From the Executive Director (Summer 2003)

by Ute Wartenberg Kagan

Dear Members and Friends,

I am delighted to report to you today that the ANS will be finally moving to its new headquarters in downtown Manhattan. At its recent Council meeting, we were told by John Whitney Walter, who oversees the renovation and the move of the collections, that the building will indeed be ready for occupation in the autumn. We have therefore decided to close the ANS as of July 6 to prepare the move and put our house in order. Anyone who has ever visited us at Audubon Terrace knows how much we will have to move. There are not just the almost one million coins and over 100,000 books, but also our Society’s archives, including the photography archive consisting of thousands of slides and even old glass plates! Then there is much treasured furniture, paintings of numismatists, our current publications and much more. It is quite a daunting task to sort all this out for the move, as our Collections Manager, Elena Stolyarik, illustrates in her article on the preparations for moving just the coins. Although the next few months will be hard for the staff, we are all very excited by the fact that 140 William Street will soon be our new home.

News of the move is not all we offer in this issue, however. I hope that many of you will enjoy Peter van Alfen’s article on New York monuments created by artists that we otherwise know from their numismatic work. Many of the monuments are within walking distance of our new building downtown, and we hope that you will have a chance to come visit this historically interesting neighborhood. This is the first of three articles about architectural ornaments and free-standing sculpture in Manhattan, which will eventually serve as a guide book for the City’s numismatics-related public art.

An interview with our much loved Councilor Eric Newman is the first in a series of collector profiles, in which we share the more personal side of some of our great members. Thanks also to Eric’s most generous donation, the ANS celebrates this year its fiftieth Summer Graduate Seminar. This institution is unique as it allows half a dozen graduate students studying at US universities to get a scholarly introduction to the field of numismatics by using the ANS collections and by being taught by leading numismatists. The fact that we regularly get applications from abroad – foreign students can participate but are not supported by our grants – illustrates how popular this program is. Many of the alumni of this program are now teaching in US and overseas universities and help to promote the subject among their students. We are all very grateful to Eric Newman for creating the endowment that allows the ANS to run the Summer Seminar.

Before closing I want again to thank our advertisers, who make this publication possible. We are very grateful for their help and their often beautiful ads. The staff and I hope that we will see you at the annual meeting of the Society in October, which is tentatively planned to be held in our new location. Invitations and the agenda will go out in late September.

Yours truly
Ute Wartenberg Kagan

Subway Token’s Passing Just the Latest for NYC

by George S. Cuhaj

Historians have noted that the growth and success of any metropolitan city of the 19th and 20th century can often be attributed to a good transportation system. The City of New York “got organized” and switched from the random street pattern of colonial times to a planned grid pattern for future development in 1811. The City also commissioned approved-route franchises for omnibus owners who ran horse-drawn “stage” coaches inland from the numerous Manhattan ferry terminals. Operators collected cash fares, but also developed a ticket system for identification of “paid” passengers. Operators who had more than one route franchise offered brass and pewter tokens to passengers who transferred from one route to another. These larger-sized and bulky “transfer tickets” (as their legend is inscribed) were used in the 1840s through the 1850s.

Third Avenue Railroad, Harlem, WM Pass or Transfer Ticket, for Omnibus (c. 1840-1850s). 1859.30.1 Gift of F.H. Jaudon

Third Avenue Railroad, Harlem, WM Pass or Transfer Ticket, for Cable Car (c. 1859). 1859.30.2 Gift of F.H. Jaudon

Haskins & Wilkins 4th Avenue Line, WM Transfer Ticket, for Omnibus (c. 1840-1850s). 0000.999.10595

The New York Central Railroad, so-named in 1853 upon the consolidation of twelve pioneering firms, laid track northward on 4th Avenue. Although called a “railroad,” originally it was really what we now would call a horse-car system. Horse-car networks laid track on approved routes, and paid the city a franchise fee. Cash fares and discount tickets—sold in strips of three or five, or even booklets of 25 or 50 (for frequent users)—were the standard methods of payment for rail transport.

Steam power, in a stationary engine room turning a large wheel wound by a looped cable, was employed by several cable-car companies (yes, even NYC had a cable-car line). The cable ran in a conduit between the rails, and a “grip” operated by the motorman grabbed the moving cable and propelled the car. These were a lot cleaner than horse cars; however, they proved difficult to maintain due to frequent cable problems. The Third Avenue Company operated a cable system in Harlem.

New York & Harlem Railroad Company, WM Octagonal Transfer Ticket, for Cable Car (c. 1850-1860s). 0000.999.10594

The elevated lines which radiated northward on 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th Avenues were at first pulled by small steam locomotives, but as improvements in technology led to the introduction of electrical motive power in the early 1890s, steam was replaced by electricity.

Along the Bowery

It was the lure of open and clean streets in Manhattan which made the City and State of New York approve the plan of August Belmont’s Subway Construction Company to build, and then of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company to operate, an underground transit system. Ground was broken in March 1900, and on October 27, 1904, New York City became the seventh metropolis in the world to open a passenger subway network. (London built the first underground train in 1863). Mayor George B. McClellan operated the ceremonial first train on the route from City Hall to 137th Street. Soon, there was service to the Bronx and, in 1908, under the East River to Brooklyn! In 1912, the Dual Contracts were developed, giving the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (later the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit Company, BMT), extensive franchises for expansion in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. These contractors knew the construction routes ahead of time, bought land at the proposed station locations, and developed those properties at a handsome return.

Entrance to Manhattan subway station, early 1900s

Subway train, 1908

During this early phase, the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad company was formed. It began service in 1908 from Newark and Hoboken NJ through the “Hudson Tubes” to 33rd street and 6th Avenue, while another branch extended to Cortlandt Street in Lower Manhattan-the future site of the World Trade Center. The Hudson and Manhattan system used tokens extensively, and its successor company, the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) Corporation, also used tokens until 1973. PATH was on the modern fare-card “cutting edge” as the first firm to offer a 10-ride discount ticket in the mid 1980s.

For the IRT system, the five-cent “nickel” and paper tickets were principal forms of fares. Anticipating a proposed increase to 7 cents in 1928, the contractor commissioned a copper-nickel token. This fare hike was not approved by the city and state governments, however, and the IRT lost its case for a higher return on appeal to the US Supreme Court. The tokens languished for many years in the storage vaults of the Board of Transportation, with many only coming to light in the 1940s during a scrap metal drive.

1948 New York City Subway Map (23 x 13 inches)

On June 1, 1940, the private companies of the IRT and BMT, bankrupt at that point, were merged with the City-built Independent System (IND) to form the New York City Transit System under the control of the Board of Transportation. The buses of this time had turnstiles on them rather than just fare boxes, so that when a rider transferred from one to another with a paper transfer, he or she needed to be given a token to pass through the turnstile. The three-cent child’s fare during this period was also handled in this way. These tokens were used from early 1939 through 1948, when the fare was raised to ten cents and the turnstiles on the busses were removed.

New York City Transit System, BMT Division, CN Transfer Token (1939-1948). 1943.99.1 Gift of the Board of Transportation of the City of New York

The semi-autonomous New York City Transit Authority was formed in 1953. In June of that year, the fare was raised to 15 cents, and a solid 16mm brass token began a short life. In September, a 16mm token with a “Y” cut-out was introduced, and the solid brass issue was withdrawn. The distinctive Y cut-out was flanked by N and C, forming NYC (for New York City)-a design lasting through a fare increase to 20 cents in 1966, to be finally placed in storage in 1970. A 23mm Y cut-out token was used from 1970 to 1980, with a special commemorative, for the 75th anniversary in 1979, depicting a 1904 subway car and an entrance kiosk. A 22mm solid token came into use with the introduction of a 60-cent fare in 1980. This was replaced with the steel-centered brass token of 1986. A pentagonal cut-out token (one side for each of the five boroughs-state counties-which make up New York City) was introduced in 1995; it is now only used on the Roosevelt Island Tramway (or, until the end of the year-along with 50 cents-on busses).

