John Lupia submitted the following information from his Encyclopedic Dictionary of Numismatic Biographies for this week's installment of his series. Thanks! As
always, this is an excerpt with the full article and bibliography available online. This week's subject is the Joseph Brothers, who were pioneers of California fractional gold coinage. Thanks.
The complete article is quite lengthy, and this is a very short excerpt; be sure to see the complete article for more information and many illustrations. -Editor
The Joseph Brothers are three men who emerge in American numismatic history as pioneers of California fractional gold. They were third generation English born Jews who came to America and
established various businesses in San Francisco, California, and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The two elder brothers returned to England between 1867 and 1869 while the youngest, Nathan Joseph
remained lifelong at San Francisco.
The paterfamilias is Joseph Yechiel Joseph (1730-c. 1790) and his wife Elizabeth Goldsmith (1735-1803), who moved from Mannheim, Baden-Wuerttemberg to Cornwall, England in 1760. His son Lyon
Joseph (1775-1821), was born at Cornwall as was his son Barnet Lyon Joseph. It is from this second generation of English born Josephs that the three well-known Joseph brothers are derived. The Joseph
family was a very intellectually gifted and affluent one with family on the Stock Exchange in London and all members engaged in various successful entrepreneurial business ventures. The three Joseph
Brothers are each estimated to have died with a net worth of several million dollars.
Josephus Barnet Joseph (1827-1916), was born the fourth of fourteen children, son of Barnet Lyon Joseph (1801-1880), a Silversmith, and Betsy Jacobs Joseph (1801-1889), at Bristol,
Gloucestershire, England. According to the 1851 English Census he lived at 31-32 South Castle Street, Liverpool, and worked as a watchmaker. J. B. Joseph arrived in New York May 7, 1852 from
Liverpool on the S. S. Europa. Sometime thereafter in June he arrived at San Francisco, California and was united with his brother Lionel Barnet Joseph with whom he formed a partnership in several
business enterprises. Among their earliest venture they were engaged in the produce trade to the Sandwich Islands. When the news of gold on the Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada reached San
Francisco the eldest brother went to Victoria, British Columbia in 1858 bringing building material for sale at auction to raise funds for real estate investments there. He took the proceeds and began
to purchase tracts of land. Not long afterwards Lionel joined his brother there.
Lionel Barnet Joseph (1829-1905), was born the sixth of fourteen children at Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland, England. The year of his birth is confirmed in the 1881 England Census –
Kensington, which records his age as 42.
The Rulau chronology given for the copper store card (Rulau Calif 6), and the same silvered (Rulau Calif 6A) is correctly dated 1854-1860, since the San Francisco City Directories list them at the
149 Montgomery address. However the (Rulau Calif 6B) should be dated 1861-1867 since the San Francisco City Directories list them at the 607 Montgomery Street address, not 1860-1867 as Rulau has
The copper store was first cited by Charles Ira Bushnell (1826-1883), in 1858, An Arrangement of Tradesmen's Cards and Political Tokens, and later on cited and illustrated in American
numismatic literature by Dr. Benjamin P. Wright (1857-1922) and his extensive list of American Store Cards (No. 522) published in an installment to his series in the September 1898 issue of
The Numismatist on pages 215 and 216. Edgar Holmes Adams, United States Store Cards, identifies the store card as Calif 6, the identification which Russell Rulau kept in 1997. Melvin and
George Fuld in the June 1955 issue of The Numismatist cite the Wright and Adams sources and also give the dating "struck about 1850". Ever since the early 1850 date has been repeated in
American numismatic literature.
None of the fractional gold pieces produced by the Joseph Brothers are listed in Edgar Holmes Adams (1868-1940), Adams' Official Premium List of United States Private and Territorial Gold
Nathan Joseph (1832-1924), was born the seventh of fourteen children on October 22, 1832, son of Barnet Lyon Joseph (1801-1880) and Betsy Jacobs Joseph (1801-1889), at Liverpool,
Lancashire, England. According to the 1900 U. S. Census he came to America in 1858 and became a naturalized citizen. That is when the two elder brothers had ventured into Canada leaving him in charge
of their properties at San Francisco.
Nathan Joseph is best known in American numismatics as having struck California fractional gold by patent. Numismatists generally classify his gold pieces as belonging to two periods : I
(1884-1903), and II (1906-1924). Of the three brothers he is the most colorful. He survived being hit by cars twice; an earthquake and two fires at his Old Curiosity Shop, and another fire on his
property on Stockton Street; and at least four burglaries. He sold everything from real estate, to anthropological artifacts, natural history specimens, razor blades, coins, gold, costumes, musical
instruments, stereopticon and magic lantern slides, curios, medals, badges and decorations. He was typically a very generous man making donations of antiquities to various museums and for helping
young Jews who needed assistance.
Beginning in 1899 Nathan Joseph began dealing coins with the Chapman Brothers.
Circa 1911 Advertisement Circular for Souvenir Fractional Gold. An original specimen of the Circular was sold by Kolbe & Fanning April 16, 2016, Lot 299 realized $85.
To read the complete article, see:
Wayne Homren, Editor
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