Attalid Cistophori and Roman Foreign Affairs in Asia Minor

In his important essay on the coinage of Aristonicus’ rebellion, E. S. G. Robinson famously stated:

The cistophorus, with its writhing serpents and  over-elaborate ornamentation, is perhaps the ugliest coin in the Greek series.  Collectors have tended to pass it by, and, maybe in consequence, it has not yet yielded to the Historian all the nourishment which he might extract from it (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Lydia, Apollonis. Silver Cistophorus issued by Aristonicus, 132–131 BCE. ANS 2015.20.1326. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.

While we perhaps do not agree with Robinson’s aesthetic evaluation of the cistophorus, it is certain that the study of cistophoric coinage is instrumental to a better understanding of the history of the Attalid kingdom (later Provincia Asia) at least between the second century BCE and the second century CE, when the Emperor Hadrian issued a significant amount of it (Figs. 2–3). I will focus here, however, on the beginnings of this coinage.

Figure  2. Mysia, Pergamum. Silver Cistophorus, 166–160 BCE. ANS 1951.5.1.
Figure  3. Ionia, Ephesus. Silver Cistophorusof Hadrian, 128–132 CE. ANS 1955.21.12.

The cistophorus, a tetradrachm of ca. 12.5 g, was introduced sometime in the course of the reign of Eumenes II (197–158 BCE). It bears on the obverse a cista mystica (hence the name) and on the reverse two snakes coil around a bow case (Figs. 4–5).

Figure 4. Bust of Eumenes II (putative, also known more generically as the young commander). Herculaneum, Villa dei Papiri.
Figure 5. The Acropolis of Pergamum.

It was a reduced standard—and thus overvalued— silver currency, since it was almost 25% lighter than the Attic-standard tetradrachms that had been issued by the Attalids until then, and that probably continued being issued even after the introduction of the cistophorus. Andrew Meadows has now conclusively shown that the mint of Pergamum kept producing Philetaeri, the Attic standard tetradrachms with the portrait of Philetaerus, the founder of the dynasty, at least until the 160s BCE, i.e., after the introduction of the cistophoric coinage. Meadows’ argument is based on a Westermann’s Group VII Philetairos overstruck on a coin issued by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV (175–164 BCE) (Figs. 6–7).

Figure 6. Mysia, Pergamum. Silver Tetradrachm of Eumenes II, 175–164 BCE. Obv. Laureate head of Philetairus right. Rev. Athena seated to left, left elbow resting on shield, crowning ΦΙΛΕΤΑΙΡΟΥ with wreath; bow behind. SNG France -; BMC -; SNG Copenhagen -; Westermark -, cf. Group VII (V.CLIII-R.1). Roma Numismatics 7, March 22, 2014, lot 675. 37 mm. 16.67 g. The following traces of the undertype are visible on the reverse: letters TH-E-O-Y on Athena’s shoulder; folders of Zeus’ himation on Athena’s face; and leg of Zeus’ throne on Athena’s right arm.

The overstruck coin presented in Fig. 6 is of extreme relevance not only because it gives a terminus post quem for this group of Philetaeri, but also because— since it has been proven that this series is contemporary to the first cistophori —it decisively places the inception of the cistophoric coinage in the 160s BCE, not in the earlier decades, as previously thought.

Figure 7. Syria, Antioch. Silver Tetradrachm of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 173–68 BCE. ANS 1944.100.75257. Bequest of E. T. Newell.

The reign of Eumenes II thus represented a very complex period of production of the Pergamene mint.  Together with cistophori and Philetaeri, the mint also produced three other Attic-standard silver tetradrachms. The first one consists of posthumous Alexanders (Price nos. 1491–95), while the second one is represented by the exceedingly rare tetradrachms with the portrait of Eumenes II on the obverse and the Cabiri on the reverse, now known in three specimens (Figs. 8–9).

Figure  8. Mysia, Pergamum. Silver Tetradrachm, 197–168 BCE. ANS 1951.90.47.
Figure 9. Mysia, Pergamum. Silver Tetradrachm, after 189 BCE. Obv. Draped bust of Eumenes II. Rev. ΒAΣIΛEΩΣ – EYMENOY. Dioscuri (or Cabiri) with piloi; above, two stars; on left, thyrsus; in exergue, AP. All within laurel crown. SNG France 5, 1627. BMC 47 (var). Lanz 156, June 2, 2013, lot 177. 32 mm. 16.74 g.

The third variety of Attic-standard silver coinage, the so-called Athena Nikephoros tetradrachms, were also almost certainly struck in Pergamum, despite the absence of the ethnic (Fig. 10).

Figure 10. Mysia, Pergamum. Silver tetradrachm of Athena Nikephoros, ca. 180–165 BCE. Obv. Head of Medusa facing. Rev. ΑΘΗΝΑΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ. Archaistic cult statue of Athena Nikephoros, facing and holding trophy and spear. BM 1975,0208.1. 30 mm. 16.06 g. BM, 1975,0208.1.

The complexity of the Pergamene production under Eumenes II could easily be explained with the unprecedented consequences of Roman expansion in the area. In 188 BCE the treaty of Apamea established that the defeated Seleucid king Antiochus III had to abandon Europe altogether and all of Asia west of the Taurus Mountains (Fig. 11).

Figure 11. Map of Asia Minor after the Treaty of Apamea, with the gains of Pergamon (light blue) and Rhodes (light green).

Rome gave the control of a large part of Asia Minor to Eumenes. Antiochus kept the region of Cilicia, while most of Lycia and Caria became part of the Rhodian Peraea. With the placet of the Roman authorities, the Attalid kingdom grew overnight to almost ten times its original size. This sudden expansion created the necessity of a proportionally enhanced monetary production. Part of this monetary demand was met by the already mentioned posthumous Alexanders and Philetaeri, but their production size failed to grow according to the size of the kingdom, as rightly noted by François de Callataÿ (tables 6.3–4).

The gap in monetary supply for the decade immediately following Apamea was thus probably filled by the Pamphylian tetradrachms from Phaselis, Perge, Aspendos, and Side countermarked with the so-called “cistophoric countermarks” (Figs. 12–13).

Figure 12. Pamphylia, Side. Silver tetradrachm, Side, 210–190 BCE (countermarked by Pergamum, ca. 188–183 BCE. ANS 2015.20.1203. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.
Figure 13. Pamphylia, Aspendus. Silver tetradrachm, ca. 212–182 BCE (countermarked by Pergamum, ca. 188–183 BCE). Obv. Head of Herakles right, wearing lion’s skin. Countermark: bowcase, ΠΕΡ ΓΑ. Rev. AΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ, Zeus seated left, holding eagle in right hand. Uncertain year. Price 2876–2912; Bauslaugh 1990 – (cf.p. 41, but possibly different year). ANS 2015.20.1762. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke. 30.1 mm. 16.48 g.

In spite of their name, these countermarks, consisting of a bow in case with the initials of the countermarking authority, are not cistophoric since they bear no cista.  The bow in case would become the reverse type of the cistophori, but it was already present on the reverse of the Philetaeri from the beginning of their production. Also, there is no perfect correspondence between the cities countermarking the Pamphylian tetradrachms and the one that would become cistophoric mints (Fig. 14).

Figure 14. Summary of the identifiable cistophoric countermarks from de Callataÿ 2013, Table 6.6.

Ephesus, the second cistophoric mint in the kingdom in order of importance, is almost absent from the list of the countermarking authorities, and so is Sardis. On the other hand, other cities (Sale, Stratonicea, Toriaion and Kormasa) that would not become cistophoric mints were included among the countermarking authorities.  While the host coins are variously dated between the last quarter of the third century and the first two decades of the second century BCE, Robert Bauslaugh dates the countermarking activity to the years 188–183 BCE and attributes it to the necessity of pushing into the Attalid monetary system the foreign currency resulting from the tribute imposed on Antiochus III by the Romans.

