The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 20, May 16, 2010, Article 15


David Gladfelter writes:

There's an entry for Shallus in Groce & Wallace, "The New York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860". Born in Philadelphia 1774, active in Philadelphia 1797-1821, died 1821. Wrote and published The Chronological Tables for Every Day of the Year in 1817.

And look at this: “He also operated a circulating library and was active in politics … “ The source of this information is Stauffer's American Engravers upon Copper and Steel (New York, Grolier Club, 1907, reprinted 1994).

Medal by Francis Shallus, 1807

William Nyberg writes:

1792, Shallus worked for Robert Scot. Shallus would place his initials FS, or a long script S, under the signature of Scot (or R. Scot & S. Allardice) for engravings that he completed or assisted on. In 1796, Shallus went out on his own, providing an engraving for The Bible published by Jacob Berriman, and book illustrations for publishers Robert DeSilver and John Tiebout.

The referenced Mary E. Holt article mentions Samuel Allardice, a Philadelphia engraver and Scottish immigrant who started as an apprentice to Robert Scot. In 1794 Allardice became a partner with Robert Scot after he received his commission with the Mint, using the signature R. Scot & S. Allardice on engravings. Allardice and Shallus would be responsible for the copper-plate engraving work of the firm from 1794-1796.

Allardice would start his own engraving firm in 1797, placing advertisements for apprentices. He succumbed to yellow fever in August of 1798. Allardice & Scot were not a partnership in 1798, as sometimes is reported. Shallus and Allardice are among of the engravers that I had mentioned on 4/25/2010 as having been trained by Scot.

Robert Scot was probably the only engraver in the Philadelphia area (or possibly the US) that would have apprentices initialize their work. Other interesting aspects to signatures will be in my book. Samuel Allardice would initial his work as an apprentice in small script or block letters. This is an example from my collection with script SA initials:

Scot Phila SA

Joe Boling writes:

Those Shallus medals looks like one-offs - hand-engraved awards. It may be that Shallus was not a medallist of the stripe we think of, but a plate engraver who occasionally turned his hand to medals. Dick Johnson - is there a distinguishing adjective to describe an engraver of that sort?

Masonic Medal by Francis Shallus, 1812

I passed Joe's query on to Dick Johnson, who writes:

They have been called "hand engravers" throughout history, from ancient coin die engravers until today's Ron Landis. We have always had hand engravers no matter how man has tried to mechanized -- or computerize! -- the craft. And hopefully we will not lose this craft in the future.

If you stop by the bourse table (#1230) of Signature Art Medals at the Boston ANA convention in August you will see a hand engraved medal to be issued next March 4th for the 150th Anniversary of Abe Lincoln's Inauguration. We are trying to keep this craft alive by issuing hand engraved medals even in the 21st century! (We will also exhibit die-struck, cast and galvano medallic art as well. Oops! Wrong word! These medals are for sale, not just on "exhibit.")

As for Shallus and his 1790s period in early America you must remember they were not as specialized as we are today. Anyone who could hand engrave was called upon for their service no matter what the need. This extended from engraved pew plates -- your seat in church was reserved just for you -- to monogrammed silverware, to initial door knockers, to currency or map plates, to book illustrations and plates, to signet rings, to the dies used for striking coins and medals. Hand engravers were even called upon to engrave the cylindrical rollers to print wall paper in the 1800s!

Today's hand engravers, it seems, concentrate on engraving firearms. That's were the money is! There are 500 firearm engravers to every one die engraver. Viva la hand engraving!

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: QUERY: FRANCIS SHALLUS, PHILADELPHIA ENGRAVER (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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