Agnes Baldwin Brett papers, 1900 - 1959

Descriptive Summary

American Numismatic Society
6.7 cubic feet (39 boxes)
Correspondence and manuscripts generated by Agnes Baldwin Brett, ANS curator from 1910 through 1913. Also includes photographic images apparently taken by Brett during her trips to Bermuda and various European countries (Greece, France, Italy, Great Britain) from about 1900 through 1909.

Agnes Baldwin Brett (Image courtesy of Barbara Brett Sanders)


Brett, Agnes Baldwin, 1876-1955
Assistant Curator, then Curator of the ANS from 1909 to 1912, Brett also served as honorary Associate Curator of Ancient Coins from 1923 to 1955 and Chair of the ANS Publication Committee from 1923 to 1946.

Administrative Information


Collection open to all researchers.

Preferred Citation

Agnes Baldwin Brett papers, 1900-1928, 1950s, Archives, American Numismatic Society.


Copyright restrictions may apply. Permission to publish or reproduce must be secured from the American Numismatic Society.

Biographical Note

Agnes Baldwin Brett, the first female curator at the American Numismatic Society, was born in 1876 and grew up in Newark, New Jersey. She received her B.A. from Barnard College in 1897. After graduation Brett studied archaeology at Columbia, receiving her master's degree there in 1900. She then spent two fellowship years at the American School in Athens, where she discovered her interest in numismatics. From 1910 through 1913, Brett worked as Curator at the ANS. (At the time, the ANS maintained only one curatorial position.) Between 1912 and 1914, the Society granted her permission to study abroad at the Cabinet des Médailles in Paris and to consult the private and museum collections of Europe. This research resulted in the publication of her first monograph, The Electrum Coinage of Lampsakos. In 1914 she returned to New York to marry George Monroe Brett, a professor of accountancy and curator at the City College of New York. In 1919 the ANS honored Brett as the second recipient of the Archer M. Huntington Medal Award for her work in ancient numismatics. However, her achievements were not limited to classical studies. In 1922 and again in 1929, Brett temporarily shifted her focus any from ancient numismatics to the study of contemporary medals and sculpture, compiling two important catalogues for the ANS and National Sculpture Society. Brett returned to Columbia to teach courses in numismatics as a visiting lecturer of archaeology in 1936. Brett's broad knowledge of numismatics is also demonstrated through her long tenure as the Chair of the ANS Publications Committee from 1923 to 1946, and her continued work as a member of the committee up until the time of her death in December 1955. Brett was a particularly noted authority on the coinages of the city-states Chios and Lampsakos in Asia Minor and her studies of their coinage continue to be standard works. She also worked extensively on Roman Medallions, publishing four books on this subject. Brett's most highly acclaimed work, Catalog of Greek Coins, was produced during her time as honorary Curator of Classical Coins at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. She was also an important collector of ancient Babylonian cylinder seals, and in 1936 the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute published a catalog of her collection. Edward Newell's seal collection was published in the same series two years before. Brett was a fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society, a member of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies London, and an honorary member of the Société Royale de Numismatique de Belgique.

Scope and Content Note

Correspondence (1902, 1913-1928) on various topics, including the publication and sales of Brett’s writings on the symbolism on Greek coins, the electrum and silver coins of Chios, and gold staters of Lampsakos (Lampsacus); the buying of coin catalogs and coins; and coins loaned by the J.P. Morgan Library to the American Numismatic Society, along with a list of Morgan coins. A portion of the correspondence is from Sydney Noe, Bauman Belden, and Howland Wood of the ANS and pertains to the publication of Brett’s articles and other topics, including difficulties relating to the production of American coin casts because of counterfeiting laws. Also included are a personal telephone directory with entries for sculptor Chester A. Beach, Brentano’s book store, Audubon Printery, various individuals associated with ANS, and others; the text of a lecture on Greek portraiture on Greek coins; coin photographs, including plates produced for publications on the Sandeman and Montagu collections; various notes for publication; and manuscripts for her Catalogue of Greek Coins (1955) and Hellenistic Coin Portraits (unpublished,1950s?), including notes, annotated and corrected typescript texts, and photographic plates. Also found are glass lantern slides in the categories “people and horses” and “ruler cult” along with other images presumably used to illustrate her lectures. There are prints and glass plate and film negatives, many apparently taken by Brett during her trips to Bermuda and various European countries (Greece, France, Italy, Great Britain) from about 1900 through 1909, and others of coins, statues, displays of medals, and other items.

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