The Huntingtons at Woodlawn

 

Huntington name
The Huntington mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery was built for railroad magnate Collis Huntington in the 1890s.

Archer Huntington (1870–1955), ANS benefactor and president, is interred at New York City’s Woodlawn Cemetery in the northern Bronx. Woodlawn opened in 1863, a product of the rural cemetery movement, when overcrowding and health concerns led to the creation of numerous sprawling and non-sectarian burial grounds situated outside of urban centers. Where the old churchyards of the city might be cramped and foul smelling, these would be landscaped oases, places for visitors to stroll peacefully among monuments and mausoleums arranged on meandering pathways and ponds. Intended as destinations in themselves, they had much in common with the other landscaped retreats set aside for public use in cities during this period, like New York City’s Central Park, parts of which opened in the 1850s.

These were also places where the wealthy might buy themselves a piece of immortality—for their names at least. In life, F. W. Woolworth, the dime-store tycoon, built the tallest building in the world. Here he reposes for eternity near the cemetery’s main entrance, in an Egyptian crypt guarded by two stone sphinxes.

King - Huntington Mausoleum
The Huntington mausoleum, illustrated in King’s Handbook of New York, 1893.

Huntington Mausoleum

The Huntington mausoleum in 2020.

Railroad magnate Collis Huntington (1821–1900), who married Archer’s mother Arabella (1850–1924) in 1884, chose a site on the other side of the cemetery for his family tomb, which, “in size and cost will be one of the most notable structures of its kind in the world,” predicted King’s Handbook of New York City (1893), estimating its price to exceed $300,000. Collis was laid to rest there in 1900. Arabella, who passed her passion for art collecting on to her only son, lived over two decades more, dying in 1924.

Hyatt Memorial
Monument honoring Archer Huntington’s wife, Arabella, by Anna Hyatt Huntington. His poetic words to her are inscribed at its base.

There is a monument honoring Arabella at the Woodlawn site, placed there in 1951. It was done by Archer’s wife, Anna Hyatt (1876–1973), a successful sculptor long before she met Archer in 1921 (they were married in 1923). Her majestic Joan of Arc (1915) on Manhattan’s Upper West Side is one of her better-known earlier works. Her sculpture at Woodlawn is a cenotaph, a monument erected to honor someone whose remains are placed elsewhere. (Arabella is interred in California at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens Mausoleum.) It depicts an aged woman bestowing a bounty of symbolic gifts—books, a lamp with flame, a dial indicating time—upon a young man and woman.

Hyatt Memorial and Huntington Mausoleum
The Arabella Huntington monument and Huntington mausoleum.

Other notable artistic features at the mausoleum include a bronze door by Herbert Adams, added in 1932, and, inside, a bas-relief of Collis Huntington (1911) by Bela Lyon Pratt.

According to Anna, Archer valued his work as a poet as much as anything else, and his words to his mother can be found on the sculpture:

Madre
Alas, we know your deeds; Your words make warm
The memory of our loss! So, in the night,
We, dreaming, find the dark in starlight’s spell,
And know that from your eyes that starlight fell!

Along with Collis, Archer, and Anna, Elizabeth Stoddard Huntington (1823–1883), Collis’s first wife, is also interred in the Huntington mausoleum.

Geto-Dacian Imitations of Roman Republican Denarii: Proto-Dacian State or Slave Trade?

Figure 1: Dacia, after 76 BC. Geto-Dacian imitation (hybrid). Silver denarius. Helmeted head of Mars right; S·C (retrograde) behind, star (*) below chin/ She-wolf standing right with paw raised. Above ROMA (retrograde). In exergue, FoATRIA (retrograde). 16.6 mm. 3.89 g. Davis A, II M58. After RRC 389/1c (O )/ 388/1 (R ). ANS 2015.20.2432 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.
Figure 1: Dacia, after 76 BC. Geto-Dacian imitation (hybrid). Silver denarius. Helmeted head of Mars right; S·C (retrograde) behind, star (*) below chin/ She-wolf standing right with paw raised. Above ROMA (retrograde). In exergue, FoATRIA (retrograde). 16.6 mm. 3.89 g. Davis A, II M58. After RRC 389/1c (O )/ 388/1 (R ). ANS 2015.20.2432 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.

The coin pictured in Figure 1 is only one of the 290 Geto-Dacian imitations of Roman Republican denarii included in the Richard B. Witschonke Collection at the American Numismatic Society (ANS 2015.20.2271–2560). No other private collection in the world could vaunt such a high number of Geto-Dacian imitations, with the only possible exception of the one once owned by Phillip Davis, which was partly sold in a Gemini Auction in 2012 (lots 583–767). The specimen presented here is a hybrid, as it reproduces the obverse type of L. Rustius (RRC 389/1, Fig. 2) and the reverse type of P. Satrienus (RRC 388/1, Fig. 3).