New York City Transit Authority, Solid Brass 16mm Transit Token (1953) 1953.103.1 Gift of George C. Miles

New York City Transit Authority, Cut-out Brass 16mm Transit Token (1953-1970). 1953.103.2 Gift of George C. Miles

New York City Transit Authority, Cut-out Brass 23mm Transit Token (1970-1980). 0000.999.10604

New York City Transit Authority, Solid Brass 23mm transit Token (1980-1986). 1980.148.1 Gift of George S. Cuhaj

Some seldom-seen tokens were a 28mm Y-cut out version minted in 1966 for the Aqueduct (Race Track) specials, later used until the early ’90s on the express bus routes; a 23mm bulls-eye commemorative for the opening of the Archer Avenue (Queens) extension in 1988, and a 23mm copper-nickel issue marked “Special Fare,” used only for a short period in the early ’80s for the Aqueduct Race Track Special.

New York City Transit Authority, Aqueduct Race Track Express, Cut-out Brass 28mm Special Fare Token (1966-1990s). 1981.128.2 Gift of George S. Cuhaj

New York City Transit Authority, Pierced Brass 75th Anniversary Commemorative token (1979). 1981.85.1 Gift of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority

New York City Transit Authority, Steel-centered Brass 23mm Archer Avenue (Queens) Extension Transit Token (1988). 1993.134.1 Gift of Katharina H. Eldada

It was the standard “used-by-the-masses” tokens which became nearly coin-like in their function within the New York City limits. Short on change for the morning coffee or paper? Short for a tip? A token would be gladly accepted. That is what folks are lamenting. You can’t use the metro-card (yet!) for that newspaper or coffee purchase!

Tokens were phased out, just after midnight on April 13, 2003.

New York City Transit Authority, Pentagonally-pierced 23mm transit Token (1995-2003), unopened bag, 1996.32.1 Gift of John M. Kleeberg

The Case for Gold

by James Grant

The metal will do well in a time when inflation is heading up and short-term interest rates are negative. Don’t be misled by those who say commodity prices will stay low.

Walk through a metal detector into the Florentine splendor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Bear left. Enter the American Numismatic Society’s exhibit of rare coins, rare bills and not-so-rare credit cards. Take another left. Walk west 40 paces. Behold 751 shiny Byzantine gold coins spilling out of a toppled pot.

This is the Bet She’an hoard, 7 1/2 pounds of gold discovered in 1998 under the floor of an ancient residence in the Jordan Valley in northern Israel. It was buried around A.D. 680, probably to avoid confiscation, Israeli archaeologists say.

If he weren’t so very dead, the unnamed owner of this treasure would be desolated, and his heirs would be inconsolable. For 13 centuries the coins in the pot earned no interest. What is the foregone interest on 7 1/2 pounds of gold uninvested since the time of the fifth Umayyad caliph, Abd al-Malik?

Say the gold price in A.D. 680 was $350, or its equivalent. Say the value of that gold, $38,300, was invested at 3%, compounded continuously from that time to this. Then the foregone interest income would be no less than $6.4 sextillion.

Now, 751 coins is not so many. The Numismatic Society claims to own more than a million coins and bills and other forms of money issued and spent over three millennia. The foregone interest income on this uninvested collection is beyond calculating.

Albert Einstein is said to have called compound interest the eighth wonder of the world. But it must be number one in the power to tantalize. If Adam and Eve had opened even a small savings account in the Bank of Eden, and if they and their descendants had conscientiously not made a withdrawal, then the human race could have long ago put its feet up and lived on the interest.

Of course, compounding is not continuous because history is discontinuous. People die, banks fail and nation states rise and fall. Money is confiscated or debased. There likely is a very good reason that 751 gold coins were buried instead of being lent out at interest. The owner traded an income stream in the bush for gold in the hand.

The paradox of gold is that it can be the finest speculation and the poorest investment. Though indestructible and lovely to behold, the barbarous relic earns no interest. And—what is much, much worse—it earns no interest on interest.

Gold was the right thing to bury in A.D. 680 and the wrong thing not to dig up and invest in Microsoft at a split-adjusted price of 18 cents a share in March 1986 A.D. (Today, 17 years later, the price is $51, a 283 bagger, as Peter Lynch might say.) Knowing when danger is advancing and receding is the rarest insight in investing, and it helps to explain the paucity of sextillion-dollar fortunes in The Forbes 400 List. Now, walking out of the Fed into the bracing winter cold, one is faced with the question: Is risk advancing or receding?

I say it’s advancing. Nominal interest rates are low, government bond buyers are complacent and central banks are easy. Much to the dismay of finance ministries in Japan and Europe, the dollar exchange rate is falling against the yen and the euro. This is not because the Fed is objectively tight. For the first time in a decade the “real” federal funds rate is negative (i.e., a 1.25% funds rate minus the 2.4% year-over-year gain in the December consumer price index is a negative 1.15%).

Ben S. Bernanke, one of Alan Greenspan’s new hires at the Federal Reserve Board, reminded a Washington audience in November that the Fed has a marvelous invention for fighting deflation. This device is called a “printing press,” said Bernanke, one of America’s foremost monetary economists. With it the government can “produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes, at essentially no cost.”

On Jan. 9 an auction of ten-year Japanese government bonds was 18.6 times oversubscribed, although their coupon was only 0.9%. For perspective, Haruhiko Kuroda, one of the top contenders to take over the governorship of the Bank of Japan when the job becomes vacant in March, has pledged to print enough yen to push his nation’s inflation rate to 3%. And nobody believes him.

I believe him, and I believe Bernanke. And I also believe that the First Eagle SoGen Gold Fund and the Tocquevile Gold Fund (to name only two of the better-performing gold mutual funds) will go on delivering a better return than the interest-bearing securities of the governments that run the printing presses.

James Grant is editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer

The Groves Forum and COAC

organized by Robert Wilson Hoge

Guests at this year’s Groves Forum in American Numismatics, held at New York City’s Harvard Club, at 27 West 44th Street, the evening of May 16, enjoyed a fascinating look into mid-18th century mint history presented by one of the world’s foremost scholars in this field. Graham Dyer, Curator of the Museum of the British Royal Mint, in Llantrissant, Wales, explored the economic, political and personal ramifications implicit in his address “The Royal Mint and North Carolina, 1754.” He discussed the interesting career of the Irishman Arthur Dobbs, at that time the newly appointed governor of the North Carolina Colony, who proposal the coinage concept. Original documents relating to Dobbs and his proposal were brought to light for the first time and put into context. Dyer explained what had been known of this proposal by the great 19th century numismatist Sylvester S. Crosby and by the 18th century coin dealer and writer William Snelling, and examined the entire background of minting in various metals at the Tower Mint in the mid-1700s. He analyzed what must have been the attitudes by the authorities in London, most particularly the officers of the Royal Mint, to Dobbs’ idea of a coinage of copper halfpence, pence and twopences. Through unpublished contemporary documentation, he placed the response in the context of Mint authorities’ attitudes towards the coinage of copper at that time, both for Great Britain and for Ireland, and surveyed the surviving records dealing with actual mintage figures for these two coinages. The Forum served as a splendid precursor to the Coinage of the America’s Conference held the following day.

Graham Dyer

The COAC was held at New York’s famed Fraunces Tavern on May 17, with over fifty participants. This historic landmark began operations in1762. Fraunces was an ardent patriot, and his tavern was frequented by Revolutionary War leaders. (George Washington really did sleep there!) General Washington made his farewell address to his officers—the future members of the Society of the Cincinnati—here in 1783. The tavern today offers an excellent lower Manhattan dining place and includes an interesting museum collection. The COAC theme for this year was “Our Nation’s Coinage: Varied Origins,” in keeping with which the talks ranged through a diversity of important topics relating to the foundations of the American monetary system.

