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Jul 08 2019

The Story of Nero Through His Coins

Lianna Spurrier is back at it again, with a video entitled “The Story of Nero Through His Coins.” Nero is remembered as a bloodthirsty, ruthless, and immoral ruler. But was he really that bad? His coins indicate there is more to the story than the stereotypical narrative. While there is good reason for his barbaric reputation, Nero was surprisingly interested in the arts and the enrichment of cultural life. Ms. Spurrier digs in further in this well-produced video.

Link to “The Story of Nero and His Coins” on Newman Portal:
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Jul 01 2019

Chapman Brothers Correspondence at the American Numismatic Society

The ANS acquired a sizable group (19 boxes) of Chapman brothers archives, c. 2000, related to business activities of this Philadelphia rare coin firm at the turn of the 20th century. Handling some of the most important collections of the period, beginning with the Bushnell sale in 1882, the Chapmans did much to define the practice of auction cataloging. Descriptions grew less terse, and the usage of photography increased. “Deluxe” editions signaled the numismatic community that it was perfectly acceptable to collect books. Today their sale catalogs are avidly collected. The Chapman archives at the ANS include correspondence with the most advanced collectors of the day, and reveal tidbits found nowhere else. 

The Newman Numismatic Portal is sponsoring the scanning of the Chapman correspondence, which is expected to take several months. Scanning will proceed alphabetically by correspondent last name and appear online as it is scanned. “A” correspondents have started to populate, with one item of interest being the Appleton file. This contains 1904 correspondence between William Sumner Appleton, Jr. and the Chapmans, discussing the estate of Appleton, Sr. (1840-1903).  Some thought was given to consigning the material (15,000 pieces including 3,000 medals) to the Chapmans. In the end no arrangement was concluded with the two brothers, and the material went to the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS), and also appeared at other dealer sales (Steigerwalt 5/1907, 1/1910, Elder 5/1913, 10/1913, and finally from MHS to Stack’s 5/1973). One can only imagine that Appleton might today be more widely known had the Chapmans presented the entire collection in a unified group of sales.

Link to Chapman Brothers correspondence on Internet Archive:
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Jun 27 2019

Misery in the Mint

As summer heats up, it is worth recalling the plight of the women adjusters in the U.S. Mint during the Civil War. Recently scanned by Roger Burdette from the U.S. National Archives, this letter from Philadelphia doctor C. H. Porter to President Lincoln, August 29, 1861, says it all:

“Do not I beg of you throw this aside without reading it through. The object of my addressing you is in regard to the employees in the adjusting room of the U.S. Mint in this city. They are ladies, all respectable Ladies of reduced means. The rules are that the Ladies  shall go to work at the early hour of 7AM, and shall work till 3:30[?] PM in a close room, without a breath of air and with a hot fire in the room, all the time, such weather as it has been here. Is it not an outrage that Ladies should be confined in such a manner, because they have the misfortune to be poor. Ladies are daily almost hourly taken sick and have to be carried home in carriages, and I consider it my duty as a medical man to protest against killing Ladies in such a manner. If you must employ females, do it under better rules, give the Ladies a change for recreation; let them have pure air and enough of it. Let me hear from you and believe me Respectfully Yours, C. H. Porter M.D.”

The presence of the letter in the files of the Secretary of the Treasury suggests that it was not passed on to Lincoln. No reply is recorded here but may exist elsewhere in the National Archives. This letter is from record group 104 (U.S. Mint), entry 216 (Letters sent and received by the Secretary of the Treasury relating to the Mints), vol. 21, p. 317.

Link to National Archives & Records Administration papers on Newman Portal:


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