Figure 2: Rome, 76 BC. Lucius Rustius. Silver Denarius. S·C X (crossed). Helmeted head of Minerva right. Border of dots / L·RVSTI - Ram right. Border of dots. 17 mm. 3.85 g. RRC 389/1. ANS 1937.158.133.
Figure 2: Rome, 76 BC. Lucius Rustius. Silver Denarius. S·C X (crossed). Helmeted head of Minerva right. Border of dots / L·RVSTI – Ram right. Border of dots. 17 mm. 3.85 g. RRC 389/1. ANS 1937.158.133.
Figure 3: Rome, 77 BC. Publius Satrienus. Silver Denarius.  Helmeted head of Roma right. Border of dots / ROMA P·SATRIE / NVS - She-wolf left. Border of dots. 19 mm. 3.84 g. RRC 388/1b. ANS 2002.46.374.
Figure 3: Rome, 77 BC. Publius Satrienus. Silver Denarius.  Helmeted head of Roma right. Border of dots / ROMA P·SATRIE / NVS – She-wolf left. Border of dots. 19 mm. 3.84 g. RRC 388/1b. ANS 2002.46.374.

This specimen was part of a large hoard of Roman Republican denarii found in Romania between 2001 and 2002, which consisted of approximately 5,000 Roman Republican denarii, a few Alexander the Great drachms (perhaps local imitations?), and nearly 100 Dacian imitations of Republican denarii (Figs. 4–5). The latest official coin was an issue of Octavian, RRC 540/2, struck in 36 BC.

Figure 4: The Dacian Kingdom around 100 AD, before Trajan’s conquest.
Figure 4: The Dacian Kingdom around 100 AD, before Trajan’s conquest.
Figure 5: The Danube God. Details from Trajan’s Column, Rome. The column was erected to celebrate the victory of the Emperor Trajan over the Dacian king Decebalus in 106 AD.
Figure 5: The Danube God. Details from Trajan’s Column, Rome. The column was erected to celebrate the victory of the Emperor Trajan over the Dacian king Decebalus in 106 AD.

The Republican imitations—including the one presented here—were removed from the hoard prior to its dispersal and were published by Phillip Davis. These imitations are usually referred to as Geto-Dacian because most hoards of imitations of Republican denarii, and all mixed hoards of imitative and official pieces, have been found in Romania or in neighboring countries also within the Dacian sphere of influence. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as the imitative coinage struck by the Pannonian tribe of the Eravisci. However, the Eraviscan style is quite distinctive, as made evident by the pictures (Figs. 6–7).

Fig. 6. Eraviscan imitation with the name of the tribe on the reverse. Pannonia, after 76 BC. Eravisci. Silver Denarius. Head of Juno Sospita right; behind, T. Border of dots / RAVISC (S retrograde): Sceptre with wreath, globe and rudder. Below, legend. Border of dots. 16 mm. 3.05 g. Davis B II.E7a. Freeman 11(8/c). After RRC 384/1 (O)/ 393/1 (R). ANS 2015.20.2362 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.
Fig. 6. Eraviscan imitation with the name of the tribe on the reverse. Pannonia, after 76 BC. Eravisci. Silver Denarius. Head of Juno Sospita right; behind, T. Border of dots / RAVISC (S retrograde): Sceptre with wreath, globe and rudder. Below, legend. Border of dots. 16 mm. 3.05 g. Davis B II.E7a. Freeman 11(8/c). After RRC 384/1 (O)/ 393/1 (R). ANS 2015.20.2362 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.
Fig. 7. Eraviscan imitation with the potential name of a chieftain on the reverse. Pannonia, after 76 BC. Eravisci. Silver denarius. Bust of Genius Populi Romani right, draped and hair tied with band, with scepter over shoulder. Border of dots / (DO)MISA: Horseman right, brandishing spear; below, legend. Border of dots. 16 mm. 3.35 g. Davis B II.E4. Freeman 7 (4/e). After RRC 393/1 (O)/ 361/1 (R). ANS 2015.20.2361 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.
Fig. 7. Eraviscan imitation with the potential name of a chieftain on the reverse. Pannonia, after 76 BC. Eravisci. Silver denarius. Bust of Genius Populi Romani right, draped and hair tied with band, with scepter over shoulder. Border of dots / (DO)MISA: Horseman right, brandishing spear; below, legend. Border of dots. 16 mm. 3.35 g. Davis B II.E4. Freeman 7 (4/e). After RRC 393/1 (O)/ 361/1 (R). ANS 2015.20.2361 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.

