Library Acquires Chapman Archive

by Francis D. Campbell

Through a generous donation from the Estate of Mrs. Henrietta Chapman Judson, the Library has received a substantial quantity of the correspondence and other papers of the coin auction firm run by Henry and Samuel Hudson Chapman, which began operations in 1879. As a partnership, the Chapman brothers conducted some 83 sales over a 24-year period. In 1906, they decided to dissolve the partnership. Samuel Hudson continued his proprietorship until retiring in 1929. Henry carried on until his death in 1935. Among the great collections sold by the Chapmans were those of Thomas Warner, John G. Mills, Thomas Cleneay, Edward Maris, Harlan P. Smith, William F. Gable, George H. Earle, W. H. Hunter, John Story Jenks, Charles I. Bushnell, Mathew A. Stickney, Andrew C. Zabriskie, Elisha Turner, and Allison W. Jackman.

The Chapman brothers at the sale of the Lyman collection Henry Chapman (2nd from left) – Samuel H. Chapman

With very few exceptions, Chapman catalogs are renowned for the precision and reliability of their descriptions. Of the plated sales, the first twelve employ the artotype or phototype process. Examples are found in the catalogue of the Cleneay sale held in 1890. Beginning with the Mills sale in 1904, Samuel Hudson pioneered the use of photographic plates printed from glass negatives

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Although Edward Cogan was the first full-time coin dealer in the United States, Samuel Hudson and Henry Chapman are considered this country’s first career numismatists. The Library has had the good fortune to acquire a number of the firm’s bid books over the years. Henry’s bid books reveal the names of those for whom he was bidding and many other details of the business. By combining the information found in the bid books with that to be found in the recently acquired correspondence, one should be able to construct a fairly detailed history of the firm’s activity and the interaction between the Chapmans and the major collectors of the period.

Chapman correspondence donated by the Estate of Henrietta Chapman Judson.