Robert W. Hoge

Kent Ponterio presented “The First Coinage of the New World: Coins of the Mexico City Mint Struck during the Reign of Charles and Johanna, New Finds Reassigning the Chronology of Assayers and Tentative Dates of Issue.” In it he analyzed the sequences of issues and their assayers based upon recent discoveries made in the study of a major hoard and in original archival sources. Through the evidence of die reworkings and linkages, and reexamination of contemporary edicts and testimony, he established the chronology of issues from 1536 through the end of the reign and documented the origin of the recently-discovered exciting and unique eight-reales pattern piece.

Kent Ponterio

Brian J. Danforth delivered a new perspective on selected Irish coppers that circulated in Colonial America in his “New Interpretations on Irish Coppers in the American Colonies: The St. Patrick, Wood’s Hibernia and Voce Populi Series.” Highlights included revelations about the minter and production sequence, focusing on the career of Peter Blondeau and his inventions, in relation to the St. Patrick coppers; the economics and politics of the 1722-23 Wood’s Hibernia coinage in Ireland and the American colonies, and the attitudes and events surrounding the issuance of Roche’s 1760 “Voce Populi” series.

Brian Danforth

In his “Hessian ‘Blood Money’: the History and the Myth,” David T. Alexander presented the legends of the “bloodthalers” of the Prince of Hesse (the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, Friedrich II, 1760-1785). He reviewed the origins of the German mercenary soldiers in the American Revolutionary War and surveyed some of the actual coinages from the homelands of troops who served their British “allies.” Central to the issue was the peculiar and peripatetic career of Rudolph Erich Raspe, the contemporary Hessian finance minister and early numismatic curator, better known today as the author of the fabulous adventures of Baron Munchausen. Finally, Alexander called for a reappraisal both of the “Hessians” and our understanding of the relevant coinages.

David T. Alexander

John Kraljevich, in his “Annapolis Silver: The Coinage of John Chalmers,” covered the forms of currency—including archaeological finds of coins in the Chesapeake Bay region and contemporary paper money—which formed the backdrop for his subject. He examined the place of Annapolis in the nation in 1783, when it was our first peacetime capital, through a look at surviving documents—including papers of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among others. He explored the position of Chalmers in the community, as well as that of Thomas Sparrow, whom he convincingly suggested as the engraver of Chalmers’ dies. Kraljevich concluded by providing a biography of John Chalmers’ curious life and discussed the specific features and survival of the coins he issued.

John Kraljevich

As a result of cataloguing the collections in preparation for opening a new center and increased public exposure of objects long held in storage, significant numismatic items came to light in the New York Historical Society. In her talk entitled “Recent Discoveries in the New York Historical Society,” Margaret K. Hofer, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts at The New-York Historical Society, focused on two exciting discoveries. The first consisted of five decorations of the Society of the Cincinnati, all but one traced to an original owner. These insignia include three of the earliest, “eagles” fabricated in Paris in 1784, and two New York City examples made around 1802. The second part of Hofer’s talk revealed a pair of pattern quarters from 1792 designed by Joseph Wright. She provided background information on Wright and discussed the coins’ imagery.

Margaret K. Hofer

Syd Martin examined two recently discovered Early American Coins of unknown origin in his study “The ‘Georgius Triumpho’/Danish West Indies Mule.” He analyzed the coins from this anomalous die pair, pointed out their physical characteristics—their very late die states—and submitted deductions as to where and when they were produced: Birmingham, between the time when the original DWI counterfeit 24-skilling piece would have been produced (1767) and the date of its obsolescence (ca. 1815). He noted the appearance of the name of John Winchester in known association with the Birmingham counterfeiting of DWI coinage ca. 1770, but suggested a likely production date in the late 1780s or ’90s for the “Georgius Triumpho” pairing.

Sid Martin

Donald G. Partrick

Ray Williams

Jay M. Galst & Jerome Heggerty

David Alexander & Nancy Green

Eric P. Newman: A Collector Profile

by Robert Wilson Hoge

“I always like to tell a story about when I was ten years old, and my allowance was five cents a week,” replied renowned numismatic scholar Eric P. Newman when asked to reflect upon his distinguished career. “For three cents I could ride on a street car every couple of weeks to Burdette G. Johnson’s coin shop in downtown St. Louis to buy something. That man changed my entire life.” Eric recalls that Johnson “had an absolutely spectacular memory; he had absorbed a total 20-volume history of the world… I remember his saying to me one day, ‘Eric, I won’t sell you this coin because you don’t know anything about it. But here’s a book… You take it home and read it, and then tell me what you learn.’ I did, and he became my very close friend and mentor. I bought many coins from him, American large cents, colonials, and in due course we purchased most of the Col. Edward H. R. Green collection together.”

Eric P. Newman

Eric has gone on to make outstanding contributions to numismatics, achieving many important discoveries and publishing major works on a variety of subjects—primarily in Early American studies. “I’ve enjoyed it so much; the excitement from numismatics in my life is overwhelming.” He cites not only his satisfying research, but the many friends and opportunities he has enjoyed through his work in the field. Among his numismatic colleagues, Eric names his half-century friends such as Q. David Bowers, Kenneth Bressett, Harry Forman, Peter Gaspar, Joseph R. Lasser, and Margo Russell, as well as others now gone, such as Fred C. C. Boyd, Walter Breen, Harley Freeman, Richard Picker, Wayte Raymond, Don Taxay and Raymond Williamson. (And indeed, we cannot even attempt here to name separately his more modern numismatic friends and colleagues, so extensive a group are they!). In his long and close association with the American Numismatic Society (ANS), Eric fondly recalls officers and staff with whom he has worked: Francis (Frank) Campbell, William Clark, Leslie Elam, John Kleeberg, George Miles, and Sydney Noe. He is especially proud of the prestigious Archer M. Huntington Medal Award which was bestowed upon him by the ANS in 1978.

Eric Pfeiffer Newman is a native of St. Louis, Missouri, born May 25, 1911, son of Samuel Elijah and Rose (Pfeiffer) Newman. After obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1932, he studied law at Washington University of St. Louis and received a Doctorate in Jurisprudence there in 1935. He practiced law in St. Louis until 1943. Employed by Edison Brothers Stores from 1944, he became Executive Vice President of that company in 1968. With his wife Evelyn, whom he married in 1939, Eric has traveled extensively (he is a member of the Explorers’ Club). Some of the Newmans’ memorable experiences in this respect, he has noted, were due to numismatic connections. One opportunity was to go fishing in the Persian Gulf with a member of the royal family of Qatar, Shaykh Hamad bin Abdullah M. al-Thani, a fellow numismatic enthusiast with whom ANS had made the contact.

There have been many highlights in Eric’s numismatic career. He is a multiple recipient of the Heath Literary Award of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), and has received the ANA’s Medal of Merit (1964); Exemplary Service Award (1993); and the Association’s highest honor, the Farran Zerbe Award (1969). In 1986, he was enrolled in the ANA’s Hall of Fame and, in 1996, named that organization’s “Numismatist of the Year.”

In 1991, Eric received the Medal of the Royal Numismatic Society, that venerable British organization’s highest honor, and in 2001, the Burnett Anderson Memorial Award for Excellence in Numismatic Writing, conferred and sponsored by Krause Publications. The latter is presented annually to a researcher, author or journalist for overall contributions to numismatics, and is judged on the recipient’s entire body of work. The winner is selected in a cooperative process by the ANA, the ANS and the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG); in Eric’s case, a very easy determination!

Eric created and has headed his own foundation since 1959, the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society, and in 1981 opened his own money museum exhibition at the Mercantile Bank of St. Louis. His children, Linda N. Schapiro and Andrew E. Newman, along with his wife, have encouraged and participated in his numismatic endeavors.