The question of the production and circulation of Republican denarii (and their imitations) in Dacia was the subject of  a very heated scholarly discussion in Eastern Europe, especially Romania, in the last quarter of the twentieth century, in connection to the Romanian nationalist claims put forward by the Communist Party after the 1960s.

Figure 8: Dacia, after 116 BC. Geto-Dacian copy. Q·CVRT X: Helmeted head of Roma, right; behind, denominational mark. Border of dots / M·SILA: Jupiter in quadriga, right, holding scepter in left hand and hurling thunderbolt with right hand. 18.3 mm. 4.3 g. Davis AIb C26. After RRC 285/2. ANS 2015.20.2306 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.
Figure 8: Dacia, after 116 BC. Geto-Dacian copy. Q·CVRT X: Helmeted head of Roma, right; behind, denominational mark. Border of dots / M·SILA: Jupiter in quadriga, right, holding scepter in left hand and hurling thunderbolt with right hand. 18.3 mm. 4.3 g. Davis AIb C26. After RRC 285/2. ANS 2015.20.2306 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.

Very briefly, the consensus among Romanian numismatists was (and is) that most of the Republican denarii found in Romania, (roughly, ancient Dacia,) had in fact been produced there. According to this theory, Dacian mints would have produced not only imitations, but also many specimens that seem to be official Roman products. Most famously, the Romanian scholar  Maria Chitescu, author of the groundbreaking Numismatic Aspects of the History of the Dacian State (originally published in Rumenian in 1981) advanced various stylistic and statistical arguments in support of this position, especially based on her study of the Poroschia Hoard (RRCH 436). Building upon the 49 coins that appear to be locally made copies of Roman prototypes, she created a distinction between faithful “copies” (Fig. 8), barely distinguishable from their Republican prototypes, and plus or minus barbarous interpretations of the Roman original, which she defines as “imitations” (Figs. 9–10).

Figure 9: Dacia, after 55 BC. Geto-Dacian imitation (hybrid). Silver denarius. Laureate head of Saturn left; T behind, VOS (retrograde)ISMOJ (retrograde)before / Warrior on horseback galloping right, thrusting spear downwards at kneeling enemy in Gallic helmet, who holds sword and shield; to lower left, another enemy warrior, kneeling right; Gallic helmet and shield to lower right, ΔCΛ above. In exergue, oPEPMΓ. 16 mm. 3.43 g. Davis A, II M356. After RRC 349/1c or 313/1 (O) / 429/ 1c (R). ANS 2015.20.2419 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.
Figure 9: Dacia, after 55 BC. Geto-Dacian imitation (hybrid). Silver denarius. Laureate head of Saturn left; T behind, VOS (retrograde)ISMOJ (retrograde)before / Warrior on horseback galloping right, thrusting spear downwards at kneeling enemy in Gallic helmet, who holds sword and shield; to lower left, another enemy warrior, kneeling right; Gallic helmet and shield to lower right, ΔCΛ above. In exergue, oPEPMΓ. 16 mm. 3.43 g. Davis A, II M356. After RRC 349/1c or 313/1 (O) / 429/ 1c (R). ANS 2015.20.2419 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.
Figure 10: Dacia, after 56 BC. Geto-Dacian imitation (hybrid). Silver denarius. Diademed and draped bust of Diana right, wearing cruciform earring, necklace of pendants, and her hair collected into a knot at back of head, which is decorated with jewels; lituus to left. Above, B / Victory (?) in biga right; + below and illegible legend in exergue. 16.7 g. 3.17 g. Davis A, II M355. After RRC 426 /1 (O).  ANS 2015.20.2420 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.
Figure 10: Dacia, after 56 BC. Geto-Dacian imitation (hybrid). Silver denarius. Diademed and draped bust of Diana right, wearing cruciform earring, necklace of pendants, and her hair collected into a knot at back of head, which is decorated with jewels; lituus to left. Above, B / Victory (?) in biga right; + below and illegible legend in exergue. 16.7 g. 3.17 g. Davis A, II M355. After RRC 426 /1 (O).  ANS 2015.20.2420 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.

This classification is usefully reproduced by P. Davis in his website and in subsequent publications, but has been quite recently criticized by B. Woytek, because “although clear at the extremes, this distinction becomes somewhat blurred in the middle and hence, it can be difficult to apply.”

Going back to the function of these coins, it becomes evident that they were not counterfeits. A definitive proof of the non-fraudulent nature of the Geto-Dacian imitations is offered by the fact that they often contain more silver by weight than their Republican models. Their production and circulation in Dacia was intended to balance a shortfall, real or perceived, in the supply of circulating coinage in Dacia, much as the Spanish imitations of Roman asses in the second and first century BC or the production of small change by the so-called Italian pseudo-mints in the first century BC. Their production would have been therefore connected to the monetary needs of a region that—while not subject to Rome—was already integrated in its monetary system.