The historian Polybius (Histories 21.42) reports that, according to the Treaty of Apamea, the defeated Antiochus III was to pay  477 talents of “best silver coinage” to Eumenes II over the course of five years. In Bauslaugh’s words, the Pamphylian cities issuing the countermarked tetradrachms:

may have been mints over which Antiochus III retained nominal, if disputed, control after Apamea; but their silver coinages must, in any case, have been available to the Seleucids in substantial quantities, because these and other foreign coinages continuously passed into Seleucid territory.

p. 58

If Antiochus’ payment of this fine to Eumenes II began in 187, it ended in 183 BCE, then it corresponds to the likely period of countermarking. As Bauslaugh puts it: “the countermarks represent a device for placing foreign payments in circulation as they were dispersed to various cities” (p. 63). The 477 talents of Antiochus’ indemnity were thus mostly paid with the countermarked Pamphylian issues that, added to the actual production of the mint of the last Pergamene Alexanders, may come close to representing Pergamene expenditure immediately after Apamea.

In the decade after the treaty of Apamea, there was then no apparent need for yet another silver currency, especially a reduced-standard one like the cistophorus, which would have had a hard time circulating outside the boundaries of the Attalid kingdom. If Meadows is correct in arguing for the beginning of its production in the 160s BCE, then this coinage was created precisely when Roman policy in the East shifted towards a tighter control, as famously exemplified by the behavior of C. Popillius Laenas, who in 168 BCE famously ordered the new Seleucid king Antiochus IV to stop the hostilities against Egypt at once, under threat of a (possible) Roman intervention (Polybius, Histories 29.27) (Fig. 15).

Figure  15. Cilicia, Soli-Pompeiopolis. Silver Tetradrachm of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 175–168 BCE. ANS 1973.113.1.

Tighter Roman control also resulted in Rhodes being deprived of the tax immunity for its harbor and of its rights over Caria (Polybius, Histories 30.31). In precisely the same years, the friendly relationship between the Romans and Eumenes began to falter.  In 169–168 BCE, Eumenes was accused of having had secret dealings with the rebel Macedonian king Perseus, who had just been defeated at the battle of Pydna (Polybius, Histories 29.6–9) (Figs. 16–17).

Figure 16. Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts. Perseus V of Macedonia surrenders to L. Aemilius Paullus. Painting by Jean-François Pierre Peyron (1802). Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.
Figure  17. Macedon, Silver Tetradrachm of Perseus, 178–168 BCE. ANS 1957.172.711.

As a consequence, the following year his brother Attalus was persuaded to appear before the Senate to discuss his seizure of the Pergamene throne and Eumenes himself, who had come to Italy in order to defend his position, was ordered to leave the country (Polybius, Histories 30.1–3). 

However, it seems apparent that the Romans were not trying to destroy the Attalid power, but probably just trying to avoid its excessive growth, which would have altered the power balance among client kings.  It is only this attempt to maintain the power balance in the region of Asia Minor that could ultimately explain why only a few years later, in 156/5 BCE, the Romans stopped the invasion of the Attalid kingdom at the hands of Prusias of Bithynia, but still left him on his throne (Appian, Mithridatic Wars 1.3).  Moreover, the 500 talents of indemnity that Prusias had to pay to the Attalids in 20 years were probably the bullion used to issue the so-called “wreathed tetradrachms”, issued between 154 and 135 BCE (Figs. 18–19).

Figure  18. Aeolis, Myrina. Silver “Wreathed” Tetradrachm, ca. 154–135 BCE. ANS 1944.100.44224. Bequest of E. T. Newell.
Figure  19. Aeolis, Aegae. Silver “Wreathed” Tetradrachm, ca. 154–135 BCE. ANS 1948.19.1167.

Kings in Asia Minor were thus permitted to exercise a considerable amount of autonomy, as long as they did not alter too much the status quo. The creation of the cistophorus should be understood in this particular light, as proof of the autonomy enjoyed by Eumenes II even in the context of tighter Roman control.

The cistophorus was above all an epichoric coinage, issued in order to enhance the cohesion of the Attalid kingdom. As Peter Thonemann rightly argued, Eumenes II was in no position to create a strictly vertical royal power, as his royal authority was entirely “exogenous,” granted by the Romans, as the king himself bluntly admitted. Eumenes was therefore in need of a more “horizontal” consensus. Indeed, Attalid kings specifically sought civic approval, which must have represented one of the leading reasons for giving the cistophorus the appearance of a federal coinage, rather than a royal one. At the same time, the uniformity of the design, the sharing of some dies between different civic mints (Figs. 20–21) and the sheer volume of issues proves that the Attalids were the ones providing the bullion (Fig. 22).

Figure 20. Phrygia, Apamea. Silver Cistophorus, 150–140 BCE. Obv. Cista mystica with half-open lid, from which a serpent issues to r.; all within ivy wreath. Rev. Two coiled serpents with heads erect; between them an ornamented bow-case with strap at r. On l., monogram (ECC, p. 91, series 21); on r. Dioscurus cap surmounted by star. ECC, p. 91, series 21, dies 24-I (same obverse die as Pergamum 46). 29.3 mm. 12.48 g. ANS 2015.20.1788. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.
Figure  21. Mysia, Pergamum. Silver cistophorus, 150–140 BCE. ANS 1965.70.1 (same obverse dies as Apamea 24).
Figure 22. Comparisons between the coinages issued by the Attalids with the late cistophori (ca.133–67 BCE) and Athens (ca.180–45 BCE) from de Callataÿ 2013, Table 6.12.

The cistophorus presented in Fig. 23 probably bears an ethnic of Apamea recut to Pergamum, even if Thomas Drew-Bear and Gorges Le Rider attributed this ethnic to the Mysian city of Praepenissus.

Figure 23. Phrygia, Apamea (recut to Pergamum?). Silver Cistophorus, 166–160 BCE. Obv. Cysta mystica with half-open lid, from which a serpent issues to r.; all within ivy wreath. Rev. Two coiled serpents with heads erect; between them an ornamented bow-case with strap at r.; to l., monogram (see Kleiner 1980, Apamea recut to Pergamum); on r. dolphin downward. ECC (cf. p. 86, series 2. Also ECC Pergamum series 3). 27.1 mm. 12.67 g. ANS 2015.20.1487. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.

In addition, cistophori not only enhanced the prestige of cities with a consistent numismatic past, but were also struck by cities that had never struck coinage before, such as the cities of Dionysopolis, Dioshieron, and perhaps Lysias and Blaundus (Figs. 24–26).

Figure 24. Phrygia, Dionysopolis. Silver Cistophorus, 160–150 BCE. Obv. Cysta mystica with half-open lid, from which a serpent issues to r.; all within ivy wreath. Rev. Two coiled serpents with heads erect; between them an ornamented bow-case with strap at r.; to l., monogram (cf. ECC, p. 79, series 6, 10); to r., sword in sheath, horizontal. ECC, p. 79, series 6, 10. 28 mm. 12.57 g. Solidus Numismatik 71, January 26, 2021, lot 76.
Figure  25. Lydia, Dioshieron. Silver Cistophorus, 166–133 BCE. ANS 1944.100.37595. Bequest of E. T. Newell.
Figure 26. Lydia, Blaundus? Silver Cistophorus, ca. 160–150 BCE. Obv. Cista mystica with serpent; all within ivy wreath. Rev. Bow-case with serpents; BA to the left, EY and a star to the right, AP lower left. ECC (cf. series 7 o.d. 9). 28 mm. 12.59 g. CNG MBS 57, April 4, 2001, lot 425.

The cistophorus thus aimed at enhancing the geographical and political cohesion of the Attalid kingdom by establishing new cistophoric mints in previously under-monetized rural areas and, at the same time, by enhancing the civic role in the production of these coins through its formal civic appearance. This is to be expected of an epichoric coinage, and the eminently local function is also confirmed by its very limited circulation.

