Howland Wood: long-time ANS curator, Oriental coin authority, Huntington Award winner, and…illustrator? I must admit, I didn’t know about that last one—that is, until one day recently when looking into the controversy surrounding Victor David Brenner’s initials on the Lincoln Cent. I was reading a Numismatist article on the topic and was surprised to discover that the satirical drawing accompanying it, a depiction of a towering schoolmarm scolding the engraver for his audacity, was by Wood.
The tone was in keeping with the one drawing of his I was aware of, a cartoon skewering the big names of the numismatic world that was found in his personal papers and written about some years ago in ANS Magazine. His other illustrations and devices for the Numismatist were not comical at all. Wood was identified as the “Staff Illustrator” for the magazine in 1909, and his contributions were part of an overall redesign of the magazine. By 1910, fewer and fewer of them appear, and they seem to be gone completely by 1911. As you can see by the slideshow below, Wood was a quite a talented illustrator.
Wood’s work in this area really should not have come as such a surprise. He was at that time working for a photoengraving firm in Boston—though as a salesman—a job he held for over a decade before becoming ANS curator. Several of the illustrations are engravings from photographs. His aptitude for art was not a quality hidden from his colleagues. In his eulogy for Wood, Edward Newell remarked on his “artistic sense [that] rendered him one of the finest and most successful arrangers of coin displays that I have ever been privileged to know.”