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(Benjamin) Franklin Peale


Born in Philadelphia, in his father's museum at the Philosophical Society. At birth he was named Aldrovand. At age four months his father asked the society to name him and he was named after the society founder and first president. Married to Eliza Greatrake April 24, 1815. They had a daughter Anna Elizabeth. His first wife was found to be insane and the marriage was annulled in 1820. Married Caroline E. Girard Haslam May 4, 1839. They had no children. He operated a cotton mill near Philadelphia. He managed the Peale Museum until 1833.

Employed by the Mint in Philadelphia 1833 to 1854. He succeeded Adam Eckfeldt as chief coiner in 1839. He was responsible for preparing a register of dies in the possession of the mint in 1841.

Peale was sent to Europe in May 1833 to study the advanced techniques used at foreign mints. He returned in two years with recommendations for changes. He introduced a new method for assaying silver. He brought back plans for a new steam powered coin press. He purchased a portrait lathe for engraving dies.

In addition to improvements, Peale attempted several innovations that failed. He purchased equipment that didn't work for the intended purpose and had others built that just didn't work. He abused regulations in the way he used mint profits to pay for unauthorized expenses.

In 1851 he was accused of directing mint workers to do personal work such as maintenance on his home. Since he didn't have to do those tedious tasks at home he could devote his full attention to his work. Although Adam Eckfeldt had officially retired, he continued to come in to work leaving Peale with little to do. Fortunately he could occupy his time producing medals for outside clients, of course using mint workers for the menial labor required.

The new Secretary of the Treasury, Guthrie, took office in March 1853. The new Mint Director, Snowden, took office in June 1853. It took them a while to investigate the charges against Peale. Eventually they determined that there was substantial truth to the charges. He was dismissed from mint service December 2, 1854. Later he was president of the Hazelton Coal and Railroad Company. He died in Philadelphia.

He engraved dies for the Coast Survey Lifesaving Medal (Julian LS-4) and the Rajah of Subi Medal (Julian PE-34).

bio: Evans; Fielding; NYHSD; P-F; WWWA-H; NUM/NIN 8/94

Source credit: Pete Smith, American Numismatic Biographies


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