The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 20, May 14, 2023, Article 12


E-Sylum Feature Writer and American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article on KKK token book author Dale Birdsell. Quite interesting - thanks! -Editor

  Dale Estin Birdsell (1920-1998)

Birdsall Ku Klux Klan tokens book cover Recently I wrote about one of my favorite numismatic heroes, Charles McCormick Reeve. This week I take up one of my favorite numismatic villains, Dale Birdsell. I will relate two versions of his story that are as different as black and white.

Dale Estin Birdsell was born on June 4, 1920, in Hillsboro, Oregon. His father was Curtis John Birdsell (1876-1942). In the 1930 Census, he was listed as a real estate agent. In 1940 as the county assessor. Dale's mother was Elizabeth Manning Simon (1893- ).

Birdsell was discharged from the Army in 1941 for swindling. He enlisted in the Army again on July 24, 1943 and served overseas during World War II. His registration papers indicate he had two years of college and was employed as an office clerk. He was listed as single with dependents. He was examined by an Army psychiatrist in 1944 who found him to be psychopathic and he was discharged.

In the 1950 Census, he was in Providence, Rhode Island, (Home of Brown University) listed as a history teacher living with his wife, Myrtle Birdsell, a college librarian.

In August of 1956 he was selected as a judge to pick the winner for the Miss Mississippi contest. He was described as director of the American Models Association in New Orleans.

A month later he was charged with extortion. Birdsell, working with the College Queen contest, took nude pictures and threatened to expose and disgrace one of the women. At the time he was editor and publisher of Southern Digest, a pro-segregation paper in Baton Rouge. A search of his house turned up a hypodermic needle and syringe. Possession resulted in a seven year prison sentence at Angola State Penitentiary. In June of 1957 he was granted a new trial because of faults with the first trial. The Mississippi Supreme Court declared the conviction unconstitutional and he was released.

Just a few months later in 1958, Birdsell, 37, met a 16-year-old girl in the Ritz Hotel lobby in Washington. She had run away from home in Maryland. He said she could be a model and offered to manage her career. They got on a bus intending to go to New Orleans. They got as far as Memphis where the girl became disillusioned with Birdsell. She left him and notified police. He and the girl were registered at the King Cotton hotel as husband and wife. Birdsell was tried and convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, fined $1000 and sentenced to 11 months and 29 days in the Selby County (Tennessee) workhouse.

In 1960, he was described as an Arkansas Ku Klux Klan organizer. On trial again, he could not afford an attorney and represented himself. He gave a long speech in his defense saying that he had an irresistible impulse due to a mental and emotional breakdown. He said that he had two unsuccessful marriages, a psychiatric discharge from the army and suffered a skull fracture in an automobile accident, He was convicted of five counts of passing bad checks and again received a two-year prison sentence. He was released on probation in May of 1962.

In 1964, Birdsall was convicted on charges related to transporting three Thunderbirds for sale in Mexico. An attempt was made to determine his sanity. He testified to doctors that he was acting under orders from his commanding general, Nathan Bedford Forrest, provisional Army Confederate States of America and Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He said that stealing cars was not illegal as he was foraging to support the cause. The doctor concluded that Birdsall could no longer tell right from wrong and should be committed to a federal mental institution. He was admitted to Springfield, Missouri Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. The conviction was sustained.

In 1969 he was charged with forgery, declared incompetent to stand trial and was sent to Austin State Hospital where he escaped.

Dale Estin Birdsell 1970 In Houston in 1970, he admitted that he cashed 200 bad checks worth $10,000. He claimed that he was raising money to finance a rightwing revolution. He intended to pay everyone back after the revolution.

The numismatic community is fortunate that Birdsell was out of prison long enough to make his contribution to numismatic literature. Birdsell compiled Ku Klux Klan Tokens that was published in 1977. It was twenty pages with illustrations describing eighty pieces. A second edition published in 1981 was expanded to forty pages.

In 1984 he was again arrested in Victoria, Texas, and accused of passing bad cashier's checks worth $17,367.91. He was implicated in a larger nation-wide check forging scheme.

Dale died on April 8, 1998, in Fairfax, Virginia. His service entitled him to burial at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia. Dale Birdsell and Myrtle Birdsell are buried in the same plot. The Findagrave listing has no family relationships mentioned for either of them.

The second story was published by Reed College in Portland, Oregon, after his death.

Dale Birdsell '48, April 8, 1998, in Fairfax, Virginia. He first entered Reed in 1941, but left during World War II to serve in the Army overseas. After the war, he returned to Portland, worked for Southern Pacific Railroad, and completed his undergraduate degree at Reed in 1948. He then attended Brown University, earning a master's in history in 1950. He worked on a PhD in history at the University of Pennsylvania and had completed all but his dissertation when he left to work as a historian in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps Historical Office in Edgewood, Maryland. There, he coauthored a volume of the series, The U.S. Army in World War II, The Chemical Warfare Service: Chemicals in Combat, which also served as his PhD dissertation.

He remained in that position until 1967 and authored or coauthored many official studies, histories, and reports. In 1967, he was promoted to chief historian of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, and he and his wife and children relocated to McLean, Virginia. He became director of historical programs and author of a variety of official special studies and reports. He also directed, edited, and coauthored a publicly published volume, Arsenal for the Brave: A History of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. He retired in 1986. In retirement, he pursued a variety of interests and community activities and was involved in a weekly current events group at the retirement community where he lived. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

There is just enough overlap to confirm the two stories are about the same person.

Throughout my research, I was plagued with conflicts finding records for Dale Estin Birdsell, born in Oregon on June 4, 1920, and Dale Estine Birdsell born in Texas on November 5, 1921.

Dale E. Birdsell joined the American Numismatic Association in 1981 as member R-113805. He gave his address as a P. O. Box in Grand Bay, Alabama. The KKK book was published in Grand Bay, Alabama. There is a public record giving the birthdate of Birdsell in Grand Bay as November 5. 1921, the birthdate for the Texas Birdsell.

The Oregon Birdsell had a history of using an alias and of obtaining identification cards for real people that were not him. I wonder if Oregon Birdsell was using Texas Birdsell's identification when he joined the ANA. Was this a records error or intentional deception?

Inconsistencies in the stories remain that I can't resolve.

  Birdsall Ku Klux Klan tokens book back cover KKK 2nd edition back cover
Back covers of the 1st and 2nd editions of the KKK Tokens book

Wow - that was eye-opening. Many thanks to Pete for bringing this history to light. I believe the bad checks were first mentioned by Rich Hartzog in 2017.

The back cover of both books advertises the planned publication of a pictorial history of the Klan, that apparently was never published. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: APRIL 30, 2023 : KKK Token Book Printing Confirmed (

  PAN E-Sylum ad 2023-04-30 Spring Show

Wayne Homren, Editor

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