In Chitescu’s view, faithful “copies” of Roman Republican denarii could be considered as “official” issues of the proto-Dacian state, whose uncertain historical origins were usually connected to king Burebista, a mysterious historical figure mentioned by Strabo (Geographica 7.3.5, 7.3.11, and 16.2.39), Jordanes (Getica 67) and in one inscription concerning an emissary of this king sent to Dionysopolis (modern Balcic in Bulgaria) in 48 BC, where Burebista is described as the “first and the greatest king of Thrace” (Fig. 11). In more nuanced tones, the existence of a proto-Dacian state in the first century BC connected to the king Burebista is still championed in Rumenian academia (Fig. 12).

Figure 11: Poster of the 1980 movie Burebista, directed by G. Vitanidis and starring G. Constantin. The movie celebrated the life of Dacian war-leader Burebista who ruled between 80–44 BC and founded a strong Dacian Kingdom despite considerable pressure from the neighboring Celtic warlords and the Greek cities of the Black Sea coast.
Figure 11: Poster of the 1980 movie Burebista, directed by G. Vitanidis and starring G. Constantin. The movie celebrated the life of Dacian war-leader Burebista who ruled between 80–44 BC and founded a strong Dacian Kingdom despite considerable pressure from the neighboring Celtic warlords and the Greek cities of the Black Sea coast.
Figure 12: Walls from the fortress of Blidaru (Hunedoara County, Romania), built in the first century BC, possibly during Burebista's reign.
Figure 12: Walls from the fortress of Blidaru (Hunedoara County, Romania), built in the first century BC, possibly during Burebista’s reign.

While the hypothesis of a proto-Dacian state could seem a convincing explanation for the massive production and circulation of Roman Republican imitations, it did not provide an answer for the massive presence of Roman official denarii in the region, which were circulating together with local “copies” and “imitations.” Because of this integrated circulation, Michael Crawford rejected Chitescu’s hypothesis of local “copies” of Roman official coinage as currency of the proto-Dacian state, arguing instead that the official-appearing denarii were just that, coins struck in Rome and exported to Dacia, perhaps mostly in conjunction with the slave trade. The absence of hoards including Roman denarii—whether official or imitations—convinced Crawford that the import of Roman coinage and its subsequent imitations were related to a specific historical moment. According to him, the territory of Dacia—precisely because it was not yet incorporated in the Roman Empire—represented an alternative source of slave supply for Rome and Italy after 67 BC, when Pompey’s victory over the pirates put an end to the slave-raiding organized by them.  Roman official denarii were then used as means of payment for slaves, possibly sold by local aristocrats. The high rate of wear of the Roman denarii prior to the 70s BC in Romanian hoards could thus be explained by the fact that they were imported to the Dacian region en masse between the 60s and the 50s BC.

In 2008 Kris Lockyear subjected a large sampling of Republican coin hoards to sophisticated statistical analyses that led to the conclusion that Roman Republican denarii were systematically imported to Dacia between 75 and 65 BC, possibly with a second peak in the 40s BC. He also found substantial differences in composition between the coins found in Romanian hoards and those from elsewhere in Europe, which seem to hint at a local production of the Romanian copies and imitations. To the same conclusions arrived in 2012 the team lead by Woytek, whose metallurgical analyses show that there is distinct similarity in the bullion used in the Geto-Dacian imitation of denarii. In sum, the results of the metallurgical analyses pursued in autonomous ways and with different methodologies by K. Lockyear and B. Woytek play well with the idea that Geto-Dacian imitations were produced locally, as once suggested by M. Chitescu.

However, M. Chitescu argued for a centralized production of Dacian denarii (i.e., copies of official Roman denarii), which would represent the currency in use in Burebista’s state. If this were the case, we should expect a relevant number of die-links, as for the official Roman production. However, no significant die-links have been identified in Geto-Dacian imitations up to this moment, with the partial exception (which actually proves the rule) of a short die-linked sequence published by P. Davis (Figs. 13–14).