The 150s BC, however, marked a turning point in the monetary relations between the Romans and the Attalids. Macedonian mines were reopened in 158 BC, and at the same time cistophoric overstrikes on Macedonian and Thasian coins began to appear. The overstrikes appear on only two Ephesian issues, dated between 150 and 139 BCE, and one Tralles issue, dated between 155 and 145 BCE (Figs. 27–29).

Figure 27. Ionia, Ephesus. Silver cistophorus, 140–139 BCE. ANS 2015.20.1273. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke. Overstruck on a Macedonian tetradrachm of the First Meris.
Figure 28. Ionia, Ephesus. Silver cistophorus, ca. 150–140 BCE. Obv. Cista mystica with serpent; all within ivy wreath. Rev. EΦE, bow-case with serpents; bee to left, serpent on cista to right. ECC, p. 34, series 28. 29 mm. 12.49 g. CNG Triton VII, January 12, 2004, lot 233. Overstruck on a Macedonian tetradrachm of the First Meris.
Figure 29. Lydia, Tralles. Silver cistophorus, 155–145 BCE. Obv. Cista mystica with serpent; all within ivy wreath. Rev. Bow-case with serpents; filleted tripod to the right. ECC, p. 67, series 23. 30 mm. 12.69 g. CNG MBS 57, April 4, 2001, lot 440. Overstruck on a Macedonian tetradrachm of the First Meris.

The coins on which the cistophori were overstruck came from the Macedonian First Meris and Thasos, coinages which were almost absent from the circulation pool of the Attalid kingdom. Their presence in the Attalid kingdom could be explained by an external power coordinating this movement of coinage, probably to be identified with the Romans.

Thus, the cistophorus was initially created as an epichoric coinage, which functioned to strengthen the internal cohesion of the Attalid state. However, Roman involvement in cistophoric production began very early, in the mid-150s BC, well before the kingdom was bequeathed to them by Attalus III in 133 BC. This involvement consisted not only of a sort of indirect control over the conflicts in Asia Minor (as testified by the end of the war between Prusias and the Attalids with the subsequent indemnity), but also of the direct provision of at least part of the bullion used for the cistophori (as proven by the overstrikes).

The American Negro Commemorative Society

Today’s post is authored by Jaharia Knowles, ANS intern. Knowles is a high school senior from New York City. A passionate student activist, she became a member of Black Students Demanding Change, a student-led group devoted to creating racially equitable reform in NYC private schools, while researching the American Negro Commemorative Society last summer. In addition, she is a visual artist and musician. Jaharia is excited to explore the intersections of history, identity, politics, and art in her future academic studies, and is dedicated to make her community a more accepting and equitable place.

The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, sent shockwaves across the country and marked the end of the Civil Rights Movement. Almost immediately, riots erupted in several of the nation’s largest cities, including Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, a public display of the Black community’s grief and anger not only towards King’s assassin, but also towards the nation’s deeply rooted racism. The loss of such a prominent figure of the Movement only exacerbated Black Americans’ discontent with segregation, redlining, and other forms of institutional racism that had existed in the country for decades. Less than a week after King’s assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited housing discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or national origin, in part due to pressure from protestors. While the national riots and the subsequent passing of the Fair Housing Act are well-known effects of King’s death, one other effect that has received very little attention was the creation of the American Negro Commemorative Society (ANCS).

Figure 1: ANCS medal featuring Martin Luther King, Jr. (ANS 1969.25.1)

George A. Beach, a 32-year-old advertising designer based in Pennsylvania founded the Society in collaboration with the Franklin Mint for the purpose of highlighting Black American historical figures. With the ANCS, Beach sought to educate Americans, especially Black Americans, on influential Black figures who were often left out of “traditional,” whitewashed narratives of American history. The subjects featured on the medals lived as early as the Revolutionary era, illustrating how ingrained Black people are in the nation’s history. In fact, many of those featured were pioneers in their field, such as W. C. Handy, self-proclaimed “Father of the Blues,” and George Washington Carver, who made significant contributions to the study of agriculture in the early twentieth century.

Figure 2: ANCS medal featuring Carter G. Woodson. (ANS 1970.64.1)

The commemoration of Black historical figures on medals, at least in the United States, was unprecedented. The ANCS addressed this in one of their advertisements, saying, “Many notable American Negroes were given some recognition in their time, but nearly all have been sadly neglected in numismatics. We hope to fill that void.” The ANCS’s efforts to highlight previously overlooked Black Americans was part of a greater push to include Black history in American history started earlier in the century by Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (also featured on one of the ANCS medals).

Figure 3: ANSC medal featuring Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable. (ANS 1969.25.2)

While some of the Black Americans featured on the ANCS’ medals have become household names, such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, others are not as well-known. For instance, Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, a tradesman and the first non-indigenous permanent resident of Chicago, had not been recognized for his role in the city’s history until recently. For decades, John Kinzie, a white Canadian who bought Du Sable’s property in 1804, had been wrongly given the title. While that began to change in the early twentieth century due to the determination of African-American led groups in Chicago, many Americans, even Chicagoans, were unfamiliar with Du Sable. The ANCS’s commemoration of the tradesman was part of a long mission to redress a historical wrong. Today, Du Sable is widely recognized as the “Father of Chicago,” but that would have been impossible without the contributions of Black activists, writers, and organizations, including the ANCS.

Figure 4: ANSC medal featuring Henry Ossian Flipper. (ANS 1970.201.2)

The commemoration of Henry Ossian Flipper served a similar purpose. Flipper was born enslaved on March 21st, 1856, in Thomasville, Georgia. However, after the Civil War, he was able to attend West Point Academy, becoming the first black graduate of the school. That same year, he became the second lieutenant of the 10th Cavalry, which made him the first Black officer to lead the all-Black regiment. However, despite his achievements, Flipper’s career was marred by false accusations of misconduct from his racist, white peers, and eventually came to end when Colonel William Rufus Shafter framed the lieutenant for embezzling government funds. Flipper spent the remainder of his life trying to clear his name. Although most people who knew the lieutenant doubted the legitimacy of Shafter’s accusation, he was unable to regain his commission.

Figure 5: ANSC medal featuring Harriet Tubman. (ANS 1969.90.1)

The ANCS’ commemoration of Flipper in 1970 is most likely the first time Flipper had been celebrated for his accomplishments after his death. Six years later, Flipper’s descendants applied for a review of his court-martial and dismissal, resulting in the Department of the Army changing his dismissal to an honorable discharge.  Shortly after, West Point displayed a bust of Flipper on its campus. In 1999, President Bill Clinton pardoned the soldier.

In a forthcoming feature in the ANS Magazine, I will offer an in-depth look at all 64 medals and explore other aspects of the Society, including the marketing of the medals, their reception, and the ANCS’s ultimate demise.

The Denier Tournois

One manifestation of the centralization of states is the standardization of measures, and no system of measurement is of more concern to a state than that of money. Standardization can be a complicated and difficult process, though, because it is most advantageous for those whose local system is adopted as the general standard. The long struggle of many generations of French kings to create a centralized state in the Middle Ages provides an interesting example of the process.

Charlemagne had established a unified system of coinage for much of western Europe, including France, in the late 700s, based on the silver denier. The Carolingian monetary system also provided the system of account—deniers, sous, and livres—that lasted into the modern era.

A late Carolingian denier issued by the Abbey of St. Martin of Tours (ANS 1960.87.4).

During the feudal era, however, as political power—and with it control over coinage—fragmented, the standards of different localities diverged. From the denier provinois of the Counts of Champagne and the denier angevin of the Counts of Anjou to the denier tolosain of the Counts of Toulouse and the denier melgorien of the Counts of Melgueil, there were many different monetary standards in twelfth-century France.