Eric’s great love for numismatics started as a 7 year old, when his grandfather gave him an 1859 cent. With Burdette G. Johnson’s guidance, he proceeded to assemble one of the foremost collections of American coins, tokens, paper money and numismatic publications ever put together, and he did this with such a depth of knowledge that the collection’s quality and importance are probably incalculable. One-time owner of all five of the 1913 Liberty Head five-cent pieces, he believes the most important coin in his collection is the unique 1792 Washington President pattern in gold by John Gregory Hancock, apparently the first president’s own pocket piece. But Eric is probably even more widely respected for his work as an author, speaker and researcher. Demonstrating his support of numismatics over six decades, he is still consistently giving freely of himself for the betterment of that discipline or hobby.

We may note just a few of Eric’s significant publications:

  • Varieties of the Fugio Cent (1949, 1952)
  • The 1776 Continental Currency Coinage (1952)
  • Coinage for Colonial Virginia (1956, 1962)
  • The Fantastic 1804 Dollar (with Kenneth E. Bressett, 1962)
  • Nature Printing on Colonial and Continental Currency (1964)
  • The Early Paper Money of America (1967, 1976, 1990, 1997)
  • American Circulation of English and Bungtown Halfpence (1976)
  • The Dollar $ign: Its Written and Printed Origins (1995)
  • U.S. Coin Scales and Counterfeit Coin Detectors (with A. George Mallis, 1999)

In addition to these works, he has authored a great many other fine articles for the ANS’ various series: Museum Notes, the American Journal of Numismatics, Numismatic Notes and Monographs, the Colonial Newsletter, the Proceedings of the Coinage of the Americas Conference. His articles have made important contributions, as well, to The Numismatist (ANA), the Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, the American Philosophical Society and the British Numismatic Journal. In the course of his numismatic research, he has even delved into literary criticism, clarifying for the first time the bawdy meaning of a portion of the gravediggers’ scene in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Always interested in supporting the efforts of others, Eric has said, “Numismatics has enabled me to help other people do research and writing.” He has underwritten the ANS annual Graduate Seminars for many years as well as serving as a member of the Society’s Council since 1963 and being a benefactor. He has guided and is guiding the recovery of U.S. cents stolen from the ANS about 1949. “Profiling” today may have something of a negative connotation, but to study and describe the numismatic career of as eminent a gentleman as Eric P. Newman is about as positive an exercise as one may find in the contemporary world of writing. It is our pleasure to salute a wonderful friend to the Society and a person who has done his utmost to explore and present the fascinating world of numismatics!

The History of the ANS: The Fifth Decade

Abridged by Oliver D. Hoover from Howard Adelson’s History of the ANS

In the last installment of this series we saw the American Numismatic and Archaeological society struggle with the perennial problem of maintaining proper quarters at the same time that it was expanding as an important organization on both the national and international stage. In its fifth decade, under the leadership of Andrew C. Zabriskie and Archer M. Huntington the ANS triumphed over some of its old difficulties and created new opportunities for itself at the opening of the 20th century.


In the late 19th century the popularity of medallic art reached the peak of its popularity both in Europe and in the Americas. Medals were the common vehicle through which to commemorate exemplary individuals as well as important events in the lives of organizations and nations. As we have seen in previous installments of the ANS history, the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society naturally had an early interest in the art of the medal and produced several noteworthy specimens honoring the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Christopher Columbus, as well as the Society’s presidents, Charles E. Anthon and Daniel Parish, Jr. However, as 1800s waned and the new century began to dawn, the Society advanced the cause of the American medal with increased vigor.

In 1896 the ANS struck a medal to commemorate the opening of the St. Luke’s Hospital building on Cathedral Heights and in the following year another medal was produced to mark the completion of Grant’s Tomb. The symbolic importance of this New York monument, which was erected with the aid of American as well as international donations, made the latter medal especially appropriate for presentation to world leaders and in 1897 the Society sent silver specimens to a host of foreign and domestic luminaries that included such figures as the President of the United States, the Mayor of New York, the Chinese Viceroy Li-Huang Xiang, Pope Leo XIII, the Queen of England, the President of France, the Emperor of Germany, the Tsar of Russia, the Emperor of Japan, the Emperor of China, the Queen of Holland, the King of Sweden, the Emperor of Austria, the King of Italy and the King of Spain. A bronze copy was given to the President of Venezuela, while an example in gold was presented to General Horace Porter, Grant’s aide de camp and close friend during the Civil War. As a point of the official responses to the Grant medals were carefully collected and bound together for preservation in the Society’s Library.

New St. Luke’s Hospital, Opening and Dedication 1896. ANS AR 51mm commemorative medal by Victor D. Brenner (1987.147.11) Gift of David R. Lit

General Ulysses S. Grant, Tomb Dedication, 1897. ANS AE 64mm commemorative medal, by Tiffany & Co. (1985.81.161) Gift of Daniel M. Friedenberg

When it was announced that the Twenty-fifth National Conference of Charities and Correction would be held in New York on May 18, 1898, William Rhinelander Stewart, the president of the conference, approached the ANS to strike a commemorative medal for the occasion. The Society agreed to his proposal with the understanding that it would have control over the design, retain the canceled dies, and have the right to purchase specimens for the collection. The obverse design, which included a depiction of the Angel of Mercy descending to personifications of the poor and the imprisoned, was created by Victor D. Brenner, the future designer of the Lincoln cent. It was so well received that the Conference requested and received the right to use the design as its official seal. In the same year, a second medal, designed by Edward Hagaman Hall, was also produced for Charter Day, a celebration honoring the consolidation of the five boroughs of Greater New York.

25th National Conference of Charities and Correction, 1898. ANS AR 76mm commemorative medal, by Victor D. Brenner (1898.25.7) Gift of V.D. Brenner

Port of New York City, Municipalities Consolidation, 1898. ANS AR 64mm commemorative medal, by Tiffany & Co. (0000.999.4301)

In 1900, the Society issued another of Brenner’s medal designs to commemorate a visit of Prince Henry of Prussia to the United States and invited Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy and renowned collector, to become an honorary member. The invitation, which was graciously accepted, came with an example of the ANS medal struck in gold.

Visit of H.R.H. Prince Henry of Prussia to the United States,1902. ANS AR 70mm commemorative medal, by Victor D. Brenner (1902.25.1) Gift of V.D. Brenner

The Paris Exposition of 1900

Thanks to George R. Kunz, the honorable special agent to the commander general of the United States at the Paris Exposition of 1900, it was possible for the Society to take part in this great international event. Plans for the Society’s participation quickly moved forward, which included the naming of J. Sanford Saltus, Augustus Saint Gaudens, and Victor D. Brenner as its representatives in Paris, until the meeting held on January 15, 1900. On that evening Daniel Parish, Jr. objected to ANS involvement in the Exposition on the grounds that “the medals produced in this country [the United States] could not compete with those of France in artistic merit.” The response to this concern was to form the ANS exhibit with its main focus on American numismatic history, rather than artistry. To this end, a variety of Colonial and United States coin types were selected for the exhibit, along with medals illustrating facets of American history and various insignia of American military and patriotic societies. These items were displayed in the Society’s rooms on March 1, 1900, before they were packed up, insured and shipped to France.

The ANS exhibit proved to be a great success and was deemed worthy of a prize medal and a diploma from the organizers of the Paris Exposition. The somewhat novel inclusion of insignia generated a good deal of interest and led to the decision to devote part of the Society’s cabinet to a collection of this material. A Committee of Insignia of Military and Hereditary Societies (shortened to the Committee on American Insignia in 1901) was soon formed and charged with forming an insignia collection. The success of this committee can be gauged by the fact that by 1905 the ANS already possessed 134 insignia, forming the nucleus of the collection that now consists of more than 3,000 pieces.

France. Universal International Exposition, 1900. AR 63.5mm participation medal, by J.C. Chaplain, awarded to ANS (1903.2.1)


Around the same time that the new insignia collection began to grow, the Society benefited from the generous donations of two of its members. In 1897, Parish Hackley Barhydt, a Society member since 1895, died. However, despite his relative inactivity in the doings of the ANS, his love of the organization was recognized by his widow, who established a $200 fund in his memory.