Figure 13: Dacia, after 79 BC. Geto-Dacian imitation. Silver denarius. Head of Juno Sospita right, wearing goat's skin; two flutes behind / Griffin leaping left, blundered pan pipes below. 17.5 mm. 3.73 g. Davis A, II M336. After RRC 384/1. ANS 2015.20.2441 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection. Obverse die O1, reverse die R1 in sequence. Part of a die sequence illustrated in Davis 2008.
Figure 13: Dacia, after 79 BC. Geto-Dacian imitation. Silver denarius. Head of Juno Sospita right, wearing goat’s skin; two flutes behind / Griffin leaping left, blundered pan pipes below. 17.5 mm. 3.73 g. Davis A, II M336. After RRC 384/1. ANS 2015.20.2441 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection. Obverse die O1, reverse die R1 in sequence. Part of a die sequence illustrated in Davis 2008.
Figure 14: Dacia, after 79 BC. Geto-Dacian imitation (hybrid). Silver denarius. Helmeted head of Roma, right ; behind, X. Border of dots / Griffin leaping left, blundered pan pipes below. 16.9 mm. 3.38 g. Davis A, II M337. After RRC 384/1 (R ), S 773 (R ). ANS 2015.20.2440 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection. Obverse die O2, reverse die R1 in sequence. Part of a die sequence illustrated in Davis 2008.
Figure 14: Dacia, after 79 BC. Geto-Dacian imitation (hybrid). Silver denarius. Helmeted head of Roma, right ; behind, X. Border of dots / Griffin leaping left, blundered pan pipes below. 16.9 mm. 3.38 g. Davis A, II M337. After RRC 384/1 (R ), S 773 (R ). ANS 2015.20.2440 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection. Obverse die O2, reverse die R1 in sequence. Part of a die sequence illustrated in Davis 2008.

At first sight, the absence of die-linked sequences—even for the more faithful copies—and the heterogeneity in styles suggest a high degree of decentralization in the production that seem irreconcilable with the role of these coins as official currency of Burebista’s state. However, further numismatic discoveries could radically change the picture.

In sum, the present state of studies suggest that Daco-Getan imitations of Roman Republican official coinage were indeed produced in Dacia and were related to the steady influx of official Roman Republican denarii which took place in the course of the first half of the first century BC.

This influx was probably related to slave trade and could have happened under the auspices of the Dacian proto-state, but no final conclusion could be drawn on this. However, the widespread and integrated circulation of official and non-official Roman Republican denarii in a region that was not part of the Roman Empire is yet another sign of far-fetching power of Roman coinage in the first century BC.

 

Am I Not a Man and a Brother?

Today marks the 155th anniversary in the United States since the slaves of the South were officially emancipated. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas with the news that the Civil War had ended and read the following statement:

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

Even before this historic moment, the notion of breaking the chains of bondage had already graced itself on numismatic objects. In 1834, for example, engraver J. Davis of England created a silver medal that portrayed both a man while enslaved on the obverse with the famous inscription “AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER?” This medal came nearly thirty years after the British had ended the slave trade, and nearly thirty years before the United States did the same. The abolitionist movement was still strong in England and this medal helped spread the message. As such, the exergue states “A VOICE FROM GREAT BRITAIN TO AMERICA” with the date of 1834. The reverse of the medal depicts a formerly-enslaved man as he broke free from bondage with the words “THIS IS THE LORDS DOING; IT IS MARVELLOUS IN OUR EYES,” a reference from the book of Psalm (fig. 1).

Figure 1: Silver, 44mm, 24.79 g. American Numismatic Society, ANS 1987.122.24.

This same motif was used in the United States to help garner support for its own abolitionist movement. By 1837 and 1838, tokens that portrayed both enslaved men and women attempted to open the eyes of those were supportive or indifferent about the plights of slavery. These tokens are a part of a larger compendium of tokens from this period now known as Hard Times Tokens, most of which had nothing to do with slavery but with the economic plights caused by the Panic of 1837. Nonetheless, abolitionist causes were heard here as well, with one token portraying an enslaved woman and the inscription “AM I NOT A WOMAN & A SISTER?” (fig. 2).

Figure 2: Bronze, 28 mm, 10.44 g. American Numismatic Society, ANS 0000.999.39313.

In the South, however, where this insidious institution continued to thrive and led to the American Civil War, slaves were portrayed differently. Few tokens portrayed slaves here, but they were featured on several types of paper currencies. More often than not, slaves on paper currency were not represented in chains and, most of the time, look happy. This was a deliberate attempt to placate anyone who contended with narrative that slaves were unhappy or treated poorly. On this 1861 one-dollar note from Georgia, for instance, enslaved individuals are seen picking and packing cotton with a smile on the face of one individual (fig. 3).

Figure 3: Paper, dated July 20, 1861. American Numismatic Society, ANS 0000.999.13514.

Even long after emancipation, slavery has been depicted both negatively and, for lack of a better word, passively. On this medal in the Brookgreen Gardens series issued by the Medallic Art Company, for instance, slaves are seen passively, yet diligently, working in what the artist chose to depict as mere “Plantation Life” (fig. 4). By depicting only women and children in front of individual dwellings with lush trees and animals grazing, the perils that too many people faced under slavery is diminished to “life,” a state that many would have objected to.

