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Eric P. Newman Research Files (Thomas Jefferson Collection)

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    Thomas Jefferson Collection 5/2/1994

    Thomas Jefferson Collection

    Correspondence and documentation related to the Thomas Jefferson coin and medal donation to the American Philosophical Society in 1806. This research was published in Coin World, May 2, 1994, pp. 1, 8 by Richard Giedroyc and Beth Deisher ("Jefferson took care to preserve coins for research, new evidence suggests").

    Beth Deisher provided further background (2/19/2021):

    I was invited to testify during the Nov. 22, 1991, Senate Banking Committee’s hearing regarding David J. Ryder’s confirmation hearing for Director of the U.S. Mint. (He had been nominated for the post in July 1991 by President George H. W. Bush.) Among the issues I identified that the new director should be aware of was the need to redesign the nation’s circulating coins, citing the law dating from the 1890s that authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to change designs after they have been in circulation for a minimum of 25 years. I noted that all of our then circulating coins were long past due for new designs. During the questioning phase of the hearing, Sen. Alan Cranston, D-Calif., asked if the Founding Father’s had expressed their opinions about coin designs. I responded, citing George Washington’s famous comments about not wanting his portrait to be used on coins for fear of being perceived as a king. Also I noted that early legislation had expressly required the word Liberty and the portrayal of an eagle as devices to be used on our coins. After the hearing concluded, Sen. Cranston came over to me to thank me for traveling to Washington, D.C., to testify. He related that he started his career as a journalist and that one of his historical heroes was Thomas Jefferson. He asked whether I was aware if Jefferson collected coins. I told him I did not recall ever having read about Jefferson being a coin collector, but upon returning to my office I would research the subject and get back to him. 

    My first call was to Eric P. Newman. He said he did not have anything in his files regarding Jefferson being a coin collector, but if I found anything, he would be interested in any documentation. The second person I contacted was Park S. Rouse Jr., a journalist, historian, and author of 22 books on Virginia history (whom I met in 1975 and worked with on a year-long Bicentennial project when I was living and working in Virginia). Mr. Rouse immediately put me in contact with curators at Monticello, who assisted in obtaining the documents now digitized in the Newman Portal.

    I shared the documents with Mr. Newman, who said they may prove useful for a project he had in mind. Also, I wrote to Sen. Cranston and apprised him of what I had found.

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