Even more impressive was the gift of 5,286 Civil War tokens presented by Edward Groh in 1900. This donation represented the first sizeable collection acquired by the Society and later formed the cornerstone for George Hetrich’s monumental study, Civil War Tokens and Tradesmen’s Store Cards (1924). The tokens were especially well received not only because of their quantity and quality, but also because of the high regard in which members of the Society held Groh. He had been one of the original founders of the ANS and had shown an unflagging interest in the Society’s affairs from the very beginning. In recognition of his tireless efforts on behalf of the organization he was honored by the presentation of an inscribed silver loving cup. Edward Groh’s death on January 2, 1905, came as a great blow to the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society.

The School for Coin and Medal Designing and Die Cutting

The Society’s frequent involvement in the production of medals to mark special events, and a personal concern over the quality of American medallic art led ANS President, Andrew C. Zabriskie, to suggest that a regular series of art medals should be struck, following the manner of the limited edition books then being produced by the Grolier Club. To this end a Medal Committee was formed and by 1904 the first new medal had been issued, based on a Brenner design and honoring Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer for whom the Americas are named.

Amerigo Vespucci, 400th Anniversary Celebration, 1903. ANS AR 76 x 58mm commemorative plaquette, by Victor D. Brenner (1904.28.1) Gift of the ANS Medals Committee

At the same time that Zabriskie recommended the series that the Vespucci medal later inaugurated, the National Academy of Design offered the Society space in its new building for a School for Coin and Medal Designing and Die Cutting. Such an opportunity was too great to pass up and by November of 1900 preliminary steps had been taken to take advantage of the offer. It was proposed that the school should open immediately on a schedule of three sessions a week with eight to ten pupils and two instructors. One of the instructors was to be responsible for teaching the art of drawing and die design, while the other would teach the modeling of the designs and the incising of metals. The cost of operations for the academic year was estimated at $800, to be raised by subscription from Society members.

The first teacher at the school was Charles J. Pike, a well regarded medallist and sculptor, who gave instruction twice a week for the impressive salary of fifty dollars per month. He began with only two pupils, but by January of 1901 the class had expanded to nine. However, by May it was down to seven pupils. Enrollment declined still further in the following year, when only four students attended. In an attempt to improve enrollment it was decided to add some instruction in the design of artistic jewellery. It was hoped that individuals interested in this course might later be directed towards medallic art. Unfortunately, the plan failed to yield results and participation continued to dwindle. The school was also plagued by the fact that it was unable to find a diesinker willing to teach what students there were. Thus, in 1905, the Society abandoned the idea of the school and used the remaining balance of the funds raised to pay for it, $203.94, to purchase books, coins, and medals with the tacit approval of the subscribers.


In November of 1905 it became necessary for the ANS to revise its Constitution and By-Laws, in part because the New York Law of 1848, under which it had been incorporated, was repealed and the Society now fell under the Membership Corporations’ Law. Section 14 of the latter law required a vote of the majority at an annual meeting in order to change the number of directors or managers, while Section 31 limited the total number of managers to thirty. Section 8 also required nine members to be present in order to constitute a quorum. In order to comply with the law twelve amendments were made to the Constitution and By-Laws of the Society and unanimously adopted at the Annual Meeting held in January of 1906.

Not only did the Constitution of the ANS change in 1905, but so did the presidency. In December of the previous year Andrew C. Zabriskie resigned his post for reasons that are still unclear. In his stead, Archer M. Huntington, a wealthy philanthropist and accomplished scholar of Spanish culture and literature, was elected as the new President. His tenure in office would mark a turning point in the history of the Society and pave the way for a more prosperous future. Another notable addition to the organization in 1905 was Edward T. Newell, an independent student of Greek and Hellenistic numismatic subjects, who accepted the post of Assistant Curator. His work on difficult and sometimes obscure facets of ancient coinage would become the sturdy foundation upon which many later studies were built.

A New Home

An almost constant theme throughout the early history of the Society was the lack of a true permanent home and the constant need to seek out and move into new quarters. Under the direction of Archer M. Huntington the somewhat nomadic life that the ANS had been leading was brought to an end, heralding the start of a new era of stability for the Society.

In May of 1906 the lease of the Society’s rooms at the Union Dime Savings Bank was due to expire, making it necessary to look for quarters elsewhere. Faced with this situation, Huntington, who also happened to be the President of the Hispanic Society of America, suggested that the ANS make use of rooms in the Hispanic Society building located at Audubon Terrace. Although there was some initial concern about moving as far uptown as Broadway and 155th Street, in late 1905 the decision was taken to accept the offer of the Hispanic Society and by May 21, 1906 the ANS was safely ensconced at its new location. As a sign of thanks, the Hispanic Society of America was inscribed as an honorary member of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society in 1907. To this day it remains the oldest honorary member still on the rolls. In response, the ANS was elected to honorary membership in the Hispanic Society.

Nevertheless, the quarters furnished by the Hispanic Society were only ever conceived of as a stopgap measure, for in January of 1906, Archer M. Huntington had presented to the ANS a plot of ground at Audubon Terrace for the erection of a proper building for the Society. This gift was gratefully accepted and subscriptions were immediately solicited from the membership in order to raise the money for the cost of building. By March 19, more than $20,000 had already been received, making it possible to press ahead with the granting of construction contracts. The projected cost of the building, which was to be in the free classic style and in harmony with the design of the Hispanic Society building, was $47,000.

Architect’s Sketch of the ANS Building (1905). “The American Numismatic Society, 1858-1958” by Howard L. Adelson, p 148.

Construction was well under way by the end of 1906, but in the following year it was reported that the total subscriptions only amounted to $23,985.08, forcing the Society to borrow the remainder of the $47,000 in order to complete the building in 1908. On April 6, 1908 the ANS held its fiftieth Annual Meeting in the new, but still incomplete, building. The celebration of this anniversary was especially joyous and marked by numerous congratulatory messages from organizations and individuals both in the United States and abroad. On this occasion J. Sanford Saltus presented to the Society with the gavel, which is still used by ANS Presidents to this day, and more significantly, President Huntington donated $25,000 to complete the payments for the building. Thus, the Society could begin its new life at its new location entirely debt free.

On May 13, 1908, the ANS building was formally opened to the public and received favorable attention from the press. New vistas now lay open to the Society as both a scholarly institution and as a museum serving the general public. At the close of its fifth decade the great opportunities now open to the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society began to be appreciated, as can be seen from a report by the Council in November of 1908: “Visitors come to the building every day and receive as much attention as it is possible to give them. The public seems to be gradually finding out that there is a numismatic museum in New York, and, while a considerable portion of the people do not know what Numismatic means, we are certainly making a beginning in giving them that information.”

Iraq Museum Coins Found Safe

by Michael Bates

The Iraq Museum, which has been very much in the news lately, formerly included the only active numismatic center in the Arab Middle East, with a staff of at least three. It held a major collection of coins from archeological sites as well as gifts, and published a numismatic journal and a monograph series. Published news reports of looting, and the subsequent bitter debate about blame for this barbarity, led Islamic numismatists and some others to demand “But what about the coins?” No news could be obtained, either from the international press or from the few academics who had access to direct information. The earliest post-looting visitor to the museum was John Curtis, from the British Museum—the husband of Vesta Curtis, of the BM’s Department of Coins and Medals.