Figure 4: Bronze, 75 mm, 183.28 g. American Numismatic Society, ANS 2001.15.1.

On a different note, a commemorative medallion issued by the National Commemorative Society and struck by the Franklin Mint in 1969 honored John B. Russwurm, who founded Freedom’s Journal in 1827 (fig. 5). Published in New York City, this was the first newspaper in the United States that was owned and operated by an African-American. The reverse of this piece depicts a former slave who recently broke free from his shackles reading the newspaper, along with the phrase “Righteousness Exalteth a Nation.”

Figure 5: Silver, 38 mm, 26.26 g. American Numismatic Society, ANS 1970.39.1.

While righteousness may have exalteth the United States on this day 155 years ago, the nation still has a long way to reconcile its slaveholding past. These numismatic tokens and medal serve as reminders to this, especially the fact that certain pieces issued more than a century after the end of slavery continued to present slaves as passive beings willing and content in their economic roles that they were forced to take. As is known, slaves aren’t slaves willingly, and this holiday signifies the emancipation of an entire group of people from their enforced bondage. On this Juneteenth, perhaps more than ever, the American Numismatic Society celebrates the end of the horrid institution of slavery in the United States.

A New Monograms Function in Hellenistic Royal Coinages

One of the more enigmatic aspects of ancient Greek coinage, and Hellenistic coinage in particular, are the many symbols and monograms that appear on them. Already in the early fifth century BC, some coin producers, such as the exiled Samians in Zancle in Sicily, began to put letters and symbols on their coins that served functions beyond just identifying the political authority, like the abbreviated ethnic, ΑΘΕ, that appeared on early Athenian coinage identifying the Athenians as the producers of the new owl coinage.

ANS 1944.100.24122

In the case of the Samians at Zancle, the sequence of letters on different issues, Α, Β, Γ, etc., clearly were not ethnics, but probably meant to distinguish the individual issues.

ANS 1963.106.1

The most convincing arguments to date suggest that these letters represent the sequential years of production, e.g., Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, etc.

Over time Greek coins became increasingly “chatty” with more letters and symbols appearing on them, usually on the reverse alongside the ethnic or name of a king or magistrate.

ANS 1944.100.41905

While many of these letters are clearly era dates, some of them, especially the combined letters we call monograms, are not. Their function along with the multitude of additional symbols—everything from representations of animals to cups to weapons to plants, and so on—are far more perplexing. Some symbols we believe are “mint marks” serving much the same function as ethnics, identifying the authority or place of production, such as a rose on some posthumous Alexander types indicating that they were produced on the island of Rhodes under the authority of the Rhodians.

ANS 1944.100.32241

Some of the symbols that we cannot so easily link to a specific political authority or place of production may have served other functions, identifying, for example, a lower-level authority responsible for the production of the that specific batch of coinage, or the source of the metal, for example. Similar arguments are made for many of the monograms.

In order to truly understand the function of these symbols and monograms, we need a comprehensive electronic database of all of them, something which would include the estimated 10,000 separate monograms and thousands of additional symbols that appear on Greek coinage from early 5th century down to the end of the Hellenistic period. Such a comprehensive database would allow us to observe with greater accuracy where and for how long specific monograms and symbols were used, which in turn might offer some insight into their specific function. A number of researchers independently have been toiling away on monograms and symbol databases for specific subsets of coinage. For example, our colleagues in Berlin, led by Ulrike Peter, working the Coprus Nummorum have been building an important database of monograms and symbols appears on coins produced in ancient Moesia Inferior, Thrace, Mysia, and Troas. Dr. Peter along with other members of the Greek steering committee of Nomisma.org, who have been working on other databases, have been holding discussions on how to combine all efforts into a larger universal database.

At the ANS, our efforts towards this larger goal have, for the moment, focused on the coins covered by our Hellenistic Royal Coinages project: the coinages (in the name) of Philip II of Macedonia; the coinages (in the name) of Alexander III the Great; Ptolemaic coinages; and Seleucid coinages. With the help of Mark Pyzyk, Lauren Tomanelli, and Oliver Hoover, we have been systematically digitizing all of the monograms appearing on these coins—nearly 5,000 individual monograms—creating scalable and printable svg files for each one. Individual nomisma.org IDs are then created for each monogram, which is then linked to the type record in HRC for the coin type on which the monogram appears, whether in PELLA, Seleucid Coins Online, or Ptolemaic Coins Online.  In the meantime, I have been identifying the Greek letters that to my eye at least appear in these monograms trying to be as inclusive as possible. All of our work now has added a new dimension of functionality to HRC.

