The E-Sylum:  Volume 5, Number 36, September 8, 2002, Article 10


Dick Johnson writes: "Dave Bowers included a segment on
City Directories in his talk before the NBS annual meeting at
the ANA Convention in Atlanta last year.  When this was
reprinted in the latest issue of The Asylum, it occupied nearly
three columns.  He emphasizes the usefulness of city directory
research in American numismatics.

City directories can provide useful data, plus it is one of the
easiest to use for anyone even without extensive research or
library experience.  It is much like using a telephone book.
You CAN locate desired information in these reference works.
However, they are limited in what facts they can reveal.

For the most part, if you locate a listing by name, it gives
address, occupation, where employed, and sometimes
additional family information. I made an extensive search of
Waterbury city directories looking for engravers (occupation)
and learned they worked for Scovill and other metal
manufacturers in the area. From the first directory for this city,
1868, up to 1930 I found 70 names who could have been die 
engravers of numismatic items.

From this information I matched up tokens and medals made
by eight of these engravers. Obviously, I included these eight
in my upcoming directory of American Artists (and the others
I put in a suspense file; maybe someone in the future can match
one of these to some numismatic item).

I learned a tremendous amount of information from this effort:

* A pre Civil War era engraver, Darwin Ellis, got a job at
Scovill, ultimately got his son, Jarvis, employed at Scovill
as well.

* Jarvis Ellis was to work for Scovill for over 66 years! --
a company record.

* Hiram Washington Hayden was a teenage die chaser and
engraver for Scovill who went on to learn the metal
manufacturing business, joined with partners who built their
own metalworking plants,  and became 19th century

* Charles E. Pretat was born in France, came to America to
manage a New York jewelry store, worked for Tiffany &
Co, relocated to  Waterbury in 1874.

* Charles Reinsch bought out the engraving business of
Daniel Kiefer at age 26, but died two years later in 1894.

I dutifully record every factoid for all these engravers in every
city directory listing I find.  Much of it will not give any useful
numismatic intelligence alone but is useful when combined with
other sources -- home addresses for example.  In only one
instance in all my research did I find home addresses added
any numismatic knowledge.

In Philadelphia in the 1850s two mechanical engineers had a
firm that built coining presses for the Philadelphia Mint:
Morgan and Orr.  I found they lived next door to each other!
(Then I fantasized of their walks to and from work together,
talking shop all the way.)

But what of those other 62 engravers listed in Waterbury city
directories?   Some even advertised to engrave medal dies.
But most must have created dies for other coining in the city's
metalworking factories. Button dies, for example (required by
the thousands!).  Other small metal parts can be COINED in
presses with dies much like mints strike coins.  These can
include, gears, cog wheels, clock parts, lamp parts, washers,
small hardware items, the list might be lengthy.

The key to searching city directories is to form "strings" of
people or businesses. You must search every directory over
a period of years until you locate the first entry and the last
entry for this person or business.  This gives useful information,
which when applied with data from other sources can add
knowledge to the numismatic world.

If you wish to search city directories in your numismatic
research do some homework first.  Dozens of articles have
been written for those who wish to do city directory research.
Much of this is for genealogical searches, but it is on the
Internet and useful for any beginner.

The best list is at:

Next week I will write about where to find city directories
and how to use them. Email me your city directory research
experiences at .    I would delight in
learning of these (and maybe learn something new as well!)."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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