Finally, we now have the information sought, in the report of U.S. Marine Col. Matthew Bogdanos, head of the team assigned by the Department of Defense to investigate the Museum situation. It is entitled “Briefing from the Team Investigating Antiquity Loss in Iraq,” in DefenseLINK, online (http://​​transcripts/2003/​tr20030516-0202.html), May 16, 2003. It was brought to wider notice by Dr. Francis Deblauwe in an e-mail news list (more below) on May 23. He noted “the full transcript of the briefing provides a much better picture than the reports published in the newspapers.” This is certainly true for the interesting paragraph that mentions the coins:

Turning to the basement-level magazine, the evidence here strongly suggests that this magazine or storage room was compromised or entered not by random looters but by thieves with an intimate knowledge of the museum and its storage practices, for it is here they attempted to steal the most trafficable and easily transportable items stored in the most remote corner of the museum. The front door of this basement magazine was intact, but its bricked rear doorway was broken and entered. This magazine has four rooms, three of which were virtually untouched. Indeed, even the fourth room appears untouched except for a single corner, where almost 30 small boxes originally containing cylinder seals, amulets, pendants and jewelry had been emptied, while hundreds of surrounding larger but empty boxes were untouched. The thieves here had keys that were previously hidden elsewhere in the museum. These keys were to the storage cabinets that lay immediately adjacent to these boxes. In those storage cabinets were tens of thousands of Greek, Roman, Hellenistic and Islamic gold and silver coins, one of the finest collections anywhere. Ironically, the thieves appear to have dropped the keys to those storage cabinets in one of those plastic boxes on the floor. After frantically and unsuccessfully searching for them in the dark – there was no electricity, and they were using foam padding, lighting that afire for light – after searching for them in the dark and throwing the boxes in every direction, they left without opening any of the storage cabinets. After a methodical search, the [Department of Defense] team found the keys underneath the debris, underneath these strewn boxes. The inventory of this room will also take weeks, but it appears that little was taken and a catastrophic loss narrowly averted.

The entry to the exhibit of the al-Sarraf collection.

Col. Bogdanos identified himself at the press conference, after reading his report, as a reserve officer, normally a homicide prosecutor with the New York County [Manhattan] District Attorney’s Office for some fifteen years, with a master’s degree in classical studies. The reference to the gold and silver coins raises a question about the coppers. Normally, copper coins would be stored with the precious metal coins of the country or dynasty that issued them, so they should be in the same cabinets. Perhaps Col. Bogdanos was only told about the gold and silver as being the most significant materials.

A view of the al-Sarraf collection in the old exhibit

The Museum’s main coin collection, then, appears to be safe, although it would be reassuring to know that the cabinets have been opened to confirm that the coins are still inside. The fate of another part of the Museum’s coin collection has also been resolved. Early news reports referred to 1600 coins thought to be missing. With the help of two young Arab-Americans, Ban and Fawaz Saraf, who contacted the ANS for help not long after the war, it was possible to establish that these must be the Islamic collection of their father Abdullah Shukur al-Sarraf, donated to the Museum in 1969. The entire collection (1593 coins to be precise) was displayed in a room of its own, Hall 7 on the upper floor. The two Sarafs came to visit the Society on April 25, with a photocopy of the Museum’s publication al-Maskukat, number 2, devoted entirely to the collection and the new exhibit hall. There were already rumors that the collection was removed from the exhibit long before 2003. The Sarafs have since learned from people in Baghdad that the collection was stored away, like everything else on exhibit, while the Museum was closed in the 1990s, and is still in a vault outside the Museum. The entire al-Sarraf collection is listed in al-Maskukat 2, but only the rare and interesting coins are illustrated there.

One of the earliest known Islamic dirhams, struck in CE 698, before the general introduction of the reformed type—perhaps the Iraq Museum’s star coin.

The Museum’s numismatic staff has published extensively: four monographs, on the gold and silver coins of the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphs and on the coins of the Medieval turkish Atabegs; some hundreds of articles in the journal of the Iraq Department of Antiquities, Sumer, since 1945; and a journal produced by the numismatic department itself, al-Maskukat (“Coins”), since 1969. Thirteen issues of the latter were produced, of which the Society’s library has the first six and a photocopy of the combined volume 10-11. The University of Chicago seems to have the only publicly available full set in North America.

Just recently, some addtional news has been received, from Dr. Lamia Al-Gailani of London, about the Museum’s former numismatic staff. The department itself was closed during the difficult times of the nineties, and as a result of retirements. Nasir al-Naqshabandi, the founder of numismatic research in Iraq, died in the sixties (his son Usama is now Director of the National Library in Baghdad). Muhammad Baqir al-Husayni has also died, a few years ago. Nahid Abd al-Razzaq Daftar is believed to be teaching in another Arab country. Widad Ali al-Qazzaz and Mahab Darwish al-Bakri have both retired, but the latter still serves as consultant for numismatics at the Museum. The Museum authorities, according to Dr. Al-Gailani, had hoped to re-open the department when conditions permit.

Several interesting websites and newslists have developed in the wake of the war and looting. Dr. Deblauwe, who made the above excerpts public, maintains the fascinating “2003 Iraq War & Archaeology” site at Dr. Deblauwe is a former academic classicist, with degrees from UCLA and the Catholic University of Louvain. Most recently, he has been a “competitive intelligence analyst” with Sprint Corporation. He is a frequent contributor to the Iraqcrisis e-mail list, which is managed at the University of Chicago by Charles E. Jones, a bibliographer and researcher at the Oriental Institute. This list has become the principal source for in-depth information on the looting and its aftermath, collected from a variety of sources. The list is available for subscription at Mr. Jones also maintains the Oriental Institute’s “Lost Treasures from Iraq” site, which includes a bibliography of works cataloguing the Museum’s collections (at http://​​OI/IRAQ/​iraq.html). The entry, provides a still incomplete listing of the Iraq Museum’s numismatic publications. The site is an excellent resource for all aspects of the museum’s collections, with a program to restore the museum and create an interactive database of its collections (but includes nothing about coins!). The site can quickly call up a number of links to Iraq Museum information, A pre-war site prepared by a Baghdad travel agency provides a visual tour of the Museum as it was before the recent disturbances:

Another view of the al-Sarraf collection in the old exhibit

Monuments, Medals, and Metropolis, part I

by Peter van Alfen; photography by Alan Roche

This is the first of a series of articles to examine the relationship between numismatics and other artistic media—primarily public sculpture and architecture—in Manhattan. In conjunction with this series, the Society is developing a self-guided tour that will introduce visitors to the monuments discussed in these articles, many of which are within walking distance of our downtown exhibit at the Federal Reserve Bank and our new building just a block away. For those unable to visit these sites in person, a virtual tour will soon be posted on our website In this first installment we consider the sculptural adornments of Beaux Arts period architecture created by noted numismatic artists. Later installments will examine Beaux Arts free-standing sculpture and Art Deco architectural ornaments.

The American Renaissance

One hundred years ago public aesthetics in the United States received more focused and programmatic attention than it has at anytime before or since. From the perspective of public art, the first two decades of the 20th century witnessed an intense effort on the part of politicians, businessmen, architects, sculptors, engravers—and even the ANS—to enrich the US cultural landscape with a monumentality and grandeur that could rival any of that found across the Atlantic. This American Renaissance found tireless support in President Theodore Roosevelt, whose friendship with the highly influential sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens is nearly legendary: Saint-Gaudens, at Roosevelt’s request, created two new gold coins—the $20 double eagle and the $10 eagle, introduced in 1907—both of which were arguably the most pleasing US coins ever produced. And that, of course, was the point. But the friendship between these two was really only one facet of an extensive network of personal and professional relationships linking men of various talents together in one driving aesthetic vision. Almost all of the artists who came to be involved in the program initiated by Roosevelt to revamp what he called the “atrociously hideous” coinage of the early 1900s—Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Adolph A. Weinman, Hermon A. MacNeil, James Earle Fraser, Victor D. Brenner, Bela L. Pratt, and Anthony di Francisci—were known to one another either as teachers, apprentices, or fellow students. Some trained abroad at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, in Florence, and elsewhere, but nearly all of them had ties to the Art Students League and the recently established Cooper Union polytechnic school, both in Manhattan. This fraternity, of which Saint-Gaudens was the grand master, supported one another in numerous ways; Saint-Gaudens, for example, suggested to Roosevelt that Weinman design his second inaugural medal when the master was too busy to consider the commission. But perhaps more importantly, the personal ties between the artists, and the fact that most of them maintained studios in the City, meant that they frequently consulted one another for advice and criticism, thus having the effect of focusing the collective genius more narrowly than might otherwise have been the case.