When users select the “Symbols” tab at the top of the PELLA landing page, for example, they are presented with images of the first 24 of the 1,207 monograms appearing on the coinages (in the name) of Alexander. Users can continue to search visually for the monograms that interests them, or can parse by selecting constituent letters. Once the desired monogram has been located, clicking on the image of the monogram takes them to a separate page that includes metadata information, a map of where coins produced with that monogram were struck, and links to examples of coins in PELLA with that monogram. For the symbols that appear on the coins, such as a rose, users can employ the symbol search function locating on the left-hand side of the browse screen, specifying where on the coin the symbol appears.

Currently, the monogram functionality is limited to just PELLA and PCO, but soon it will be added to SCO as well. Our ultimate goal remains to combine these three separate monogram and symbol tools into one that is much larger including not just our work on the monograms and symbols appearing on Hellenistic Royal coinages, but the work of others on different groups of Greek coinage as well.

For more information on this new monogram functionality please see the blog of our Director of Data Science, Ethan Gruber.

Ground Control to . . . Abe Lincoln?!

Figure 1. The Curiosity rover with a magnified inset of the calibration panel with the 1909 VDB Lincoln cent. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)
Figure 1. The Curiosity rover with a magnified inset of the calibration panel with the 1909 VDB Lincoln cent. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)

In the most recent issue of the ANS Magazine, I wrote an article on the existence of bacterial life on the surface of coins and paper currency. The discovery of these microbial lifeforms in the second half of the nineteenth century truly helped to advance the understanding of Germ Theory. This was especially true amongst the masses, many of whom may not have otherwise had access to the experiments performed at the time if it weren’t reported in newspapers. They began to fear their money due to its circulatory nature and potential to get them sick.

On Mars, however, humans hope to find microbial lifeforms. Formed in 1993, the Mars Exploration Program is NASA’s attempt to find it. This long-term initiative has sent orbiters, landers, and rovers to the planet, with four different missions still in operation: 2001 Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Science Laboratory, and MAVEN (as well as four completed missions, two failed missions, and one mission planned for the future). The principal component of the Mars Science Laboratory is the Curiosity rover—a car-sized, 1-ton vehicle used to explore the climate, geology, and possibilities of life in the Gale crater of Mars, whether now or in the past. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on November 26, 2011, it took 254 days to reach the Red Planet’s surface.

Just like with the advancement of Germ Theory in the nineteenth century, there is a coin helping to lead the way towards finding life on Mars. The primary method of analysis for Curiosity is through cameras, of which there are six different types for a total of 17. One of the 17 cameras is the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), which is located on the robotic arm of Curiosity. This camera, while it has long-distance focusing capabilities, is primarily used to take microscopic images of rock and soil with the hopes to find microbial evidence. It can produce images in true-color at a resolution of 1600 × 1200 pixels (now considered quite low) with the ability to focus to 14.5 micrometers per pixel.

Figure 2. The Martian 1909 VDB cent in action, as included by NASA in this photo released to the public. Without that coin in the image, most individuals would have no frame of reference as to the size of what was shown. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)
Figure 2. The Martian 1909 VDB cent in action, as included by NASA in this photo released to the public. Without that coin in the image, most individuals would have no frame of reference as to the size of what was shown. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)

On MAHLI, a 1909 VDB Lincoln cent is a part of its spatial calibration—a process necessary for both long-distance and up-close images (fig. 1). This provides a photographer, or MAHLI in this case, with a frame of reference to an object of known size. The Lincoln cent on board MAHLI is not essential to its calibration, which uses a more-precise ruler for the actual measurement through a series of black-and-white lines known as a scale bar. The 1909 VDB cent serves two key purposes, however. First, according to Ken Edgett (MAHLI Principal Investigator), it is a nod towards less-precise and “on the go” methods of spatial calibration used by early geologists on Earth, who often placed random coins into close-up photographs. Second, it serves as a calibration tool for the general public (fig. 2). While the scale bar gives scientists more-precise calibration details, this tool is still quite foreign to most people. The Lincoln cent, however, is one of the most ubiquitous objects on Earth. With hundreds of billions of these pennies having been produced, most individuals can instantly recognize them, know their general size, and can quickly grasp the size of another object placed next to one.

But, why a 1909 VDB cent? These coins are not necessarily rare, but there are many Lincoln cents from other dates that could have been easily acquired. According to Edgett, who considers himself an “amateur” collector, this coin was intended to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln cent, as Curiosity was originally slated to launch in 2009. This, however, was delayed, and since the window to launch to Mars comes roughly once every 23 months, the mission had to wait until 2011. “When the launch was delayed,” Edgett said, I made a decision to stick with the historic 1909 cent rather than try to find a 1911 cent. Honestly, I think 1911 would have been more difficult to explain.” I concur. While I was initially unaware exactly why Edgett opted for the 1909 VDB cent, that date just made sense, whereas a 1911-dated cent would have required some investigation to correlate it with the date of the launch. Furthermore, a 2009- or 2011-dated coin could not have worked because of the zinc inner core that became standard for Lincoln cents midway through 1982. Zinc is known to sublimate in a vacuum environment (especially at higher temperatures) and cause short circuits. Regardless of the date chosen, and knowing that money from Earth is covered in bacteria, NASA made sure to sterilize this specimen before takeoff to ensure not to introduce Earthly microorganisms to Mars.