A denier provinois of the eleventh or twelfth century from Provins in Champagne (ANS 1923.82.19, gift of Edward T. Newell).
A denier melgorien of the twelfth or thirteenth century from the County of Melgueil or Bishopric of Maguelone (ANS 1967.182.199, bequest of Douglas P. Dickie).

When King Philip II of France transformed the French monarchy into the dominant political force throughout France in the decades around 1200, monetary standardization was an important part of his policies. In the abstract, one might have expected him to make the denier parisis—the coinage established as the standard of the Paris region by his father, Louis VII—into a national standard. The reality is both messier and more interesting.

When Philip II was crowned in 1179, the most important ruler in France was Henry of Anjou—who, apart from being King of England, was also Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, and thus overlord of the western half of France. Some of the other regional lords, such as the Counts of Champagne and of Toulouse, were also more powerful than their theoretical suzerain, the king. There were several local monetary standards in the Angevin half of France, of which one of the most prominent was the denier tournois of the Abbey of St. Martin of Tours.

A denier tournois of the eleventh or twelfth century from the Abbey of St. Martin of Tours (ANS 1916.224.35).

Through a combination of deft diplomacy and military successes, between 1193 and 1214 Philip managed to take the majority of Angevin France from Henry’s sons Richard and John, including Tours. The vastly increased royal domain now contained many coinages again, and much of it was not accustomed to the denier parisis. Philip’s solution was to establish a dual standard for the kingdom: the denier parisis and the denier tournois were both produced as royal coinages to circulate throughout France.

A denier tournois of the thirteenth century of Louis VIII or Louis IX of France (ANS 1942.23.93).

In the long run, the denier tournois, already widely used in a large part of France, proved to be a more standard than the denier parisis, which was only used in northeastern France. The relationship of the two standards was fixed such that 1 denier tournois was always equal to 0.8 deniers parisis. Minting of the denier parisis as a physical coin ceased in the fourteenth century, but the denier, sou, and livre parisis continued in use as a system of money of account in the Paris area until the seventeenth century. In the rest of France, however, the denier, sou, and livre tournois had become the general standard system of money of account. The physical coins of this system included the denier tournois and the double tournois, valued at 2 deniers.

A double tournois of Henry IV dated 1599 (ANS 1928.59.8, gift of Mary T. Cockcroft).

As Louis XIV continued the centralization of the French state in the seventeenth century, the dominance of the tournois system made it possible to impose a single monetary standard on the entire kingdom. His government ended the use of the parisis system in 1667, thus completing Philip II’s monetary standardization by making the system of the Abbey of St. Martin of Tours, once part of Angevin France, the official national standard.

Banknote of the Banque Royale for 100 livres tournois, 1 January 1720 (ANS 1992.23.1).

Crystal Palace Medals

The collections of the American Numismatic Society include many medals pertaining to famous architecture, including some of buildings which have been destroyed since their medallic depiction. Among these are the medals dedicated to the Crystal Palaces of London and New York.

The original Crystal Palace was built in London’s Hyde Park in 1851. It was designed and erected by the famous English gardener and architect Joseph Paxton (1803–1865). As head gardener for the Duke of Devonshire, Paxton had already designed and built major greenhouses for his employer. His plan for the Crystal Palace was based on that experience as well as the cruciform shape of Gothic churches.

Fig. 1. United Kingdom. White metal medal portraying Joseph Paxton (1803–1865), by L. C. Wyon, 1854. ANS 1940.100.1519

Construction of this technically innovative building, the largest in the world at the time, took only 17 weeks, because it was assembled from prefabricated modular cast iron columns and beams and standardized glass panes. At times there were 2,000 people working to build it, but it cost less than £180,000 to build—much less than any of the competing designs. It stood 135 feet tall, with a length of 1,848 feet and a ground floor area exceeding 770,000 square feet.

Fig. 2. United Kingdom. White metal medal depicting the Crystal Palace with some construction statistics, 1851. ANS 1940.100.1510
Fig. 3. Color print of the pavilion of the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London.
Fig. 4. United Kingdom. White metal medal showing exterior and interior views of the Crystal Palace, by Allen & Moore, 1851. ANS 1940.100.1530

The building was originally created for the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, the first “World’s Fair”. Around 25 European and American nations took part in this international show, which exhibited the technical achievements of the industrial era. The Exhibition lasted for 140 days and was visited over 6.3 million people. One of the leading individuals organizing this great event was the prince consort Albert (1819–1861), husband of Queen Victoria (1819–1901).

Fig. 5. United Kingdom. White metal medal featuring busts of Victoria and Albert and a representation of Britannia accompanied by symbols of industry, by John Ottley, 1851. ANS 1940.100.1522
Fig. 6. United Kingdom. White metal medal portraying Prince Albert and depicting the Crystal Palace, by John Ottley, 1851. ANS 1940.100.1526

After the end of the Great Exhibition, the Crystal Palace could not remain in Hyde Park. Instead, it was disassembled and moved to Sydenham Hill, then on the outskirts of London, where the components were rebuilt to a different and even larger design. The work was completed in 1854, including a surrounding park with gardens, trees, fountains, and life-size figures of dinosaurs, which attracted particular attention, as well as statuary, including a bust of Paxton, who died in 1865.

Fig. 7. United Kingdom. White metal medal commemorating the re-opening of the Crystal Palace in its new location at Sydenham Hill, by John Pinches, 1854. ANS 1940.100.1506
Fig. 8. United Kingdom. White metal medal juxtaposing the Crystal Palace with the building for another World’s Fair, the International Exhibition of 1862, by G. Dowler, 1862. ANS 1940.100.1512

The new Crystal Palace hosted many events and exhibits for public education, as well as other displays for recreation and amusement, but it was plagued by financial problems. In 1911, just after it hosted a Festival of Empire, the largest exhibition in its history, it went into public ownership after bankruptcy.

Fig. 9. United Kingdom. White metal medal commemorating a visit to the Crystal Palace by the Ancient Order of Foresters, by T. R. Pinches,1854. ANS 1940.100.1508

The Crystal Palace met its unhappy fate on the evening of November 30, 1936, when a fire spread out of control. Despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters, by morning it had been completely destroyed.

Fig. 10. The ruins of the Crystal Palace on December 1, 1936, the morning after it was devastated by fire.

London’s Great Exhibition became the model for subsequent World’s Fairs organized in various countries. In July 1853, New York emulated London’s example with its Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. Like London, New York built a modern structure of cast iron and glass for its exhibition and named it a Crystal Palace. It was designed by the Danish-American businessman Georg Carstensen (1812–1857) and the German-American architect Karl Gildemeister (1820–1869). Constrained by the limited space available, the location that is now Bryant Park in Manhattan, they designed it in the form of a Greek cross with an enormous central dome. When it became clear that the building needed more space for exhibits of machinery, they modified the ground floor to an octagonal shape.

Fig. 11. United States. White metal medal commemorating the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations held in New York City’s Crystal Palace, 1853. ANS 1940.100.1018
Fig. 12. United States. White metal medal commemorating the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations held in New York City’s Crystal Palace, by George Hampden Lovett, 1853. ANS 1858.5.1
Fig. 13. United States. White metal medal commemorating the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations held in New York City’s Crystal Palace, by Anthony C. Paquet, 1853. ANS 1940.100.1005

The Exhibition of 1853 in New York was the first World’s Fair held in the United States, and it served to promote the achievements of the young nation and its largest city. Thousands of exhibitors presented their consumer goods, artworks, and technological innovations to more than a million visitors.

Fig. 14. United States. Silver award medal for the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations held in New York City’s Crystal Palace, designed by J. A. Oertel and engraved by Charles C. Wright, 1853. ANS 1887.24.2

After the Exhibition closed in 1854, New York’s Crystal Palace was used for other events, but unfortunately it met the same fate as its exemplar in London. The building was destroyed in a fire in less than half an hour in 1858.