$10 eagle designed by Saint-Gaudens (ANS 1980.109.2290)

While today these artists are known for their work on the nation’s coinage, in their time most were better known as sculptors of monumental stone and bronze. It was this skill that allowed them to join forces with a different set of the Beaux Arts fraternity: the architects who were transforming the outward character and skylines of the country with their mission to “beautify” the cities. As David Lowe (1998) remarks: “It was the Beaux Arts that found New York a city of sooty brownstone and left it one of bright marble, furnished it with palaces and galleries, caravansaries and public monuments. It was the Beaux Arts style that made New York dare to be extravagant and also to be beautiful.”

Adhering the Beaux Arts dictum that the Classical model was the pinnacle of architectural beauty, the principals of the firm of McKim, Mead & White, and one of their former employees, Cass Gilbert, helped to give Gotham the fluted columns, Corinthian capitals, and sculpted pediments—such as those of the New York Stock Exchange—that it needed to stand on equal footing with Paris or London. Nearly all of these New World temples of law, commerce or learning included extensive sculptural programs most of which were allegorical and meant to edify the public. The gem-like quality of these structures with their many stone figures, murals, bronze and wood trimmings, all thoroughly rich in detail, required the collaboration of scores of specialized artisans working directly with the architects. Massive collaborative projects of this sort-intended to integrate all of the arts-were a hallmark of the Beaux Arts period, rarely seen on this continent since the decades around 1900. For the more important sculptural elements, like the allegorical groups, the architects sought out the better artists known to them, like those in Saint-Gaudens’ circle, and commissioned the pieces often at considerable expense. The results, however, justified the outlay: each building was envisioned as an artistic tour de force meant to awe posterity for centuries. Sadly, some lasted only decades; most, the victims of power broker Robert Moses’ urban reconstruction. The works that remain, however, attest to the grandeur of the collective vision that drove the American Renaissance, with its rich and graceful effects permeating architecture, sculpture, and of course numismatic design.

Obverse of medal by Chas Gregory & Co. depicting the frontal elevation of the New York Stock Exchange (George B. Post architect 1903). The influence of Classical temple architecture on this structure is readily apparent (ANS 1914.73.2)

Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Saint-Gaudens’ architectural sculpture in Manhattan was limited to Diana, an 18′ tall gilded nude, that was installed atop McKim, Mead & White’s Madison Square Garden in 1891. As notoriously controversial as his other public nudes—the rejected reverse of the Columbian Exposition Medal, and his cherubic figures above the entrance to the Boston Public Library (also designed by McKim, Mead & White)—Diana was fated to have only a brief career in situ. Both Saint-Gaudens and the architect felt the 18′ statue was out of proportion to the building and so created a second, smaller 13′ version which was installed in late 1893. Because she was mounted on a rotating pedestal, Diana turned with the wind; she was also the first sculpture in the sky to be illuminated at night. The taller Diana was sent the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 where she once again found a lofty perch on the Agricultural Building. The statue disappeared after a fire damaged the building; the second one found a home in the Philadelphia Museum of Art when Madison Square Garden was razed in 1925. Saint-Gaudens’ model for Diana, Julia “Dudie” Baird, posed for two other well-known New York sculptural pieces: the Victory in Sherman’s March to the Sea at Grand Army Plaza, and Weinman’s Civic Fame atop the municipal building (Reynolds 1988).

Saint-Gaudens’ Diana which once graced Madison Square Garden (Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of the New York Life Insurance Company. Graydon Wood 1995).

Adolph A. Weinman

An apprentice of Saint-Gaudens, Weinman became, like his mentor, an immensely popular and prolific sculptor. Best known in numismatic circles for his so-called “Mercury-head” dime and “Walking Liberty” half dollar, both introduced in 1916, and a host of medals, including the ANS Saltus Award medal (of which he was the recipient in 1920), Weinman’s work adorns many of the City’s more famous edifices, all designed by McKim, Mead & White.

The joint projects began with Weinman’s commission for two panels in the façade of the Pierpont Morgan Library (1902-1906; 36th St. between Madison and Park Aves.) depicting Music Inspiring the Allied Arts and Truth Enlightening the Sciences. On a similar scale was the bas relief pediment, in colored faience, of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church (c. 1905; ironically one of the last buildings that Stanford White was to design before he was shot and killed on Madison Square Garden roof-top pavillion by Harry Thaw; White was having an affair with Thaw’s wife, Evelyn). The church was demolished in the 1960s. A victim also of the same plan to modernize was McKim, Mead & White’s Beaux Arts magnum opus—Pennsylvanian Station (1904-1910)—still mourned as a lost icon of the City’s pre-war glory. Entrusted with a greater range of the sculptural program, Weinman created various decorative panels and two 10′ tall bronze portrait statues of Pennsylvania Railroad presidents Samuel Rae and Alexander Cassatt, which occupied places inside the building. Rae’s statue can still be found at the entrance of the new Pennsylvania Station (2 Penn Plaza, off 7th Ave. at 32nd), while that of Cassatt was shipped to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Better engraved upon the collective memory of New Yorkers, however, are Weinman’s 22 granite eagles that stood sentry along the cornice of the building and his monumental clock with its two figures Day and Night that announced the time to all those dashing to meet a train. When the building was dismantled, the clock and figures were taken to a dump in New Jersey and the eagles were dispersed. Two, however, remain on pedestals flanking the ignoble entrance to the new station (2 Penn Plaza, off 7th Ave. at 32nd), a third can be found on a secluded patio belonging to Cooper Union near the corner of 3rd Avenue and St. Mark’s. Weinman was known to have a penchant for the eagle and sought to present the bird in ways that would underscore its power and dignity. With the Penn Station eagles he found a pose and texture that was quite successful, which might explain the uncanny resemblance, in profile, between the massive granite eagle and the miniature striding bird of his half dollar.

Panel in the façade of the J. P. Morgan Library depicting Truth Enlightening the Sciences (author)

Panel in the façade of the J.P. Morgan Library depicting Music Inspiring the Allied Arts (author)

Weinman’s station of Samuel Rae at Penn Station (author)

One of Weinman’s eagles from the demolished Pennsylvania Station compared to the reverse of his half dollar (Alan Roche; ANS 1936.165.6)

Period postcard depicting Pennsylvania Station

The most colossal of Weinman’s collaborations with McKim, Mead & White, was the Municipal Building (1913; at the east end of Chambers St.), one of the earliest sky scrapers in the City and one which still dominates lower Manhattan. For this project Weinman was given control over the entire sculptural program, which included two large stone medallions of Progress and Prudence, and various allegorical bas-relief figures depicting aspects of the municipal government: for example, Elections, Civil Service, Board of Estimate and Apportionment, and Building Inspection. But the crowning achievement, quite literally, was Civic Fame, a 25′ tall sheet copper statue that gleams atop the building nearly 600′ above the streets. Installed in 1913, this heroic figure, Manhattan’s largest statue, holds in one hand a crown with five crenellations representing the five boroughs of the city; in the other hand is a spray of laurel representing fame, while the right arm supports a shield on which is carved the seal of the city.

