The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 31, August 2, 2009, Article 18


Len Augsberger has a nice article in the August 2009 issue of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club's electronic newsletter, The E-Gobrecht. With permission I've included some excerpts here. He tells an amusing story of garbled telephone messages, but the real meat for numismatic researchers is a reference to an 1859 biography by Henry Simpson of U.S. Mint engraver Christian Gobrecht. His article is titled Telephone Messages, Tony Turnover, and the "Gold Brick" Gobrecht Biography. -Editor

In the Gobrecht Journal, issue #101, I related the story of Charles Gobrecht Darrach (a grandson of Christian Gobrecht) and his research into his grandfather's work. Darrach published, in 1906, a biography of his grandfather, in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History of Biography. Another version of this biography appeared in the Numismatist, in 1911, and was unsigned. I speculated that Darrach was the author of both pieces, as there was some similarity between the two. A cryptic voicemail message has now served to unravel the puzzle.

On July 27th, my wife left me a note regarding a voice mail received from "Tony Turnover" regarding a "Gold Brick Archimedes." After much thought, I concluded that the message was from Tony Terranova, a well known dealer in early Americana, medals, and anything that he finds "interesting." As for the "gold brick Archimedes," I felt that this might be an specimen of Gobrecht's Archimedes medal (Julian AM-55) in gold. The Archimedes medal engraved by Gobrecht and issued by the New England Society for Promotion of Manufacturers and Mechanics in 1828, was unknown to me in gold.

Now, Mr. Terranova tends to know the full history on anything in his inventory, so it is good to do one's research before doing any negotiating. I jumped onto the Internet to find out what I could about this gold medal.

Along the way, I stumbled onto Google books and looked over "The Lives of Eminent Philadelphians," by Henry Simpson. The 1859 book contains a character sketch not only of Christian Gobrecht, but of many individuals connected with the early days of the Philadelphia Mint, including David Rittenhouse, Elias Boudinot, Robert Patterson & others. The full text of Simpson's book is available on Google books at:

The Gobrecht biography looked familiar, and a quick glance at the 1911 Numismatist revealed that the two pieces were identical. Thus, we can now credit Henry Simpson with the earliest Gobrecht biography, written 15 years after Gobrecht's death in 1844.

As Len noted, The Lives of Eminent Philadelphians includes biographical information not just on Gobrecht, but other connected with the early days of the Philadelphia Mint, including David Rittenhouse, Elias Boudinot and Robert Patterson. Here is an excerpt from the Gobrecht biography. -Editor

Simpson Lives of Eminent Philadelphians At an early age, Mr. Christian Gobrecht exhibited great mechanical ability, and evinced a taste for drawing and design; he was consequently apprenticed to a clockmaker living at Manheira, Lancaster County. His master, however, dying a short time after, he was released from his indenture, and, removing to Baltimore, pursued the course evidently marked out for him, guided by no other teacher but himself.

About the year 1811, Mr. Gobrecht removed permanently to Philadelphia, where his principal pursuit was that of a bank note writing engraver; he, however, as opportunities offered, engraved seals, calico printers' rolls, bookbinders' dies for embossing morocco, dies for striking brass ornaments for military equipments, and also executed several medals. In 1836, in consequence of the contemplated change in the devices on the American coin, he was appointed Die-sinker in the United States Mint, which office he filled until his death...

In addition to his skill as engraver, Mr. Gobrecht was no less ingenious in other branches. Although no performer on any instrument he was a scientific musician, and constructed two musical instruments on the principle of the melodeon, but long before that instrument was thought of. He also devised a speaking doll, about the time Maelze's puppets were exciting attention. A camera-lucida with steel mirrors, by which one part of the eye received, by reflection, the impression of the object, and another part the direct impression of the pencil and paper beneath, without the interposition of any foreign medium, was constructed by him, and is a neat and useful instrument.

Wayne Homren, Editor

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