The History of the ANS: The Ninth Decade

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

In the last installment, we saw the American Numismatic Society thrive under the strong leadership of its President Edward T. Newell, despite the lean times of the Great Depression. However, the clouds of war and tragedy close to home would create new adversities for the Society to overcome, and new opportunities to seize upon.

The End of an Era

On February 18, 1941, the ANS and the numismatic world at large were shocked by the sudden death of Edward T. Newell, the dynamic figure who had successfully led the Society as president since 1916. Obituaries appeared in almost all of the numismatic periodicals of the day and the ANS Council issued a special resolution to express its condolences to the Newell family. This was later published in the Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of 1942.

Newell’s death left a very perceptible void in the organization, since he had not only served as president but also acted on many committees, thus compelling the Society’s Board of Governors to fill a number of vacancies. Stephen H. P. Pell was appointed as an interim President until a new one could be elected, while Douglas P. Dickie took Newell’s old place on the Finance Committee. The difficulties caused by the passing of E. T. Newell led to the restoration of the office of vice-president, which had been abolished in 1910.

The election held by the Council on January 12, 1942, resulted in the naming of Herbert E. Ives as Newell’s presidential successor. Ives, a scientist on the research staff of the Bell Telephone Laboratories and advisor to the U.S. government on radar installations, turned out to be an extremely wise choice for the period. Not only did Ives realize from the beginning that the Society was still reeling from the loss of Newell, but that it was further weakened by the absence of several Council members and an elected officer on war duty, and from a decline in income from investments. Thus he prudently advised that the Society save ambitious enterprises for the future, when the situation might be more favorable.


Fig. 1: Herbert Ives, undated. (Courtesy of Archives, Lucent Technologies)

Developments During the War Years

Despite the scaling back of ANS activities, the Society still managed to hold, in 1942, an important exhibition of seventeenth-century American coinage, focusing on the Willow, Pine, and Oak Tree silver coinages of the Massachusetts colony. This event resulted in the publication of Sydney P. Noe’s “The Castine Deposit: An American Hoard,” in the Numismatic Notes and Monographs series.

Already in 1941, before Newell’s death and Herbert Ives’s words of caution, some action had been taken on expanding the staff of the curatorial department, a project that would return with new vigor in the postwar period. In May of that year, Aline Abaecherli Boyce was invited to join the staff as assistant to the curator. However, when her husband was called up for military service in 1943, she took a year’s leave. Aline Boyce later went on to become the Curator of Roman and Byzantine coins (1947-1956).

Gifts and Acquisitions in the War Years

The onset of World War II brought upheaval and destruction to many of the great private and institutional collections of Europe, while by contrast, the collection of the American Numismatic Society grew at a startling pace.

In 1940, the Society received the George W. Husker collection of 221 Greek silver and bronze coins, which added substantially to its holdings of material from the cities of Asia Minor. When the Roman part of this collection came up for auction in 1951, the ANS managed to purchase some eighty-five pieces. In the same year that the Greek portion of the Husker collection was donated, the Society also bought the John F. Jones collection of 5,000 coins, most of which were in superlative condition and had pedigrees from the collections of such individuals as Sir Henry H. Howorth, C. Wyllys Betts, J. W. Bastow, and Julius Meili. The cost of the issues of the Barbary States and the Knights of Malta in the Jones collection was underwritten by the president’s wife, Adra M. Newell, and Jean B. Cammann, respectively. The latter also improved the ANS holdings of the coinage of Corinth and her colonies, a subject that she had treated earlier in a 1932 issue of Numismatic Notes and Monographs.


Fig. 2: Venezuela: Caracas, 1821. CU, 1/4 reales, Ferdinand VII (ANS 1940.88.1176, ex John F. Jones collection).

Also in 1940, the Society received some 5,000 medals related to architecture, from the estate of Robert J. Eidlitz, who had been a Fellow of the ANS and a Council member since 1916. His company had earlier been responsible for building the addition to the Society’s home at Audobon Terrace.