Period postcard depicting the Municipal Building, Newspaper Row, and City Hall Park

Medallion Progress from the Municipal Building. Note the winged wheel, a ubiquitous Beaux Arts symbol of progress, held in the hand (Alan Roche)

Medallion Prudence from the Municipal Building. (Alan Roche)

Weinman’s Civic Fame (Les Metalliers Champenois)

Although not in Manhanttan, but worthy of mention, are the eight large rectangular block sculptures designed by Weinman which sit in front of the Bronx County Court Building (1932). Similar in theme to the sculpture found on the Appellate Court in Manhattan (see below), the groups represent the history of law through the ages, beginning with Greece and Rome. However, keeping in line with the Art Deco design of the building, these groups show something of a departure from Weinman’s other architectural sculpture in the more stylized, rather than natural, appearance of the figures.

Daniel Chester French

As a younger sculptor, Weinman also assisted in the studio of Daniel Chester French, who was a member of the ANS, and who is best known for his monumental portrait of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Although French never designed a US coin, he was an accomplished medalist whose work included a medal, issued by the ANS in 1917, commemorating the building of the Catskills Aqueduct, a major water supply for the City. French reused the obverse of the medal in his design for the Medallic Art Company’s logo, still used by the company today. A large gold-plated bronze medallian featuring this logo once glimmered above the entrance to the company’s headquarters at 325 East 44th Street. After the company left New York in the early 1970s, the law firm Herrick obtained the medallion and now have it on display in their New York office. But French’s best known work in this medium is perhaps the Pulitzer Prize medal (1918), on the obverse of which is a bust of Benjamin Franklin reminiscent of that found on John Sinnock’s mid-century half dollar. French was responsible for a great number of sculptural pieces in Manhattan and the other boroughs, including two panels personifying Brooklyn and Manhattan that once graced the entrances of the Brooklyn Bridge, but which now are found over the entrance to the Brooklyn Museum, designed by McKim, Mead and & White in 1897. Also in Brooklyn, at the 9th Street entrance to Prospect Park, is the Lafayette Memorial (1917), on which French collaborated with Henry Bacon, the architect of the Lincoln Memorial.

Medal by French commemorating the completion of the Catskills Aqueduct (ANS 1985.81.216) Gift of Daniel M. Friedenberg

The Pulitzer Prize medal by French (ANS 1940.100.2142) Gift of R. J. Eidlitz

Obverse of medal by Anthony Lukeman illustrating French’s Lafayette Monument in Brooklyn (ANS 1940.100.50) Gift of R. J. Eidlitz

In Manhattan, one of French’s pet projects was the organization of the sculptors responsible for the ornamental program of the Appellate Court on the north-east corner of 25th and Madison (1896-1900). President of the newly formed National Sculpture Society (which later had its offices directly across the street) French and James Brown Lord, the architect, enrolled over a dozen of the leading members of the Society to contribute to this project, which would in turn help to promote the new organization. To ensure the success of the scheme, Lord devoted fully one-third of the entire budget to the sculptors and related artisans, an inconceivable expenditure in today’s architectural planning. The universal acceptance of law and its benefits was the theme of the program; thus ancient law givers such as Lycurgus, Zoroaster, Saint Louis, and Manu are represented on both facades (Mohammed was removed in 1955 at the request of Muslim groups because of the Islamic prohibition against such images). French was responsible for the central piece of the 25th Street façade, the Justice group, while other noted artists such as Frederick Ruckstull, Karl Bitter, and Philip Martiny took charge of the remaining groups and individual statues. Martiny and Bitter also joined French in creating the sculptures for the Chamber of Commerce (James B. Baker architect, 1901) next door to the Federal Reserve Bank on Liberty Street; the plinths between the columns for these three sculptural groups now stand empty, the sculptures having long ago disappeared.

The Appellate Court (photo: Museum of the City of New York)

Obverse of medal by Tiffany & Co. commemorating the completion of the Chamber of Commerce. Note the statutes the appear between the columns (ANS 0000.999.8237).

Another large scale project was the US Custom House at Bowling Green at the tip of lower Manhattan, which now houses the Museum of the American Indian (formerly a neighbor of ANS at Audubon Terrace). A young Cass Gilbert of St. Paul, Minnesota, won the competition to design the building for the federal government in 1903; when the building was completed in 1907, it was hailed by The New York Times as “a great Temple of Commerce.” Gilbert’s allusions to the Classical model is readily apparent, but it is in the sculptural program, representing the great seafaring nations of world history and four of the seven continents, where this Classicism found fascinating modern expression. For the twelve nations perched along the attic story, which begin with Greece and Rome and end with France and England, Gilbert commissioned several of French’s former co-collaborators including Frederick Ruckstull, who fashioned Phoenicia, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ lesser known brother, Louis, who created Holland and Portugal.

Period postcard depicting the U.S. Custom House

Reserving The Continents in front for the most accomplished artists, Gilbert approached both Augustus Saint-Gaudens and French. Saint-Gaudens, already overbooked, declined so French was given the commission for all four. Also a busy man, French depended a great deal upon Weinman to assist with the designs; French gave Weinman due credit for his work as can be seen by the names of both men that appear on each of the groups. The allegorical detail of Asia, America, Europe, and Africa, steeped in Victorian Anglo-American imperialism, present a view of the world very much alive, for example, in the travel and geographical writings of Sir Richard F. Burton, the great British explorer of the 19th century, but which is lost to us today. America and Europe (who seems far more English than Continental), both centrally located flanking the grand stairway into the building, present almost self-congratulating images of advancement and intellect. America is restless to stand and start work, while Europe with her globe and open book reposes in the superiority of her centuries of learning. At the fringes of the building (and the world?) there is on one side stern Asia with her feet resting on a plinth of human skulls, a chained slave bowing next to her, and on the other side there is languid, dissipated, half-nude Africa. Rightly, The Continents have been called the best examples of architectural sculpture in the United States.

Detail of the attic story of Cass Gilbert’s Custom House showing France and England (author)

French and Weinman’s America. Note the winged wheel symbolizing progress being rolled by the crouching figure (Alan Roche)

French and Weinman’s Africa (Alan Roche)

Detail of French and Weinman’s Africa at Custom House (Alan Roche)

French and Weinman’s Asia (Alan Roche)

French and Weinman’s Europe (Alan Roche)

After finishing the Custom House, Cass Gilbert continued to leave an impressive mark on Gotham. His Woolworth Building (1912), just a few blocks up Broadway from the Custom House, was the first skyscraper to be erected in Manhattan. Departing from the Classical model, Gilbert, at the specific request of the retailing giant Frank Woolworth, created a Gothic masterpiece sometimes called the “Cathedral of Commerce.” One of the most lavishly ornamented buildings in the City, the Cathedral’s terracotta décor lacks major sculptural elements. The last building Gilbert planned for New York was the US Courthouse (1934-1936) at Foley Square (adjacent to the north side of the municipal building). Perhaps as a nod to numismatic design, Gilbert included four large coin-like medallions picturing Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes and Moses in each corner of the frieze. As we shall see in a future installment of this series, the use of medallions, some imitating actual coins, became an increasingly fashionable way to adorn architecture in the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 30s.

Moses on the US Courthouse at Foley Square (Alan Roche)

See also:

Part II: Beaux Arts Sculpture: Saint-Gaudens’ Legacy in New York City

Part III: The Machine Age

Further Reading and References:

B.A. Baxter (1999) “A.A. Weinman, Classic Medalist,” in A. Stahl (ed.) The Medal in America Volume 2, New York: ANS, pp. 157-75.

D.G. Lowe (1998) Beaux Arts New York, New York: Whitney Library of Design.

D.M. Reynolds (1988) Monuments and Masterpieces: Histories and Views of Public Sculpture in New York City, New York.

M. Richman (1988) “The Medals of Daniel Chester French,” in A. Stahl (ed.) The Medal in America, New York: ANS, pp. 136-56.

D. Taxay (1966) The US Mint and Coinage: An Illustrated History from 1776 to the Present, New York: Arco.

T. Tolles (1999) “‘A Bit of Artistic Idealism’: Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s World Columbian Exposition Commemorative Presentation Medal,” in A. Stahl (ed.) The Medal in America Volume 2, COAC Proceedings, New York: ANS, pp. 136-56.