The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 14, April 4, 2010, Article 12


Regarding Jim Wells' query in last week's issue, Heritage Auction Galleries cataloger Jon P. Amato, Ph.D. submitted the following notes. -Editor

In addition to the sources cited in the E-Sylum article, I would refer interested readers to the following:

Evans, Dorinda, The Genius of Gilbert Stuart, Chapter 5: “The Years in Philadelphia,” 1999

Henry, Red, “The Girl on the Bust Coins: Anne Willing Bingham of Philadelphia,”,December 21, 2002.

Jones, Bill, “Stuart and the Phillie Socialite,” The Numismatist, June 1996

Mason, George C., The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart, 1879.

Stuart, Jane, “Stuart Portraits of Washington, “ Scribner's Monthly, July 1876, pp. 367-374; “Anecdotes of Gilbert Stuart, “Scribner's Monthly, July 1877, pp. 376-382.

I found no references to sketches for Draped Bust coinage in these sources.

Also see my write-up on this issue in The Jules Reiver Collection, Vol. III, Heritage Auction Galleries, January 2006 Signature Sale, pp. 111-115.

Karl Moulton submitted the following extensive discussion, based on research from his recent book. -Editor

I'd like to add some comments about the Anne Bingham / Gilbert Stuart connection with the Draped Bust coinage which began in 1795. There is no recorded connection with the United States Mint, or payment warrants issued for any works created by artist Gilbert Stuart, from any U.S. Mint Director in the 1790's.

Having read all of the previous numismatic background information regarding Anne Bingham (as outlined in the collective seen in last week's E-Sylum), I have spent much time and effort in trying to learn more about her. The search led me from the numismatic writings (unfortunately quite subjective and not substantiated) to a wonderful 1969 book of 570 pages written by Robert C. Alberts, titled, "The Golden Voyage - The Life and Times of William Bingham 1752-1804".

Several images coming from Stuart (of the Bingham's, President Washington, and others), including the 1785 sketch of Anne seen in last week's E-Sylum, were presented in his encompassing book.

William Bingham was associated with Robert Morris, Thomas Willing, and Robert Gilmor, Sr. They were wealthy merchants (with Willing the head of the Bank of the United States) and influenced the outcome of many activities both during and after the American Revolution.

After traveling in Europe in the 1780's, where they first met Stuart in London, the wealthy Bingham's settled in Philadelphia and soon became the leading socialites of the city, giving extravagant parties and receiving important foreign guests. They were good friends of President and Mrs. Washington. A romanticized painting of Lady Washington's Reception, showing Anne Bingham as a dominant center of attention, was done by Daniel P. Huntington.

In 1795, William Bingham was elected as a United States Senator from Pennsylvania. To commemorate his election, Bingham, the richest man in America at the time, had a portrait done by Stuart, who had moved to Germantown (outside Philadelphia) in 1794, after being hounded by creditors in Ireland and New York. He also commissioned Stuart to do a full length portrait of his wife immediately following his "sitting". This seldom seen image was kept in the family by Anne Bingham's cousin, Joshua Francis Fisher. It was so well hidden from public view that Alberts did not know of its existence and omitted it from his book. An 1850's engraving of this Stuart portrait is presented on the rear cover of the dust jacket on my book titled, "Henry Voigt and Others, Involved with America's Early Coinage". This hardbound book is available from me for $65 if anyone is interested.

Moulton, Henry Voigt and Others, Involved with America's Early Coinage (back cover)

This wonderful portrait done by Stuart was in all probability the contemporary image used by assistant engraver John Eckstein for the "two models for dollars", with Anne Bingham's features (BB-51 and BB-52) that he prepared the dies (probably including the small eagle motif seen on the reverse), for which he was paid $30 on September 9, 1795, by Mint Director Henry DeSaussure.

In April 1796, the Bingham's (Anne in particular) persuaded President Washington to "sit" at Stuart's studio at 6th and Chestnut, for a full length portrait (5 feet by 8 feet) to be given to one of her friends, Lord Landsdowne. Stuart's portrait of the President was the now famous "Landsdowne" portrait where Washington is standing, has his right hand extended, is wearing a full length coat, along with holding his court sword with his left hand, and is in civilian attire.

On March 4, 1797, Senator Bingham, then Sente pro tempore, administered the oath of office to Vice-President elect, Thomas Jefferson in Philadelphia. Later, in the summer of 1797, Robert Gilmor, Jr., one of the earliest American coin collectors and son of one of Bingham's business partners, visited with Bingham's after he graduated from Dickinson College. During his stay, on July 27, 1797, Gilmor visited with Stuart in Germantown and saw the portrait of Washington and many other "distinguished characters". According to Gilmor, Jr., who was staying with the Bingham's later that September when another outbreak of Yellow Fever was invading Philadelphia, Stuart was spending considerable time at the Bingham residence trying to paint the entire family.

It is believed by this writer that his association with seeing the newly designed coinage in circulation, along with viewing the paintings of someone he had known as a personal friend (Anne Bingham), created his interest in saving the "older coins" when he became old enough to appreciate them as a collectible, like paintings, instead of regarding them simply as "spending money".

During the winter of 1801, Anne Bingham caught pneumonia while on a sledding party. This quickly turned into tuberculosis, or what was then called "galloping consumption". William, then in Washington getting ready for Thomas Jefferson's Presidential inauguration, received word of Anne's condition and left immediately to return to Philadelphia. It was the unfortunate end of William Bingham's political career.

Anne's condition worsened so much that on April 13th, she was placed on one of Bingham's vessels, America, and it set course for the island of Madeira to see if her health would recover. Because Anne was losing ground, William changed the ship's destination to Bermuda, which was reached on May 7th. Sadly, she died four days later, and was buried in the main parishioners' section of old St. Peter's churchyard, on a hill overlooking the St. George harbor. Anne Bingham was 36 years old.

For those interested in the 18th century goings-on in America, one needs to look outside of the narrow focus and sometimes self-created versions of history presented in numismatic texts, to find the missing, and often-times correct and interesting answers, to the questions surrounding early American coinage and its' collectors.

I met author Robert Alberts once, and had several of his books in my library over the years, including "The Golden Voyage - The Life and Times of William Bingham 1752-1804". I sold my copy some time ago to salvage some shelf space, and I'm glad to see a copy turn up in another bibliophile's library. Karl (and Dave Bowers and others) are quite right that one must often look beyond the numismatic realm for answers to numismatic questions. Thanks to everyone for their participation in this query.


Wayne Homren, Editor

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