The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 13, March 29, 2015, Article 10


Julia Casey submitted these notes on photographs of numismatic author Montroville Dickeson. Thanks! -Editor

Montroville Dickeson In your Volume 15, Number 30, July 15, 2012 entry MORE ON MONTROVILLE DICKESON there is a photograph purportedly of Mr. Dickeson standing with a Native American chief.

Steven Frank recently posted this photo to the ContemporaryCounterfeitWorldCoins discussion group - unidentified - as something of a quiz to see who could identify the subject.

At the time he posted the photo I had no knowledge of Montroville Dickeson and I sought to identify the photo using internet research. Through a combination of fortunate key words and the magic of Google Images I found a photo that looked to be the same subject but in this photo he was seated next to a different Native chief.

That photo is part of a collection of Nez Perce Chiefs on a Pinterest site. Using that site I was able to identify the two subjects as Chief Tamason or Timothy, Nez Perce and Perrin Whitman, interpreter.

When I forwarded my guess to Steve he indicated that there must be some mistake with my source since his photo had been identified as Montroville Dickeson.

We soon came to the conclusion however, based on locating a clearer photo at the Smithsonian Institution here:!13320!0

... and another photo which is attached to Perrin Whitman's entry here:

... that the photo in question very possibly is of Perrin Whitman and not Montroville Dickeson.

Here is a composite Steve put together with the known portrait of Montroville Dickeson on the left. The newspaper article is something I found which mentions a photograph of Perrin Whitman and it is from 1936. I am writing for more opinions and comments from E-Sylum readers.


Julia adds:

Tintype of Nez Perce Chief Timothy and Interpreter Perren Whitman,

Tintype of Nez Perce Chief Timothy anonymous, 7.5 x 5" copy of a paper image, circa August, 1968. "Tamoostsin" as he was known among his Nez Perce tribesmen, was baptized in 1839 by Henry Spalding at the Lapwai Mission in what is now western Idaho. During the Cayuse War of 1847-50 Timothy kept his band at peace with the whites. He was a leader of the Treaty Nez Perce and visited Washington in 1868 Waldman 2001, Biographical Dictionary of American Indian History to 1900. Perrin Whitman, accompanied his uncle, Marcus, to the Oregon Territory in 1843, and settled in Idaho, spending most of his life as an interpreter. Accompanied by a photocopy of a newspaper article in which this image is described and dated.

Well, if there was a mistake in identifying the gentleman as Montroville Dickeson, it wouldn't be the first time something like this has happened (and been later perpetuated in) numismatic literature. What do readers think? Where did our photo of "Dickeson and the Indian chief" first appear in the literature? I asked a few folks by email today and here are some responses. -Editor

Roger Burdette writes:

Interesting. Smithsonian Institution identifications are not perfect and errors are rather common. How tall was Dickeson? Why would he have been in the same location as the Native Americans? Why would he have been photographed with them? Multiple photos with different Native Americans suggests some special connection to a tribe or other group. Did Dickeson have such special status?

Jim Neiswinter writes:

I've got a copy of the picture of the two standing (5 1/2 x 8 1/4). On the bottom is written 'Dr. Montroville Dickeson'. Dickeson is wearing the same clothes and both pictures were taken in the same place. That can be seen by the molding at the bottom of the wall they are standing in front of.

There is also a picture of MWD in Mason's Photographic Gallery In the Feb. 1869 issue of Mason's Coin and Stamp Magazine. This is likely the same head shot of Mason that is to the left in the composite image.

Joel Orosz writes:

Fascinating! Dickeson spent most of the 1840s excavating Indian mounds in the Mississippi Valley. I'm sure he would gotten to know the leaders of some tribes, although probably not always on a friendly basis. The Nez Perce were a Western tribe, but it is true that tribal leaders had been traveling to Eastern seaboard cities at least since the Washington administration. I'm inclined to think it is MWD--it sure looks like him--but I will keep searching for my photo.

In my library I have a print of that very picture made years ago by Bob Wester. It was prepared by Bob Wester in February of 1984. Notes on the back suggest that Wester found the original print of this photo laid in to a copy of the New York Stamp and Coin sale of the Robert Coulton Davis collection (1890).

The original print is erroneously labeled, in a cursive hand, "Dr. Montroville W. Dickenson," Someone, presumably Davis, subsequently crossed out the superfluous first "n.".


1. For both the seated and the standing pictures, the hairline appears to be Dickeson's as opposed to being Whitman's. (Dickeson had a pronounced "widow's peak," while Whitman did not).

2. Both the seated and the standing pictures show our subject wearing the same suit and having a left eye that is squinting, at least in comparison with the right. The photo of Whitman does not reveal this eye characteristic. The attached lithographic portrait of Dickeson from the American Numismatical Manual (1859) depicts his left eye slightly narrower than his right.

Of course the reference picture of Whitman was taken when he was an older man than the fellow in the photographs, which does hamper comparisons. However, given the evidence provided by the hairline and the left eye, I'm inclined to think the two photos depict Dickeson rather than Whitman. In addition, Robert Coulton Davis, who lived in Philadelphia as did Dickeson, apparently thought the the man in the standing picture was Dickeson, for he corrected the mistaken spelling under the picture to read "Dickeson."

I cast my vote for the man in both seated and standing photos being Montroville Wilson Dickeson.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

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