 

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Figure 3. The one-cent piece before it left Earth (top), coated in a thin layer of dust after 14 months on Mars (middle), and with a thick layer of dust after six years. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)
Figure 3. The one-cent piece before it left Earth (top), coated in a thin layer of dust after 14 months on Mars (middle), and with a thick layer of dust after six years. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems)

The specimen that is currently (and probably forever will be) on the surface of Mars was one of four that Edgett purchased specifically for NASA. Two other 1909 VDB cents were used in testing the calibration panels at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, and the fourth was kept for possible use in future missions. Initially intended to be a two-year mission, the Mars Science Laboratory has been extended indefinitely, and Curiosity has been roaming Mars for eight-and-a-half years with the coin bearing the likeness of Abraham Lincoln keeping its images sharp (fig. 3).

 

Westport’s Suffragists Exhibit

United States. Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906). Commemorative Bronze Medal. The Hall of Fame for Great Americans at the New York University, by Paul Fjelde. 1962. (ANS 2001.11.13, gift of Donald Oresman)
United States. Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906). Commemorative Bronze Medal. The Hall of Fame for Great Americans at the New York University, by Paul Fjelde. 1962. (ANS 2001.11.13, gift of Donald Oresman)

The movement for women’s suffrage rights in the United States had a long history before it achieved success in the twentieth century. The first unsuccessful attempt to offer a universal suffrage amendment in Congress came in 1868. The next was in 1878, an effort led by California Senator Aaron A. Sargent. Although his bill was rejected, it would later be introduced every year for the next 41 years, with women aggressively lobbying Congress to approve it throughout this period. In 1913 hundreds of activists marched into the Capitol chanting, “We want action now!” By 1916, both the Democratic and the Republican party platforms supported women’s suffrage, and in 1919 a women’s suffrage bill was approved by Congress. It was ratified by three-fourths of the states in 1920. Though the 19th amendment was a gender-neutral document, which declared that, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Mississippi waited over 40 more years to accept it.

United States. Susan B. Anthony. Cupronickel/Copper Commemorative Dollar. San Francisco mint. 1979. (ANS 1983.156.41, from the estate of D. J. Fleischer)
United States. Susan B. Anthony. Cupronickel/Copper Commemorative Dollar. San Francisco mint. 1979. (ANS 1983.156.41, from the estate of D. J. Fleischer)

Many women worked to win the vote for women, but a few stand out as particularly influential and crucial. One of the leading figures of the suffrage movement in United States was Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), and the 19th amendment is also known as the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment” in recognition of her work on behalf of women’s rights (ANS 2001.11.13). On July 2, 1979, she became the first (non-mythical) woman to be featured on a circulating coin from the U.S. mint (ANS 1983.156.41).

http://numismatics.org/collection/1914.33.1
United States. Bronze award medal, “Better Babies”, awarded by the Woman’s Home Companion, by Laura Gardin Fraser, 1913. (ANS 1914.33.1, gift of Medallic Art Co.)

This year, many local public organizations in the United States are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. Among them is the Westport Library in Connecticut, which in February opened the exhibit, Westport’s Suffragists—Our Neighbors, Our Crusaders: The 19th Amendment Turns 100. One important object in this show is a medal on loan from the ANS that was designed by Laura Gardin Fraser—sculptor, suffragist, and Westporter. It is a bronze example of the Better Babies medal awarded by the Woman’s Home Companion magazine (ANS 1914.33.1 and Photo).

Photograph of Laura Gardin Fraser working on the model for the Better Babies medal.
Photograph of Laura Gardin Fraser working on the model for the Better Babies medal.

Laura Gardin Fraser (1889–1966) sculpted everything from coins to larger-than-life monuments. She became the first woman to design a United States coin for national circulation when in 1926 she partnered with her sculptor husband James Earle Fraser to create the Oregon Trail Memorial half dollar. In 1931, she won a competition to design the United States George Washington Bicentennial Medal. The medal served as a souvenir for the celebration of Washington’s 200th birthday in 1933 and also as a prize for a variety of contests in schools across the country. The Westport Library exhibition focuses on the local suffragists of Westport, who helped change the course of history for American women of all succeeding generations, and is therefore a fitting contribution to the nation’s centennial celebration of the ratification of the 19th amendment.