Fig. 15. Color print of the New York Crystal Palace on fire in 1858.
Fig. 16. United States. White metal medal depicting the Crystal Palace in flames, by Anthony C. Paquet, 1858. ANS 0000.999.8214

Although the buildings did not last, both the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London and the Exhibition of Industry of 1853 in New York marked a change in the ways that people engaged with the world in an age of rapid social, political, and economic transformation. The medals depicting these innovative buildings show the pride in industrial achievements and the close relationship seen between the exhibitions and the buildings that housed them.

The Plastic Slides of William Guild

Every so often, something truly unique enters the American Numismatic Society’s collection. Thanks to a generous donation by Vicken Yegparian, Vice President of Numismatics for Stack’s Bowers Galleries, this took place once again. On the eve of this past Thanksgiving, Vicken reached out to see if the ANS had interest in receiving more than 2,000 plastic slides of various coins. While the basic description may not seem very appealing, both the physical slides and the coins they portrayed proved extremely interesting and quite important.

On the morning of January 7, I entered my office to find two rather large boxes on my desk. They each contained nine (9) double-row red boxes for storing coins in 2” × 2” holders—for a total of 18 boxes! After opening some, it was quickly apparent that the slides were not commercially manufactured. They were produced in the late 1940s by William Guild, of West Newton, Massachusetts, a real estate agent and relatively-unknown coin collector.

Figure 1: Three slides made by William Guild ca. 1947.

The slides are made of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), also known as lucite or by its trademarked name of Plexiglas (fig. 1). They are 2” × 2” with a thickness of roughly one-eighth of an inch. They are all completely transparent, except the depiction of the coin. After Guild pressed a coin into the heated lucite, the exact details transposed over in a translucent white, very similar in appearance to a soft cameo. The slides were made by pressing real coins into hot plastic for an exact replication of the design. Since the plastic was clear, a positive image was visible by simply looking through the other side, despite the fact that the initial impression technically created a negative. Most of the coins were from the United States, though included some foreign and ancient coins as well. The most-heavily represented of any single type, however, were of United States pattern coins—a specialty of Guild.

Figure 2: Cover of United States Pattern Coins, Experimental, and Trial Pieces. While credited to Judd, the work was largely written by Guild and Breen.

Guild was apparently an early mentor and collaborator of Walter Breen. It is believed that Guild and Breen co-authored United States Pattern Coins, Experimental, and Trial Pieces, despite the fact that the name of J. Hewitt Judd, M.D. graced the cover (fig. 2). Judd, it is now thought, was more of a financier for the project rather than a contributor of information. As such, the Guild collection of patterns (forever memorialized in these slides) played an important role in the completion of the project.

In addition to the slides of coins, the donation came with some supporting materials. These included a few pieces of correspondence between Guild and some local clubs, such as the Thursday Club of Brookline, which used some of Guild’s slides for presentation purposes in 1949. Perhaps the best piece of supporting material is Guild’s personal copy of The Coin Recorder—essentially a checklist. This contained many details into both Guild’s personal coin collection, as well as the production of the lucite slides.

Excitedly, I began to dive further into the production of these slides—both historically and physically. With minor research into the ANS archives, it became quickly apparent that Guild had a history with the Society, with most of his communications having occurred in 1947 and 1948—just when it was thought he produced the slides. To my surprise, I found that one of the very first individuals that Guild shared his slides with was none other than ANS Curator, Sydney P. Noe (1885–1969), who not only offered advice on how to perfect the slides, but also loaned coins from the ANS collection to Guild for this purpose!

As I unpacked more and more from the archives, it became clear that a much larger study is needed about William Guild, his plastic slides, and the role that the ANS played in their creation. Until then, please review the following list provided by Vicken, which breaks down the collection into major categories. If you have any interest in knowing what specific coins are represented in any of the groups, please do reach out to And do keep an eye out for any future publications on this fascinating collection. Thank you, again, Vicken!

The William Guild Archive of 2″ x 2″ Plastic Slides of US, World, Ancient Coins, etc. Donated to the American Numismatic Society by Vicken Yegparian, 12/30/2020

CategoryApproximate Quantity of Slides
Washington coins/medals/tokens53
Medals and tokens92
Half Cents105
Large Cents49
Small Cents69
Two Cents10
Three Cents (Nickel and Silver)12
Half Dimes43
Twenty Cents12
Half Dollars172
Silver Dollars92
Trade Dollars16
Gold Dollars18
Quarter Eagles32
Three Dollars22
Half Eagles40
Double Eagles32
Commemorative Gold Coins28
California Small Gold and Related44
Territorial Gold6
San Francisco Mint Silver Bar1
Confederate Coinage10
Hawaiian Coinage2
Commemorative Silver Coins138
Private Patterns and World Patterns38
Sing Sing Prison Tokens20
World Coins302
Ancient Coins73
Private photos and photos of numismatic literature163
Natural History19

Total:                                 2817

ANS eBay Win Spurs Local History Research + The 2021 ANS Gala

The motto of the American Numismatic Society is Parva Ne Pereant—“So the Small May Not Perish.” In the world of numismatics, it is the superstar coins that often grab all the attention—Eid Mar denarii, Brasher Doubloons, etc. The ANS has even produced several wonderful videos about these great (some would even say “greatest”) coins, now available for viewing on our YouTube page. But what about those “small” objects without the more well-known fantastic backstories? As the ANS continues to make duplicates from its collection available on its official eBay store some buyers have reached out to share their excitement over auction items they have won from the ANS, proving that even those seemingly pedestrian numismatic objects can be monumentally important to a particular collector depending on their interests.

Kings Highway Savings Bank parking token, undated, from the ANS eBay store.

One such object is a parking token from the Kings Highway Savings Bank in Brooklyn, New York. The ANS has a large and diverse array of transportation tokens, many of which have yet to be cataloged, and this particular parking token duplicate could be of interest to any number of collectors, perhaps those that collect bank-related items, parking tokens specifically, or numismatic objects related to specific roadways or highways. In this instance, the buyer happens to live just minutes from the bank in question, although the bank itself is long gone, and only the building remains.

Kings Highway Savings Bank in 1929, courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library.
Kings Highway Savings Bank in 1961, courtesy of the Center for Brooklyn History.

The Kings Highway Savings Bank was a mutual savings bank founded in 1923 with William R. Bayes as its president, and stood at the southeast corner of East 16th St. and Kings Highway, situated between the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Midwood and Sheepshead Bay. There appeared to be several branches at one point, with this location (built in 1929) functioning as the main branch.  Although the name of the bank is no longer visible on the facade, the building itself remains quite intact, and has hosted several different banks since then, most recently an HSBC branch that also appears to have vacated since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Despite the name of the original bank disappearing from the side of the building, the original doors are still there, and retain the seal or logo of the Kings Highway Savings Bank, as evidenced by the photos provided by the winner of the parking token in question.

Kings Highway Savings Bank main door panel with original bank logo.

The lucky bidder also provided this photograph of their new token in front of the old Kings Highway Savings Bank building, very much mirroring—intentionally or unintentionally—the other historic photos of the bank pictured in this blog post, right down to the car parked in the lower right corner of each photo. Furthermore, it is not entirely clear how this parking token was used, as there is no extant parking lot attached to the building, and it is in fact a very busy intersection with limited street parking today. Perhaps there was a nearby lot that patrons of the Kings Highway Savings Bank could park at, and if conducting legitimate bank business, would receive this parking token as a voucher for parking validation, and deposit it upon exiting to avoid paying the usual parking rate.

Kings Highway Savings Bank as pictured in January, 2021.

Is this story of a simple savings bank and its corresponding parking token “great”? Perhaps not in the grand scheme of things, but it is important to the person who now owns this token, and the purpose of the ANS is to house and maintain a repository of as many of these “small” historical objects as possible, so that they may not perish. It may also interest the reader to know that the Kings Highway Savings Bank is just one of many savings banks in southern Brooklyn whose original inhabitants have long departed, but whose historical buildings still remain. More can be found in this NYC Explorer blog post of 2014.

