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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 44, October 29, 2006, Article 5

WILLIAM BARBER'S PICTURE AND PROFESSIONAL IMAGE

In response to last week's request for a picture of William Barber,
Dick Johnson writes: "U.S. Mint Chief Engraver William Barber was a
heavy set man. There is a tiny illustration of him -- but he is not
identified -- in a group photograph of the engraving department on
page 38 (it is Roman numeral "xxxviii" in the Introduction) of Robert
Julian's "Medals of the United States Mint The First Century,
1792-1892."  Barber is shown with mallet raised standing behind a
table of medal dies in the center of the room.

This same image also appeared on a postcard in a set of sixteen
interior photographs within the Third U.S. Mint building in
Philadelphia shortly after the Mint moved into the new building at
16th & Spring Garden Street in 1904. (This is a scarce postcard;
it is missing in my set of interior shots -- I'm a buyer if anyone
has one for sale.) The original photograph is in the National Archives
in College Park, Maryland. Wayne Craven and I saw it when we were
researching this mint building in 2000.

William E. Barber's professional image has become somewhat tarnished
in the minds of numismatists over the years. He was not above taking
credit for others' work. He "adapted" (read "stole") Olin Levi Warner's
bas-relief portrait of Christopher Columbus for the 1892 Columbian
Expo commemorative half dollar (and took full credit, with no mention
of Warner). He even copied his own father's engraved design of the
1881 Assay Medal (Julian AC-24a), added his own C.E.B. initials and
passed it off as his own creation!  He also replicated the work of
Moritz Furst and John Reich (NA-8, -11, -15) without crediting
previous mint engravers.

He ran the engraving department (since 1880 on the death of his
father, William) for far too long a time -- 37 years -- in effect
being Chief Engraver for Life. As the years progressed his ego grew
and he became more feisty. He opposed anyone who he thought was
encroaching on what he insisted was his sovereignty and prerogative.
His conflict with St-Gaudens over the 1907 gold coin designs is well
known. St-Gaudens' critical artistic acumen comments on the Mint's
engravers were aimed directly at Barber.

Observing his life's mediocre engraving work led me to wag  "Charles
Barber would have been better cutting hair than dies."

[Barbara Gregory, Editor-in-Chief of the American Numismatic
Association's NUMISMATIST Magazine was able email a picture of
Barber to Sylvana Aicken for her daughter's project.  Many thanks
for everyone for their assistance.  -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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