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Robert Gilmor


Born in St. Mary's County, Maryland. Married Sarah Reeve April 9, 1807. They had no children. He joined the family firm of Gilmor and sons. He had an extensive collection of art and commissioned many paintings by contemporary artists. His collection of autographs was extensive and included all signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was president of the Washington Monument Association. At the time of his death his art collection was probably the finest private collection in the country.  

It is believed that Gilmor began collecting coins and medals during a trip to Europe about 1801. This was in a time before dealers and auction sales. One of the few sources for old coins was the Mint in Philadelphia.  

Gilmor went to Philadelphia to request that the mint strike a medal to honor his parents (Julian PE-13). His friendship with Robert Patterson and Adam Eckfeldt would be important in the formation of his collection.  

The will of James Smithson provided funds for a national museum. A plan by Joel Roberts Poinsett was to form the National Institute for the Promotion of Science. He hoped that the museum he established would qualify for the Smithson bequest. Gilmor was brought in as a member.  

In 1841 Gilmor mentioned in a letter to Poinsett that Adam Eckfeldt had been helpful in striking coins from old dies. Gilmor was encouraging the mint to start a national collection. It has been assumed but not proven that Gilmor and Eckfeldt traded items to improve their collections. It is also assumed that Eckfeldt was striking new coins from old dies for the mint cabinet.  

The Gilmor collection included a Brasher Doubloon. It has been speculated that this is one of the pieces received in trade at the mint. This was at a time when gold and silver coins were being received at the mint to be melted and reissued as new coins. There was no impropriety in allowing someone else to purchase them or trade for them according to their intrinsic value. The Brasher Doubloon passed to his nephew, Robert Gilmor, and then to the son of his nephew, Harry Gilmor. In 1866 it was purchased by Lyman Low. Subsequent collections include those of Harold Newlin, Robert Coulton Davis, John G. Mills, James Ten Eyck, Virgil Brand and Walter Perschke.

Robert Died in Baltimore, Maryland. Some items from the collection were included in a Baltimore sale March 8, 1849.

Harry Gilmor (1/24/1838 - 3/4/1883) was born and died in Baltimore. He left Baltimore to serve as an officer in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He was known for guerilla attacks against the North.  

bio: NCAB 11 profile: NUM 103 May 1990 pp. 704-712; from RCR No. 58

Source credit: Pete Smith, American Numismatic Biographies


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