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The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 17, April 24, 2005, Article 9

HERMAN SILVER: FRONTIER RABBI, MINT OFFICIAL

Today's Los Angeles Times has an article about an archivist's
search which led her to the U.S Mint in Denver - she learned
that her quarry became an official of the Denver Mint in 1874;
"For a time, he was also managing editor of the Denver Tribune
and a lay rabbi."

"Behind Hynda Rudd's desk in her Glendale home hangs a
picture of a frontier rabbi she calls her "patron saint." Although
he died more than two decades before she was born, this man's
passion for politics and religion not only piqued her interest but
also led her on a treasure hunt for documents to learn more
about him.

His paper trail led her from Salt Lake City, where she was born
and raised, to Los Angeles and propelled her into a career as
the first official custodian of Los Angeles' historical records.

Rudd, 69, retired nearly four years ago as the city's first archivist
and records management officer after more than 20 years on the
job. The city has always been populated by fascinating characters,
as she learned, but she never stopped researching the man who
captured her scholar's interest: Herman Silver, for whom the
Silver Lake community and reservoir are named.

"Educated men turn me on," Rudd said. "But Silver was more
than educated: He was handsome, charismatic  a man for
all seasons."

"He was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1831, one of six
children. A sickly boy, he often had to miss school, so he
passed the time reading books from the family library and
becoming proficient in Hebrew.

In 1844, on the advice of the family doctor, Silver was sent
alone to the United States. He was just 13 but, at 6 feet tall,
he stood out among the passengers. He caught the eye of a
Spanish-born Catholic priest, Father Gerard, from Montreal,
Canada.

Silver taught the priest Hebrew and the priest taught him
English. When the ship docked, Silver accompanied Gerard
to Canada and studied under him for several years. They
became lifelong friends.

In the 1850s, after working and traveling throughout the East
Coast, Silver settled in Ottawa, Ill., where he met his future
wife, Eliza Post, when he retrieved a letter that had blown
out of her gloved hand.

Silver joined John C. Fremont's grass-roots party, the Free
Soilers, whose slogan called for "free soil, free speech, free
labor and free men." The party was absorbed into the newly
formed Republican Party around 1854.

Silver campaigned for Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and won
appointment as a government land assessor during the Civil
War. He also recruited volunteer regiments for the Union,
receiving a commendation for valor and services "off the field."
After the war, he studied law and opened a law practice in
Illinois.

Rudd lost Silver's trail in the early 1870s but picked it up
again in 1874, when he was appointed director of the U.S.
Mint in Denver. For a time, he was also managing editor
of the Denver Tribune and a lay rabbi."

"Silver had moved to Los Angeles in the 1880s, both for
his health and for a job with the Santa Fe Railroad. Soon,
he and a partner had built a double-track railway from
downtown to Boyle Heights."

"Before Silver died in 1913, at 82, he watched his namesake
community become a movie center and birthplace of the
Keystone Kops. Producer William Selig opened a studio at
the eastern side of the lake in 1910. Half a dozen or so other
studios, including those of Mack Sennett, D.W. Griffith and
Tom Mix, also clustered around the reservoir."

To read the full article, see: Full Story

[A web search found that the journal Western States
Jewish History published an article on Silver in their
volume 20: "Herman Silver of Silver Lake, Civic Leader
and Lay Rabbi, Parts 1&2" by William M. Kramer.

The L.A. Times article calls Silver the "director of the U.S.
Mint in Denver." The facility opened in 1863 as an Assay
office, and I don't believe it was yet an official mint in 1874.
Silver's title as head of the Assay office would have been
"Superintendent," correct? My Coin World Almanac
is the 1990 edition, and it does not list Denver officials from
that period. I'd not encountered Silver's name until now.
Can anyone verify the dates of Silver's time at the Denver
facility? Great name for a mint official, of course - was
there ever a Mr. Gold as well? -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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