In other numismatic news, the American Numismatic Society held its annual Gala on Thursday, January 14, and it was also the first virtual Gala hosted by the Society. This format allowed for a greater number participants regardless of their location or time zone, and was a considerable success thanks to the hard work of everyone involved. This year’s Gala honored ANS benefactors Mark and Lottie Salton, and was a moving tribute to their lifelong involvement in the numismatic community. If you were not able to attend the Gala in real-time, do not fret; the ANS has posted the event in full to our YouTube page and we encourage you to watch the video to learn more about the lives of Mark and Lottie Salton, hear their stories, and discover how their gifts to the ANS have positively impacted the field of numismatics.

Numismatic Musing on the Staten Island Ferry

The half-hour that I spend every workday morning and evening on the ferry traversing the five miles of the Upper Bay of New York harbor from my home in Staten Island to Manhattan and back again affords plenty of time to enjoy the views, catch up on reading, or simply ponder the history of the City and its port. The Staten Island Ferry remains the best public transportation option around: free to all passengers and plenty of space to socially distance on the 300 foot-long, multi-decked vessels (fig. 1).

Figure 1. ANS Chief Curator Peter van Alfen on his way into Manhattan onboard his favorite Staten Island ferryboat, John F. Kennedy, launched in 1965.

Long before the consolidation of Greater New York City in 1898, Richmond County, as Staten Island is officially named, was home to farmers, oystermen, and wealthy Manhattanites who built hill-top estates as getaways. John Anthon bought such an estate in 1838 atop Grymes Hill. There he entertained friends and family including former New York mayor Philip Hone, who recounted in his famed diary an enjoyable day (July 8, 1839) spent with the Anthons. John’s son Charles (fig. 2), who was ANS President 1867–1870 and 1873–1883, also became enamored with Staten Island spending a great deal of his time exploring its hills, valleys, shores, and villages compiling notes for a history he intended to publish. He never did, but even after his father sold the estate, he still regularly took a ferry back to the island to continue his historical research. Charles Anthon’s historical notes now are in the collection of the Staten Island Museum.

Figure 2. The Charles Edward Anthon medal (1884) struck by the ANS in honor of its former President. ANS 0000.999.3361.

A mile or so to the north of Anthon’s place, but down on the waterfront, was the estate of John Quentin Jones, president of The Chemical Bank from 1844 to 1878, who wiled away a good number of hours in his Manhattan office signing bank notes (fig. 3). His Staten Island garden received praise in the September 1856 issue (p. 402) of the influential Horticulturist, a journal of rural art and taste founded by the father of American landscape design, Alexander Jackson Downing.

Figure 3. Fig. 3: 1859 dollar bank note issued by The Chemical Bank signed by John Quentin Jones. ANS 0000.999.12795.

Throughout the 19th century, the ferry service between Staten Island and lower Manhattan that Anthon and Jones regularly used lay in the hands of private companies, each of which generally serviced just one part of Staten Island. Before Robert Fulton’s launch of the steamboat Clermont in 1807, ferry service around the harbor moved at a snail’s pace entirely at the whim of wind and current, or the endurance of men rowing or poling the boats. In the best of circumstances a trip from Manhattan to Staten Island might have taken an hour or two; in the worst the better part of a day. Staten Islander Cornelius Vanderbilt (fig. 4) initiated his sailing ferry service on the east shore facing Manhattan in 1810 at the age of sixteen, but as quickly as his fortunes and the Robert Fulton-Robert Livingston monopolies on steam ferry service would allow, he switched over to paddlewheel ferries that could reliably make the trip in 30 minutes. The origins of Vanderbilt’s enormous fortune lay in this ferry service, which was lucrative enough to attract competition. Former New York governor and US Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins (d. 1825) was one such competitor; he owned a great deal of land in Staten Island including what is today Tompkinsville where he built a ferry landing a mile or two from Vanderbilt’s for the paddlewheel ferryboat Nautilus he partially owned. 

Figure 4. 1865 medal issued by the US Congress to honor Cornelius Vanderbilt for his 1862 gift of the steamship Vanderbilt to the Union Navy. ANS 0000.999.18300.

By the 1850s, as Vanderbilt moved on to other pursuits, George Law became a central figure offering an east shore ferry service using both Vanderbilt’s and Tompkins’ old landings through his New York and Staten Island Steam Ferry Co. (fig. 5), and was also buying up tracts of land formerly owned by Tompkins elsewhere along the eastern waterfront.

Figure 5. The Josephine launched in 1852 for service with the New York and Staten Island Steam Ferry Co. Drawing by Samuel Ward Stanton, a Staten Island-based marine artist, who lost his life in the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912.

Law had other interests as well that lay well beyond Staten Island. With two other financiers he founded the U.S. Mail Steamship Co. in 1848, which transported passengers and cargo from New York to Aspinwall (today Colón), Panama, where they crossed the isthmus to board the San Francisco-bound ships of the Pacific Mail Steamship Co., founded by William Henry Aspinwall, who incidentally also owned an estate on Staten Island. In 1852, U.S. Mail launched the sidewheel steamship S.S. George Law, which five years later was renamed the S.S. Central America. On a return trip to New York in 1857, S.S. Central America foundered in a hurricane off the coast of North Carolina. The loss of the ship and its cargo of tons of Californian gold spurred the financial Panic of 1857. Since the shipwreck’s discovery in 1988 the legal battles over the recovery of the gold, including coins, have been endless (fig. 6).

Figure 6. 1852 gold 5-dollar coin recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Central America. ANS 2000.1.3.4.

Yet another maritime tragedy haunted George Law. In 1871, his company’s ferryboat Westfield suffered a catastrophic boiler explosion that killed scores and injured hundreds as the boat was docking in Manhattan. This event dramatically underscored just how awful the service had become after the Civil War with its decrepit and unreliable boats, something Staten Islanders had already been grumbling about for years. Law sold his interest in the ferry in 1873.

Salvation for ferry costumers eventually came some years later, or so it seemed, with a Canadian named Erastus Wiman, who settled on Staten Island in a house a short distance from John Q. Jones’s old estate. Wiman sought his own fortune in a scheme to combine the east and north shore ferry services under the banner of the newly formed Staten Island Rapid Transit Co. (SIRT) and build a new landing half way between the east shore Tompkins and north shore New Brighton landings, which would also serve as a railroad terminal. The key to Wiman’s scheme was connecting SIRT’s terminal to a major railroad by bridging Arthur Kill, the narrow waterway between Staten Island and New Jersey, thus providing an alternative train-ferry service for travel between Manhattan and Philadelphia, which at the time the Pennsylvania Railroad all but monopolized. Wiman knew the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad was looking for a toehold in New York and so formulated a plan to realize his scheme with the help of two major players: George Law and Robert Garrett.

Law still owned the waterfront land that Wiman needed for his new ferry landing. He eventually convinced Law to sell by promising, among other things, to name the area, tucked in between Tompkinsville and New Brighton, St. George, the name it still has today. Garrett, on the other hand, was the new president of B&O, a position he held for only a few years after the death of his father in 1884. Robert’s brother Thomas Harrison was the well-known Baltimore-based collector. After T. Harrison’s untimely death in a boating accident in 1888, his coin collection, one of the largest and most significant of the time, was inherited by his teenage sons Robert (an 1896 Olympian) and John, a future U.S. ambassador and Trustee of the ANS. Most, but not all of this collection was serendipitously saved from the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 since Robert the Olympian had previously arranged for its temporary loan to Princeton University (fig. 7). Following his brother John’s death in 1942, the collection was bequeathed to Johns Hopkins University, which eventually sold it in a series of noted auctions in the 1970s and 1980s, while many of John’s papers along with those of his father T. Harrison came to the ANS’s archives.

