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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 17, April 23, 2006, Article 23

WILSONS’ SCOVILL MANUFACTURING COMPANY EXHIBIT

John and Nancy Wilson's recent exhibit on the Scovill Manufacturing
Company was mentioned in previous E-Sylum issues.  With permission
I'm reprinting portions of the exhibit text, which relied on an
unpublished Doctoral Thesis on Button and Token Making in America
(Copyrighted 1945 in Nebraska by Theodore F. Marburg) and a book
by William F. McGuinn and Bruce S. Bazelon, "American Military
Button Makers And Dealers; Their Backmarks & Dates" (BookCrafters,
Inc., Fredericksburg, VA., Copyright 1984, New Edition, 1996).

"During the years of existence, Scovill and its forerunners produced:
hard white pewter buttons; stamped brass and pewter buttons; woolens
in the War of 1812; metal buttons, token and medalet production;
hard times and civil war tokens; brass hardware; daguerreotype plates
and other photographic items; political medalets; small cent-sized
tokens, casings for Gault’s patent encased postage stamps; blanks
for the U. S. government; coinage and tokens for foreign governments
and Latin American plantations.

Besides these, Scovill also produced the Queen Anne burners, brass
kettles, hardware, lamps, carriage and harness trimmings, and
probably other household implements.  The firm used pewter, tin,
zinc, aluminum, brass, copper, silver, gold, German silver and
other metals in production of their products.

According to Marburg, “the Scovill’s venture in the production
of tokens, or counters, is of interest as showing how the enterprise
adopted production to whatever the demand might call for.  As early
as 1829, the Scovill’s were supplying business houses with inscribed
medals, bearing the name of the business house and some slogan that
were stamped with a die and lacquered.  (They) may have served this
function and were made already in 1829.”

Quoting more, “These passed at first primarily as business card
or political campaign or as souvenirs, and their use increased in
the early 1830’s.”   “The fact that they were in especial demand
for use in the West suggest, however, that they may have passed as
currency at some points as early as 1834.  Marburg also mentioned
about the dubious currency that was in circulation (ca. 1830) and
how valueless it became.  To me this suggests that Mr. Marburg was
probably giving rationale on why the Scovill counters circulated
as money because of the lack of specie and valueless currency that
was in circulation during this period.

Marburg also talked about the Panic of 1837 and how Scovill medals
and tokens started to circulate as money because of the problems
already mentioned during the early 1830’s.  The Scovill tokens and
or counters ran into a problem in 1839 when a Court in Connecticut
issued a bill against Scovill’s for issuing such tokens, which it
claimed was tantamount to the issuance of a currency.

This didn’t stop Scovill from continuing its production with tokens
and counters along with other look-a-like money at anytime during
the 1830’s and beyond.  Right through the 1840’s and into the 1850’s,
Scovill was hard at work producing various tokens, medals as
business cards and even work for Central or South America, Cuba,
Mexico, Costa Rica, Columbia and Guatemala.

Scovill was given some legal advice in the later 1840’s regarding
“being more cautions” when producing tokens with a human head on
one side and an eagle on the other.  They didn’t follow this advice
and through caution to the wind and using their Daguerreotype plates
between 1848-1850 they produced Coronet Liberty-and-Eagle imitations
of U. S. $5 and $10 gold pieces, even gilding them to look more like
the actual thing.  The distributors’ business names were carefully
added in place of government legends.

After 1866, the Scovill Company furnished the U. S. Mint with the
blanks for a number of U. S. Coins in various metals, copper, nickel
and bronze.  Scovill furnished the full set of 23,757 medals for
the Columbia Exposition in 1893."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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