An E-Sylum reader spotted this article from the Baltimore Sun that cites Len Augsburger's new book, Treasure in the Cellar.. -EditorThe story of two Baltimore teenagers and their random discovery of a cache of gold coins in a copper jug while digging in the dirt cellar floor of a three-story rowhouse at 132 S. Eden St. became a national story during the height of the Depression.
Theodore Jones, 16, and Henry Grob, 15, both from fatherless families who were on relief, had formed a club, the "Rinky-Dinky-Doos," and were busy digging a hole on the warm afternoon of Aug. 31, 1934, in the floor of the Eden Street tenement where Jones and his mother resided.
Newspaper accounts from the time described the booty the boys were probably burying as "secret club papers" or "cards, dice and chips."
Suddenly, while digging, Jones' shovel struck something. He reached into the hole and pulled out a round medal coin.
"Look!" he exclaimed to Grob, "here's a medal," The Sun reported at the time.
Grob replied, "You're crazy. That's a $20 gold piece."
The boys began to furiously excavate the corner of the cellar.
"I was digging in that hole - hands, elbows, knees and everything," Jones told a Sun reporter.
"After more than half the hoard had been scratched out, they found the container it had been in - a gallon can - now more than half-rotted away. With the coins, glittering through their gold mold, scattered around them, they sat on the dirt floor and dreamed dreams of what they would do with their wealth," the newspaper reported.
What the boys had unearthed in two separate pots were 3,558 gold coins that dated from the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s, worth a face value of $11,200. Today, their discovery would be worth more than $10 million.
Hours after their discovery, the two youths walked into the Eastern District police station carrying the fortune, which had been stashed in cigar boxes and leather bags.
Officers at the station were "incredulous" at the sheer volume of what the boys had brought in to show them, The Sun observed.
The Great Baltimore Gold Rush of 1934 and the woeful tale of its two instigators is the subject of a new book, Treasure in the Cellar: A Tale of Gold in Depression-Era Baltimore by Leonard Augsburger, published last week by the Maryland Historical Society.
Augsburger, 45, a Chicago telecommunications software engineer who lives in Vernon Hills, Ill., has been a lifelong coin collector.
Augsburger, in a recent telephone interview, said he had been searching old coin magazines looking for a book topic when he stumbled upon the saga of Jones and Grob.
The story of the gold find, resultant court battles over ownership and coin auctions had long faded from public memory.
"I thought, there's got to be more here, and that's how I got it going," he said.
The book took Augsburger five years of research as he traveled back and forth between Illinois and Baltimore, checking out leads and census records, locating family members associated with the case, reading old microfilmed newspapers and legal decisions.
"One thing that struck me, was how little people know about the case today," he said. "When I contacted Harry O. Levin's daughter, who lives in Florida and whose father was the attorney for Grob and Jones, she said she never heard of the case."
As to the coins, Augsburger said, "the whereabouts of only a handful of them is known today."
Augsburger will speak about Treasure in the Cellar at 4 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Baltimore Book Festival.
To read the complete article, see: Treasure in the cellar brought more trouble than riches (http://www.baltimoresun.com/services/newspaper/printedition
Wayne Homren, Editor
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