Figure 7. Peace Medals from the Garrett collection partially melted and fused in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. ANS 1923.154.1.

On December 16, 1885, Erastus Wiman feted T. Harrison’s brother Robert at a special dinner at the Pavillion Hotel, Staten Island’s finest located near the future ferry landing, to celebrate their partnership (fig. 8).

Figure 8. Menu cover from the dinner Erastus Wiman hosted for Robert Garrett on December 16, 1885 (New York Public Library).

By the time Robert stepped down as B&O president less than two years later, things were well underway: B&O held a majority stake in the SIRT, two new sophisticated steel-hulled ferry boats were being built in Baltimore, one named Robert Garrett (fig. 9), the other Erastus Wiman, and the Arthur Kill bridge was nearing completion.

Figure 9. Drawing by Samuel Ward Stanton of the ferryboat Robert Garrett, launched in 1888.

The success of the plan, however, lay in Wiman’s ability to generate passenger ticket sales. In order to attract riders to Staten Island he launched a new venture, the Staten Island Amusement Co., that built a large waterfront stadium in St. George next to the ferry landing for baseball games and large-scale spectacles. Imre Kiralfy’s spectacular The Fall of Babylon was presented there with over 1,000 performers.  Wiman also came to an agreement with William F. Cody (fig. 10) to set up his Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show farther up the rail line closer to the Arthur Kill bridge at a spot that came to be known as Erastina, named after Wiman. Between 1886 and 1888 nearly two million people took the ferry to Staten Island to see the shows.

Figure 10. 1892 medal depicting William F. Cody (“Buffalo Bill”). ANS 0000.999.32332.

For a while Wiman’s plan was such a success that it drove off some of the wealthy Manhattanites who had long sought refuge on the island. Anson Phelps-Stokes, for example, whose family had since 1868 enjoyed their hilltop estate in New Brighton soon sought new refuge in tony Newport, Rhode Island. As Anson noted in his autobiographical Stokes Record (p. 240):

I found my wife had been disgusted with some conditions at Staten Island, where the opening of the Fall of Babylon show and cheap excursion places had caused the ferry-boats to be overcrowded and had brought a rough element…we never returned to live at Staten Island.

Once re-settled, Phelps-Stokes, in the wake of the financial panic of 1893, wrote a popular book, Joint Metallism, the first edition appearing in 1894, that offered a solution to the gold vs. silver monetary standard problems then plaguing the economy and politics in the US, which came to a head in the 1896 Presidential elections.

By that time Wiman had been disgraced. The 1893 panic helped bankrupt him, but soon he was also charged with forgery; in October 1894 his namesake ferryboat was renamed Castleton as a damnatio memoriae. In 1899, B&O bought out the faltering SIRT, including its ferry operations. Sadly, however, B&O’s management also left a lot to be desired. When two B&O operated ferries collided during the evening rush of June 14, 1901, resulting in the Civil War-era ferryboat Northfield sinking with over 1,000 passengers on board, nearly all of whom were saved, Staten Islanders demanded change.

The solution ultimately was for the City to completely take over B&O’s ferry operations, instituting the City’s first, but not last, publicly owned and operated mass transit service. By 1905, the City had launched five new ferryboats, each named after the five boroughs of the recently consolidated Greater New York. The ferryboat Richmond was the only one of the five to be built in New York. Appropriately enough its keel was laid down on Staten Island at the Burlee Dry Dock Co., where it was launched on May 20, 1905 (fig. 11).

Figure 11. Souvenir medal commemorating the launch of the ferryboat Richmond, May 20, 1905. ANS 000.999.8240.

By October 25th all the new boats were ready and a celebration was held to officially initiate the new service, which was attended by Alderman Reginald S. Doull, a Tammany stalwart. Doull later donated the decoration he wore that day to the ANS (fig. 12).

Figure 12. Decoration worn by Reginald S. Doull for the October 25, 1905 celebration of the City’s new Staten Island ferry service. ANS 0000.999.8251.

A Davis Flight Medal in the ANS Collection

Recently I attended a Long Table hosted by ANS curator Jesse Kraft, who showed a fascinating coin he had come across while working with the Mexico trays in the vault. It was a silver eight real dated 1842, but what makes it interesting are the words inscribed on a silver band added along the circumference of the coin, especially those that say, “Taken from Jefferson Davis the time he was taken prisoner of war.” 

Davis Flight Medal fashioned from an 1842 Silver 8 real, Zacatecas (Mexico). 1939.184.1

Jefferson Davis was the president of the Southern States during the Civil War, and this coin caught my attention because we have a letter in the ANS Archives written by Davis on the same theme. In it he talks about having some valuables “stolen” from him after he was captured at the end of the war. The letter was sent to coin dealer John Walter Scott, who had written to Davis to find out more about the Confederate half dollar proof coins, of which there are four, the first of which surfaced in 1879. (That coin is in the ANS collection.) Davis told Scott that at the time of his capture he had “a Confederate coin” that was in his wife’s trunk, which was “rifled by the Federal Officers sent on board the prison ship on which she was detained.” The one said to be Davis’s was the third Confederate half dollar to surface (in 1936). 

Letter from Jefferson Davis written in response to John Walter Scott’s inquiries about Confederate half dollars.

This Mexican coin was new to me, however, and I wanted to find out more about it. There are other inscriptions on it, and these relate to the early owners of the coin. Along the top of the obverse it reads, “Presented by Mr. Park of Park & Tifford to Geo. Hartley 1864,” and along the bottom it says, “Mrs. Hartley to Daniel F. Myers 1890.” Some light internet searching revealed that Joseph Park (1823-1903) was associated with Park & Tilford, a grocery store founded at 35 Carmine St., Manhattan, in 1840. George Hartley and Daniel Myers proved more elusive. We do know that the coin was given to the ANS by H. C. Hines, but unfortunately, the accession record fails to shed any more light on the donation. A note with the coin says that it was Myers who added the silver band and inscriptions. It also identifies him as a New York jeweler and coin collector.

Davis Flight Medal from the John J. Ford Jr. collection, part 1, Stack’s, October 14, 2003

I did find some great information in the Stack’s auction catalog for part 1 of the John Ford collection (October 14, 2003, p. 239-243), which contains pieces similar to this coin, identifying them as “Davis Flight Medals.”  Some background information is included with the lot descriptions. As the South faced its final defeat, Davis fled with family, servants, and a military guard along with as much as $500,000 in British gold coins, U.S. double eagles, and other valuables—including Mexican eight reales. Like the ANS coin, the flight pieces often have inscriptions indicating how they were obtained—either seized or given by Davis as gifts. As the catalog states, “some are fairly crude engravings on Mexican silver coins, while others are skillfully executed.” 

I’d say the ANS’s coin falls into the “fairly crude” category, but it’s fascinating nonetheless, and I’m hoping to discover more about it.

Numismatic Commemorations of Vaccination Research

The year 2020, which brought to the world a coronavirus pandemic, is coming to an end. Humanity looks forward with hope to successful innovations against the new deadly virus. This is an appropriate time to pay tribute to the achievements of scientists of previous generations.

For the topic of vaccination, the name of the English doctor Edward Jenner (1749–1823), outstanding physician and pioneer of smallpox vaccination, is foremost. For centuries, smallpox swept through communities, often killing nearly a quarter of its victims and leaving many of the survivors deeply scarred or blind. In 1796, Edward Jenner demonstrated that an infection with the relatively mild cowpox virus conferred immunity against the deadly smallpox virus. Jenner even created the word “vaccination”, derived from the Latin word vacca, meaning “cow”. Jenner’s vaccine was one of the great triumphs of medicine, which first brought smallpox under medical control and opened the way for the eventual elimination of this disease. The results from Jenner’s vaccination experiments were widely circulated after their publication in 1798, and vaccination was promoted as a public health tool throughout Europe.

