The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 19, May 10, 2009, Article 16


Lou Jordan writes:
I noticed you mentioned some information on Joseph Jenks. For an update on Jenks see my book John Hull, the Mint and the Economics of Massachusetts Coinage, pp.142-147.

Lou kindly sent me an electronic copy of the chapter, and with permission I've excerpted some text here. Thanks! -Editor
Jordan John Hull While there is no document directly linking Jenks to the mint‚ some suggestive evidence exists. A letter written in 1654 in London by John Hull’s brother‚ Edward Hull‚ to Joseph Jenks survives in which Edward Hull told Jenks he knew of a German die cutter willing to immigrate to Boston‚ but there is no evidence this person ever came to Massachusetts Bay (Morison‚ p. 152).

However‚ if Jenks was making the tools or die blanks for the mint it would seem quite logical for him to pursue leads on a diecutter among his former acquaintances in the profession. That he was corresponding on this topic with Hull’s brother strongly suggests the request was made in relation to the recently opened mint. Jenks may have been pursuing a diecutter as a personal favor to John Hull‚ who was probably one of Jenks’s customers‚ or‚ if Jenks produced items for the mint‚ he may have been doing this as part of a business deal.

In addition to this letter from the early years of the mint‚ there is a document from the later period. In the proceedings of the Massachusetts Bay General Court there is a record from May 15‚ 1672‚ stating the Court denied a petition brought forward by Joseph Jenks in which he requested permission to be allowed to open a mint (Crosby‚ pp. 79-80). It is generally assumed Jenks would not have gone through the expense and trouble to submit a petition unless he knew the trade and felt he could have successfully competed with Hull.

With the demise of Hammersmith‚ Jenks seemed to have been searching for a new profession and felt he could be successful as a coiner. If Jenks had produced the steel die blanks or possibly some of the tools necessary for the continued operation of Hull’s mint he would certainly be in a position to enter the coining business. Based on his reputation as a master ironsmith and interpreting both his 1654 inquiry to Edward Hull about a diecutter and his unsuccessful 1672 petition in the manner stated above‚ it is probable Jenks made some items for the Hull mint.

Specifically what Jenks may have produced for the mint is entirely conjectural. Various metal objects are possible candidates such as wrought iron rollers to roll out the molded sterling strips and possibly metal tools such as crucibles‚ ladles‚ tongs and metal parts for the furnace. However‚ the items most frequently suggested are punches and die blanks. Punches would refer to sets of hardened punches used to impress the letter grouping NE on the obverse and another punch for the reverse used to impress the denomination in Roman numerals directly onto each of the NE coins.

Many long held assumptions concerning the minting and emission of colonial coins have been modified or overturned in the past few decades. Sometimes‚ as in the recent editions of R. S. Yeoman’s guide‚ popularly known as the Red Book‚ it is stated Jenks may have made the punches‚ without commenting on the dies.

Interestingly‚ Hartley‚ in his book on the Saugus Ironworks‚ mentions Jenks had been credited with making dies for the Pine Tree shillings as well as constructing the first fire engine‚ but he was suspicious of those claims (Hartley‚ p. 11).

Wayne Homren, Editor

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