Fig. 3: France. AE portrait medal of Walter Andre Destailleur by A. Morlon (ANS 1940.100.1003, bequest of Robert J. Eidlitz), 72 x 102 mm.

Fig. 4: France. AE medal issued by Joseph Dantzell for the Arts Society of Lyon, 1849 (ANS 1940.100.1122, bequest of Robert J. Eidlitz), 81 mm.

Fig. 5: Belgium. AE medal commemorating the bicentennial of Pierre Paul Rubens death and a monument built in Anvers to honor him, by Laurent Joseph Hart, 1840 (ANS 1940.100.1624, bequest of Robert J. Eidlitz), 74 mm.

Fig. 6: Belgium. AR uniface plaque honoring Henry J.F. Beyaert by Godefroid Devreese, 1905 (ANS 1940.100.995, bequest of Robert J. Eidlitz), 137 x 85 mm.

In 1941, the Society’s cabinets were further enriched by the bequest of W. Gedney Beatty, a onetime member of the Council. His gift included some 1,037 silver and thirteen gold coins of the ancient Greek world ranging from the Archaic to the Hellenistic periods, many with impressive collection pedigrees. In addition, in his will he left a large sum of money to the ANS, from which the W. Gedney Beatty Purchase Fund for the acquisition of Greek coins was created.

Between 1941 and 1945, the ANS also acquired three medal collections, through the generous donations of Henry B. Barnes and Emil W. Kohn.

The E. T. Newell Bequest

The single most important gift to the ANS in its ninth decade of existence, and the largest in its entire period of existence to date, was the E. T. Newell bequest, accepted in November 1944. When Newell died, he bequeathed his vast collection, with the exception of some 1,000 pieces, to the Society and established two new funds to aid in the continuation of its work. $50,000 was to form the nucleus of a coin acquisition fund, while $25,000 was earmarked as “an aid of the publication of Numismatic Works.” This very magazine, as well as many of the recent publications of the ANS, owe their existence in part to this latter fund. Because the number of coins involved in the gift was immense (60,000 Greek, 23,000 Roman, and 2,000 Byzantine), easily dwarfing the Society’s own collection at the time (10,000 Greek, 7,000 Roman, and 1,000 Byzantine), its full acquisition was undertaken over a period of years. During this time, Newell’s widow was appointed Honorary Curator of the E. T. Newell Collection.


Fig. 7: Egypt. Ptolemy II, AV pentadrachm (ANS 1944.100.76023, bequest of Edward T. Newell), 25 mm.

Fig. 8: Rome? Octavian, AV aureus (ANS 1944.100.39136, bequest of Edward T. Newell).

Fig. 9: Thrace, Amphipolis. Lysimachus, AR tetradrachm (ANS 1944.100.81310, bequest of Edward T. Newell), 31 mm.

In response to this vast increase in the Society’s holdings, it became necessary to make new arrangements with the Library in order to allow the study of coins in the vault. This led to the creation of the so-called Newell Room Library, to contain duplicate copies of important books on ancient numismatics for use in the vault area. When the Newell Room was completed it was adorned with a memorial plaque inscribed: THESE . WERE . THE / WORK . ROOMS . OF . EDWARD . T. NEWELL / WHOSE . EMINENCE . AS / A . NUMISMATIST . WAS / UNIVERSALLY . RECOGNIZED . BY . SCHOLARS / AND . WHOSE . GENEROUS / HELPFULNESS . ENDEARED / HIM . TO . A . HOST . OF . FRIENDS.

Postwar Development

Thanks to the incredible expansion of the collection as well as the associated financial gifts described above, along with further support from an anonymous donor (Archer M. Huntington), in 1946, Herbert E. Ives thought it safe for the Society to again return to its larger educational and publication projects. To this end, a three-point plan was evolved to use the new resources to increase museum staff, increase the training program for students, and expand publication.

