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The E-Sylum:  Volume 4, Number 10, March 4, 2001, Article 6

CRIME OF 1873 

   Bob Van Ryzin provided the following information on his new 
   book.  "This  is the book I long wanted to have published and, 
   with 25 chapters, it covers a lot of territory. 

  'Crime of 1873: The Comstock Connection', just released by 
   Krause Publications, culminates research I have been doing 
   into the history of the Coinage Act of 1873 since the 1970s. 
   Along the way, I had the good fortune to uncover a series of 
   previously unpublished letters that show conclusively that not 
   all was above board with the passage of this important act. 

   The book begins with William C. Ralston’s death under 
   mysterious circumstances one day after the collapse of the 
   Bank of California, of which he was a founder and president. 
   By the late 1860s much of the Comstock Lode was 
   controlled by Ralston and his “bank ring.” 

   Early chapters cover the discovery of the lode and the dire fate 
   of its locators, the beginning of deep mining, hazards of mining 
   the lode, the great Gold Hill fire of 1869, the building of the 
   bank-controlled Virginia and Truckee Railroad, and Adolph 
   Sutro’s tunnel. The book then moves into the heart of my 
   research, detailing Ralston’s early career in Panama and as a 
   San Francisco shipping agent (he was on hand for the departure 
   of the ill-fated treasure ship the Yankee Blade),  followed by 
   his involvement in early California banking, the formation of the 
   Bank of California, and his rise to power on the lode. 

   By the late 1860s Ralston had come in contact with Dr. Henry 
   R. Linderman.  This relationship was first observed by John M. 
   Willem Jr. in The United States Trade Dollar, but Willem could 
   find no evidence of Ralston’s involvement in anything related to 
   coinage.  Willem also concluded, logically (considering the 
   known source material at that time), that Linderman had little 
   to do with the mint bill until shortly before its passage. 

   This proves, however, to be incorrect. In some very candid 
   letters written by Linderman to Ralston from 1871-1873 
   (including one signed under the alias “Guyescutes”), the 
   Treasury agent reveals not only his behind-the-scenes role in 
   key provisions of the mint bill that would benefit the silver 
   interests but also that he was taking payments from Ralston 
   in return for his efforts. 

   I was able to obtain a photograph of a $3,500 bill of 
   exchange made out to Linderman, the supporting letter in 
   which Linderman requested that sum, and Ralston’s 
   response, agreeing to pay an additional $5,000 for 
   Linderman’s continued vigilance. The letters and Bank of 
   California sight draft are reproduced in the book with 
   complete documentation as to source. 

   Additional letters show that Linderman and Ralston were 
   aware of the coming decline in silver nearly a year prior to 
   the bill’s final passage and worked to place the nation on a 
   gold standard (through passage of the mint bill) before it 
   could be flooded with silver, while securing provision for the 
   Trade dollar and making plans to replace fractional currency 
   with subsidiary silver coins to support silver prices. 

   Linderman would continue to act on Ralston’s behalf after 
   taking over as Mint director in 1873, though evidence of any 
   additional payments is lacking. Through his “Old Man” letters 
   of 1874 and early 1875, it is clear he helped Ralston to secure 
   some previously blocked provisions as part of the Specie 
   Resumption Act. 

   Just prior to his death, Linderman was under investigation in 
   Congress for, among other things, taking stock payments from 
   the lode’s Bonanza Kings. The book includes what is known 
   of the investigation, the story of Linderman’s coin collection, 
   and his estate records. 

   Later chapters focus on Ralston’s fall from power on the lode, 
   the discovery of the Big Bonanza, the collapse of the Bank of 
   California, and Ralston’s death in San Francisco Bay. The rise 
   of the Free Silver Movement is also detailed as are the myths 
   of foreign intrigue surrounding the Crime of 1873 developed 
   by free silver writers. 

   Sandwiched in and around this story are chapters dealing with 
   collecting Morgan and Trade dollars (including current pricing 
   and a timeline for each date), the Carson City Mint, the GSA 
   silver dollar sales, and William Jennings Bryan’s 1896 
   presidential bid and the Bryan Money it spawned. 

   The book is hard cover, 304 pages, 8.5” x 11.” It includes 
   more than 300 photos (many Comstock or coin related), and is 
   priced at $34.95. It is available directly from the publisher or 
   at major bookstores." 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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