A number of medals by the German medalist Friedrich Wilhelm Loos (1767—1816/19) are dedicated to Jenner’s discovery of smallpox vaccination. They not only pay tribute to Jenner’s workbut also served as rewards for parents who had their children vaccinated. They were intended to indicate the importance of the vaccination programs (figs. 1–3):

Fig. 1: Prussia. Silver medal of Edward Jenner, by Friedrich Wilhelm Loos, Berlin mint (ANS 1919.60.150).

Fig. 2: Prussia. Bronze medal of Edward Jenner, by Friedrich Wilhelm Loos, Berlin mint (ANS 1940.100.662).

Fig. 3: Prussia. Silver medal of Edward Jenner, by Friedrich Wilhelm Loos, Berlin mint, 1811 (ANS 1940.100.661).

Some of the medals, like a silver medal from the time of Napoleon, depicting a cow and some medical instruments, were presented to doctors in recognition of the vaccinations they had given. This medal, designed by the French artist and engraver Alexis Joseph Depaulis (1790–1867) , reflected the importance of the doctors who were attached to vaccination programs (fig. 4).

Fig. 4: France. Award medal of the Parisian municipal vaccination program, by Alexis Joseph Depaulis, Paris, 1814 (ANS 1925.57.28).

For the centennial of Jenner’s vaccination experiment on May 14, 1796, the Medical Society of the County of Kings (Brooklyn) issued a commemorative medal in 1896 (fig. 5).

Fig. 5: United States. Bronze medal of the Medical Society of the County of Kings, in honor of the centennial of Edward Jenner’s vaccination experiment, 1896 (ANS 1940.100.661 [wrong accession number]).

In the mid-nineteenth century, research brought many new insights about infectious diseases. The prominent French biologist, Louis Pasteur (1822–1895), introduced innovative experiments and techniques, which became fundamental to modern microbiology. He researched the microorganisms that cause dangerous diseases and discovered how to make vaccines from weakened microbes. Based on those studies, Pasteur developed the earliest vaccines against major veterinary diseases such as chicken cholera, anthrax, and rabies (Figs. 6–7).

Fig. 6: France. Silver plaque for the 70th birthday of Louis Pasteur, by Louis-Oscar Roty, 1892 (ANS 1959.148.93).

Fig. 7: United States. Bronze commemorative medal dedicated to Louis Pasteur, by Abram Belskie, 1972 (ANS 1980.165.29).

Another dangerous human disease, tuberculosis, also demanded attention. In the nineteenth century it became increasingly serious, causing up to one quarter of deaths among Europe’s adult population. In 1882, the German microbiologist Robert Koch (1843–1910) isolated the bacterium that causes tuberculosis and created a substance useful for diagnosing the infection. Koch investigated the effect of an injection derived from dead bacilli had as a treatment for tuberculosis. This treatment failed, but it later turned out to be a useful diagnostic tool for identifying tuberculosis infection. Koch’s research also opened the way for Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin to develop a successful tuberculosis vaccine in 1906. For his fundamental work, Robert Koch won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1905 (fig. 8).

Fig. 8: United States. Bronze commemorative medal of Robert Koch (1843–1910), by Abram Belskie, 1972 (ANS 1980.165.18).

In 1883 Koch also isolated Vibrio cholerae, the cause of cholera. A series of cholera pandemics killed many millions of people in the nineteenth century, and scientific research on an anticholera vaccine become a vital necessary. The battle against cholera was won by a talented young microbiologist, Waldemar Haffkine (fig. 9).

Fig. 9: Waldemar Mordechai Wolff (Zeev) Haffkine (1860–1930). Photo from the Royal Medical Society.

Born in in the Russian Empire (in what is today Ukraine) in 1860, Haffkine was admitted in 1879 to Odessa (Novorossiya) University, where he studied and worked under the supervision of the world-famous biologist Ilya Mechnikov (1845–1916). Later,in 1908, Mechnikov was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine (along with the German physician and scientist, Paul Ehrlich) in recognition of hispioneering research on immunology (fig. 10).

Fig. 10: Ukraine. Nickel-silver 2 hryvnias commemorating Ilya Mechnikov, 2005.

In 1888, Waldemar Haffkine emigrated to Geneva, and a year later he joined Mechnikov at the Pasteur Institute, the most innovative research center for infectious diseases at that time. From the beginning of his research career, Haffkine concentrated on development of a cholera vaccine. On July 18, 1892, he performed the first test on himself. In 1893 he moved to India, where his vaccine became widely used and undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. In October 1896, another terrible epidemic struck Mumbai, this time of bubonic plague. Haffkine accepted the challenge and, after three months of intense work, successfully developed a plague vaccine. On January 10, 1897, he vaccinated himself to test the safety of his vaccine. For his outstanding achievements, Haffkine was appointed Companion of the Indian Empire by Queen Victoria in 1897. Two years later he was granted British citizenship.

Unfortunately, epidemics cannot be avoided and new diseases attack the world from time to time. However, the memory of the pioneers of science who have helped shape human lives for the better inspires our belief in the successful discovery of new treatments and vaccines.

“The Right of Trial by Jury Shall be Preserved” . . . Thanks to Numismatics

While few people truly hope to find themselves before a court of law, most should be happy that a jury is present when on trial (fig. 1). In the midst of such tense scenarios, few individuals stop to think (let alone care) about the historical processes that led to that development. However, even fewer recognize that a specific numismatic incident helped secure this right to American citizens.

Figure 1: A trial by jury

In May of 1786, the General Assembly of Rhode Island authorized the printing of £100,000 in legal tender bills of credit (fig. 2). On its own, this was no strange occurrence. By this time, all the other newly-formed states of the Union had also issued paper currency, which was their legal right under the Articles of Confederation. Not unlike the paper currency of several other states, these notes were made a legal tender that “shall be received in all Payments” in the state. However, in August, the General Assembly further amended the legal tender status of the bills to be enforced by courts summarily without a jury trial or appeal.

Figure 2: A £3 note of Rhode Island, May 1786. Courtesy Heritage Auctions.

By this time, 170,000 notes in 12 different denominations were released into circulation (6d, 9d, 1s, 2s6d, 3s, 5s, 6s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 40s, and 3 pounds). Unlike present-day money, colonial and pre-federal currency was issued in payment for specific objectives, such as the compensation of troops for a particular war or the construction of a specific building or utility. The May 1786 Rhode Island notes were issued to amortize a group of 4% 7-year loans on realty and known as the Tenth Bank.

Quickly, the legal tender status of the notes and, particularly, the juryless trial that ensued if a note was refused became a hot topic in the state. By September of that year, the case of Trevett v. Weeden had worked its way up the Rhode Island Supreme Court and heard by Justice David Howell. Everyone saw the inconsistency in the law, especially since the Constitution of Rhode Island had already guaranteed a trial by jury. The senior counsel for the defense, General James M. Varnum (fig. 3), successfully made the case that the colonial constitution of Rhode Island, despite being nullified by the American Revolution and held no legal footing, “continued in vigor as a part of the unwritten constitution of the new State.” The Court agreed and, in turn, gave them the power to decide on the constitutionality of any piece of legislation presented to them.  On September 26, the May 1786 Currency Act has the distinction of being the first law in the United States to be declared unconstitutional and voided.

Figure 3: James M. Varnum, senior counsel for the defense of Trevett v. Weeden (1786).

By December of 1786, the illegal features of the original act were amended, though the notes still remained a tender. In September 1789, their legal tender status was officially repealed, as the bills had depreciated down to only 10% of their stated values. Between 1793 and 1803, more than 96% of the original notes were burned by the State. Today, the legal right of trial by jury is protected by the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, which was adopted as one of the Bills of Rights on March 1, 1792. For this, we have the Rhode Island currency of May 1786 to thank.

A blog of the American Numismatic Society