Mike Marotta submitted this article on the connections between Assayer John Leonard Riddell and Mint Director Robert M. Patterson. Thanks!
I sent a manuscript to The NumismatistOrrin Lindsay’s Plan of Aerial Navigation here:
It also is archived on JSTOR.
Starting in 1832, Riddell sold subscriptions to his collections of plants, largely gathered in Ohio. Apothecaries and scientists (both professional and amateur) were the customers. Educated people of the time were passionate about their collecting cabinets. Among his correspondents was Dr. Robert Maskell Patterson, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia. Patterson had been a professor of mathematics, chemistry, and natural philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania before teaching natural philosophy at the University of Virginia. Also, coincidentally, both Patterson and Riddell had Amos Eaton for a tutor.
Riddell met Eaton at Rensselaer School (later Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) in 1827. It was Amos Eaton who granted Riddell both his bachelor’s (1829) and his master’s degrees (1832). Patterson met Eaton 20 years earlier because Patterson’s father was the warden at the New York State Penitentiary at Greenwich Village while Eaton was serving time for forgery.
Riddell was an original owner of one of the four proof Confederate half dollars. In Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins the entry for coin 8000 calls him “Biddle.” In Q. David Bowers’ The History of United States Coinage as Illustrated by the Garrett Collection he is named “Professor Biddle” quoting a letter from Dr. B. F Taylor, coiner for the Confederate States (pp 412-413). Memories fail - Biddle for Riddell - but it is also possible that Taylor was withholding information. The letter also claimed that the fourth coin went to “a Confederate officer of this city” when, in fact, it went to Jefferson Davis.
The official U.S. Mint website
has no information about John Leonard Riddell. Riddell does not appear in standard numismatic references such as The U.S. Mint and Coinage by Don Taxay or the Coin World Almanac. A biography appears in A Long Ride in Texas: the Explorations of John Leonard Riddell by James O. Breeden (Texas A & M University Press: 1994). In that book, Riddell’s decade at the Mint earned one deprecatory paragraph. The best summary of Riddell’s life appeared in Tulane Studies in Geology and Paleontology, Volume 13, Numbers 1-2, September 1, 1977, which was also titled Special Papers on the History of Science, Number 1; “John Leonard Riddell” by Karlem Riess.
It can be found online at
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
FROM TEXAS TO THE MOON WITH JOHN LEONARD RIDDELL
Wayne Homren, Editor
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