Dick Johnson submitted this account of a numismatic research project involving sculptor Byron M. Pickett.
This numismatic research adventure started for me as I cataloged the medals for Medallic Art Company in the late 1960s. One of the medals the firm had made was a Lincoln Medal for the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company struck in 1963.
The Insurance company had sponsored a museum of Lincoln items since 1926. One of their acquisitions was a Lincoln Plaque issued in 1908 by a promoter I.G. Muller of a Lincoln bas-relief made in 1873. Muller identified the Lincoln portrait only as "Pickett Head." And that is all the museum knew.
On one of my research trips to the New York Public Library I searched the art division's card catalog (remember card catalogs old-timers?). I found a Pickett with two items in an 1873 auction catalog. It listed the artist's name and a two-word lot description: "Florence--Medallion." Further search located no other Pickett.
I wrote the Lincoln Museum Director, R. Gerald McMurtry. He assured me this was the correct artist. "Perhaps, you have made an important discovery in finding a reference to Byron M. Pickett." he wrote.
Five years later on a family trip west we stopped in Fort Wayne to visit Kenneth Hallenbeck, now past ANA president (and father of present ANA president, Thomas G. Hallenbeck). I reported this in an E-Sylum article (vol 11, no 11, article 12) where I related that my family slept in the Hallenbeck driveway (actually in a motor home). Ken was an employee of the Insurance company and he agreed to introduce me to the museum director the next day.
At the museum I saw a card below the Pickett Head on exhibit and quickly copied down the data. This Pickett Head, the data revealed, was the source of the design for two U.S. Postal Cards issued 1911 to 1917. I researched this further and wrote an article in Linn's Stamp News 24 March 1980. This was rewritten for an article in Postal Stationery (May-June 1980).
Fast forward to 2006. It was one of those articles that attracted the attention of Ron Haney of Rochester New York. Ron is a great grand-nephew of Pickett and was seeking data on his relative when he stumbled on my article. He wrote and we began an active email correspondence. I was as eager to learn about Byron M. Pickett as an artist as Ron was as active learning of a predecessor. I immediately sent Ron the listing I had on Pickett in my American Artists Databank.
I recognized his eager interest and in 2008 sent him a packet of all the material I had in my Pickett file, including photos: of the 1873 Lincoln bas-relief plaque, Muller's plaque, Medallic Art Company medal struck in 1963, a 1966 calendar published by the Insurance Company with the Lincoln Medal illustrated on the cover, even a calendar card for the year 1966.
Plus, of course, photocopies of that 1873 auction catalog, a Lincoln Lore publication on the Picket Head plaque, and a photocopy of a page from a Manhattan New York guidebook illustrating the Samuel F.B. Morse Statue, which was Pickett's most famed work of art.
Ron's research continued. He kept me in the loop, and sent copies of each new Pickett item discovered. It was a delight to open each new email.
This week I received the latest -- the capstone of Pickett research. Ron had learned where Pickett was buried, but had no headstone. He ordered one listing both Bryon and wife Ella, and had it installed in place at the Brookside Cemetery in Tenafly, New Jersey.
Byron Pickett's Samuel F.B. Morse statue
A local newspaper ran this article August 5:
American sculptor Byron M. Pickett is memorialized
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
LARGEST LINCOLN NUMISMATIC COLLECTION IN LIMB
Wayne Homren, Editor
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