of his collection to Rollins
College in his winter home in Winter Park, Florida, and parts to the Minnesota Historical Society
in St. Paul.
Some years ago, I was a volunteer at the Minnesota History Center. I worked on an inventory of
their coin collections. Accession notes indicated that some Philippines coins were donated by
Charles McCormick Reeve. I immediately recognized the name but they had no information on
who Reeve was. I wrote an article explaining Reeve's heroic leadership during the Spanish
American War, his service in the Philippines following the war and his important contributions to
This illustrates something that museums should know but some fail to keep good records. A
bunch of coins donated to a museum may be no different from another bunch of coins. However,
if you know who owned them, then the coins may illustrate a story. I was able to provide
biographies of a couple of other donors including a former director of the museum.
I have also done research at the Brown County Museum in my hometown. They have a dozen
Indian War medals but no accession records. There is no indication of the Defenders who earned
It should be obvious that I have an interest in pedigree research and the collectors who owned
coins. I apply that interest to my collections. For example, I have written pedigrees for 190
different 1792 half dismes. I bought the piece with the most charming pedigree and the one
pedigree that can be traced back the longest time.
A more complete biography of Reeve is on the Newman Numismatic Portal for those who
choose to read it. I will need to revise it to correct at least two errors I discovered.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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