John Lupia writes:
Roger Burdette's articles on gold dollars are excellent. Here is another Chapman Brothers postal card on gold dollars our readers
will find of interest especially since it was sent by Charles Presby Wilcomb, an important pioneer in American Museums and specialist in
Here is an excerpt from John's entry on Wilcomb in his online Encyclopedic Dictionary of Numismatic Biographies.
WILCOMB, CHARLES PRESBY Charles Presby Wilcomb (1865-1915), son of Frank and Eliza Saltmarsh Wilcomb, at The Weirs, Lake Village, New
Hampshire. In 1884 he opened a general store in Laconia that also sold antiques and curiosities. Because of the unusual inventory the
locals called his store Wilcomb’s Museum. In 1885 he self-published a book Indian Relics. Also in 1885 he wrote to the Chapman Brothers,
Samuel Hudson and Henry Jr., for gold dollars to be used as bangles, etc.
Back of the Postal Card ... with the message : "What can you get me 20 or 25 Gold Dollars for? Any date will do. Want them for
Bangles, &tc. Please let me hear from you at your earliest convenience. Yours, C. P. Wilcomb, Weirs, N.H."
The following year he published the Museum Bulletin: Devoted to the Interest Collectors of All Classes and the Public in General, from
May 1886- February 1887 (not listed in Remy Bourne). In the Curiosity World, Volume 2, Number 2, September 1887, Wilcomb announced he
transferred the magazine to John M. Hubbard publisher of Curiosity World as the new publisher. After closing the magazine he started out on
a bicycle from “The Weirs” Lake Village, New Hampshire to Denver, Colorado.
By 1888 he joined his eldest brother Edgar in Visalia, California, where he opened another general store very similar to the one in
Laconia. In 1889 he opened the Visalia Museum of Curiosities with a business partner Captain Nanscawen. In 1892 he donated 3,000 objects to
the Golden Gate State Park, San Francisco, California, that included coins, minerals, butterflies, birds eggs, etc. He was appointed the
first curator of the Golden Gate Park Memorial Museum (later on renamed M. H. de Young Museum).
In 1893 he married Addie Nichols. They lived in Visalia where he became the assistant postmaster. In 1900 he traveled to Europe to study
museums in order to keep abreast on museological administration, collection development, storage, exhibitions-period room designs, and
organization. It was at this time that Wilcomb is attributed with forming the earliest known period room in an American Museum in his
construction or rather a reconstruction of an "Early American Colonial Kitchen". It is also thought he did this earlier while in
New Hampshire, regardless he was an innovator in Museum exhibits of anthropological assemblages.
The Park commissioners, however, did not like Wilcomb’s Indian artifact collection, which was at that time considered by many experts to
be of great value. The Smithsonian Museum has photographs in 18 negatives in glass taken circa 1900 of his Indian basket collection. The
Park commissioners demanded he remove the 420 rare Indian basketry artifacts, which he then sold to Robert Calvin Hall of Pittsburg,
Pennsylvania in 1905. That year he resigned from the Museum and moved to Aspinwall, Pennsylvania as the new curator of Hall’s Museum of
In 1906 Wilcomb and Hall joined the newly formed American Associations of Museum. In 1907 Frank K. Mott, Mayor of Oakland California
hired Wilcomb to be the first curator of the Oakland Museum. In 1908 photographs of Wilcomb and his Indian basketry collection were
published in The Index, Volume 18, No. 9, February 29 (1908) : 6. The Museum opened to the public October 21, 1910. On June 23, 1915 he
died from peritonitis from a ruptured appendix.
I grew up in Pittsburgh and frequented Aspinwall, which was right across the river from my neighborhood. I was unaware of Wilcomb and his
connection to numismatics. I wouldn't be surprised to find he corresponded with John Beck, a wealthy Pittsburgher with a passion for
both Indian relics and numismatics. -Editor
To read the complete article, see:
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
H. C. KENDRICK OF BOSTON: NO DEMAND FOR GOLD DOLLARS
Wayne Homren, Editor
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