The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 2, January 14, 2007, Article 12


Regarding Joel Orosz and Len Augsburger's request for information on
the oil painting by John Ward Dunsmore entitled "Inspecting the First
Coinage," Dick Johnson writes:

"There are three versions of the painting. The original is in the U.S.
Mint (or at least it was when I researched it in 1989). They are correct
in that it was commissioned by Frank Stewart in 1914. Stewart donated it
to the Mint in 1916 where it has hung ever since.

"All figures but one -- mint workers and U.S. officials -- can be
identified. Left to right are: Unknown worker (back to viewer),
Alexander Hamilton, Mrs. Hamilton, David Rittenhouse, George Washington,
Thomas Jefferson, Martha Washington (seated), Adam Eckfelt, Thomas Lear
holding out a tray of coins for Martha to inspect, and Henry Voigt at
the coin press in the background right.

"At some unknown date (1930s, 40s?) a 'New Jersian of great talent but
little morals whose previous work was copying Rembrandts and other
masterpieces (for which it is said he was jailed for his forgeries'
painted a reproduction of the Mint?s original version. The second version
is somewhat larger and the colors changed slightly, I was told.

"I was consigned one of the second versions for the New England Numismatic
Association 45th Convention auction sale, September 23, 1989, held in
Danbury, Connecticut, at a CAL Auction number 33 (lot 1364). The consignor
told me the above statement, also that he had obtained it from a
Philadelphia art gallery.

"Description of this version is as follows: '(George and Martha Washington)
Inspection of the First United States Coins Painting, 1914; 24 x 35 7/8
inches (61.0 x 91.2cm) oil on canvas. By John Ward Dunsmore (1856-1945)
painter of the original.' This reproduction bore the Dunsmore name.
Further, the second artist painted craze (tiny cracks in the print) to
give it an aged look to further the deception.

"The scene is based on the apocryphal story that the half dismes being
shown to the Washingtons were struck from silver furnished from their
household table silver.

"The painting distributed by Dayton coin dealer Jim Kelly was an entirely
different version, but based on the same theme if not the original painting.

I have one hanging above my desk now that I purchased from Jim Kelly
perhaps 50 years ago. It is just beginning to show (legitimate) craze
in the lower right.

"It bears the signature lower left of Hy (Henry) Hintermeister (born 1897)
a New York City artist. It is smaller scope with fewer figures and a
closer perspective of the mint scene. The figures: Henry Voigt in
background, David Rittenhouse, George Washington (holding up sample
coin), Martha (seated), Mrs. Hamilton (leaning over Martha?s shoulder),
Alexander Hamilton, Adam Eckfelt (partly hidden) and Thomas Jefferson.

"A coining press is on a table in the foreground of this painting
(where it was in the background on the earlier version with scales
more prominent in the foreground). The original is somewhat cluttered
with furniture, a grandfather clock and belting shown above to drive
the machinery. Composition of the third version is far more pleasing.
I still get a thrill looking up from my desk as I did just now after
I wrote this."

To view an image of the "Inspecting the First Coinage" painting
(version unknown), see:
image of painting

Dick Johnson adds: "Recalling other useful facts about Jim Kelly's
painting is a problem, however. I don't remember when I got that
painting, how much I paid for it, or even whether it was a gift.
I lived in Dayton immediately after graduating from college and
became close to Jim Kelly, attending all his auctions for example.

"He even recommended me to the Amos family when they were seeking
an editor for a coin publication. When I moved to Sidney I, of course,
renewed that friendship and we were involved with him on a weekly
basis in the creation of "coin trends" the weekly report of coin

"I should not have said he "commissioned" the painting. He had prints
for sale and I acquired one of those prints. I cannot recall any
further details than that.

"I don't believe he would have found that obscure painter, Hy
Hintermeister to commission the painting. Probably, a print publisher
offered these to him and he took on a small number to market.

"The print is lithographed on linen paper, it is not oil on canvas
(which would have been the original). It does have the rippled surface
in imitation of canvas, but it is paper.

"So there is another research project -- tracking down where the
original of this painting is. Isn't numismatic research fun?"

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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