In this same year, George C. Miles, who had previously served as Honorary Curator of Mohammedan Coins, joined the curatorial staff as Curator of Islamic Coins. When the American Oriental Society held a meeting in New York in 1948, Miles organized an important display of the Society’s holdings of coins from all periods in the Middle and Far East. This exhibition was well attended and resulted in a special resolution of thanks from the American Oriental Society.


Fig. 10: George C. Miles, ANS Archives

The Hispanic Society of America Collection

In 1946, Archer M. Huntington, President of the Hispanic Society of America and longtime friend of the American Numismatic Society, offered to place the numismatic collection of his society in the custody of the ANS. At the time, this collection amounted to some 30,355 pieces, covering all facets of Spanish history from the issues of the early Greek colonies and the Celtiberians through the Roman and Islamic periods to medieval and modern times, including coins of the Spanish overseas colonies. This large collection, augmented by more than 7,000 further coins over the years, remains on permanent loan to the Society. Its Visigothic and Umayyad components are among the finest in the world.

Huntington also made provisions to pay for the salary of a curator to study and publish the coins in the collection. George C. Miles was placed over this new material, which was transferred to the ANS building in 1947.

Publications

In 1945, it was decided that the ANS should produce a new journal-style publication devoted to studies of the material in its cabinets. This decision resulted in the creation of the Museum Notes series, which first appeared in 1946 and continued to be issued until the periodical was retired in 1988, in order to make way for the resurrected American Journal of Numismatics.

A new bibliographical publication, Numismatic Literature, also appeared in 1947, as a successor to the German-language Numismatisches Literatur-Blatt, which had presented titles and abstracts of new numismatic works since 1880, but had ceased with the outbreak of war in 1939. Through the assistance of a network of numismatic scholars and societies throughout Europe and other parts of the world, this publication continued and expanded the legacy of its German predecessor to become an important tool for numismatists. Numismatic Literature is still published in both traditional journal form and, since 2000, in electronic form, at http://www.numismatics.org/numlit/.

In addition to producing the first issue of Numismatic Literature and two volumes of Numismatic Notes and Monographs, the Society also published, in 1947, The United States Cents of the Years 1795, 1796, 1797, and 1800, by George H. Clapp and Howard R. Newcombe. An agreement made in 1948 between the ANS and the Hispanic Society of America led to the creation of an Hispanic Numismatic Series, but this publication did not survive the death of Archer M. Huntington in 1955.

Gifts and Acquisitions in the Postwar Period

1946 was a banner year for new acquisitions. Between 1946 and 1948, the ANS benefited from a series of gifts from the estate of Arthur J. Fecht and his surviving sister, Neoma Fecht. Thanks to their generosity, the Fecht Coin Purchase Fund was established, and over 3,000 ancient and modern coins entered the Society’s cabinets. Also in 1946, William B. Osgood Field donated his extensive collection of New England and Massachusetts colonial silver coins, thereby making the ANS early American collection one of the most complete in the country. In the following year, Field gave an additional 141 Greek and 656 Roman coins. Rounding out the Society’s good fortune in 1946 was the gift of Louis H. Schroeder, consisting of a large collection of German coins, medals, porcelain tokens, and Arabic glass weights, and that of George C. Clapp’s impressive collection of United States large cents of the period 1793-1857.


Fig. 11: United States, Philadelphia. AE one cent, 1794 (ANS 1946.143.156, gift of George C. Clapp).

The vital importance of the latter gift was recognized in Herbert Ives’s address at the 1947 Annual Meeting, in which he declared it to have made “our collection without a rival in this department of numismatics. Thus within a few years the museum of the American Numismatic Society has become what we all agreed it should be, the foremost repository of American numismatic material in the country.”

With these feelings of pride in what had already been accomplished and optimism about what the future would hold, the ANS stood upon the threshold of its tenth decade, which would mark the beginning of the organization’s golden age and the conclusion of Howard L. Adelson’s History of the ANS.