John Lupia submitted the following information for this week's installment of his series on numismatic biographies. Thanks!
He's been working for years researching 18th century American numismatists and dealers, and has uncovered quite a bit of
information that pushes back our knowledge of this area by over a century. His book will be titled Numismatic Collecting in 18th
This week's subject is Rev. William Bentley of Salem - bibliophile, collector and dealer. -Editor
William Bentley (1759-1819), was born on June 22, 1759, at Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated Harvard University in 1777. He was ordained
a minister in 1783. He became the pastor of the East Church (Second Congregational Church) at Salem where he remained lifelong.
Rev. William Bentley is most noted for having compiled the second largest library in the United States, comprising over 4,000 volumes,
and was only second to that of Thomas Jefferson.
In his biography written by Judge Waters, he recorded:
“The collection of coins and rare books was another of his favorite pursuits, and to gratify him in these respects was a leading
object of every ship-master of our parish who went abroad. Scarcely a vessel arrived that did not bring valuable contributions to his
cabinet or library, so that some of his collections were indeed very rare and valuable and often consulted by every virtuoso in the
"The coins were mostly transmitted to his friend, Judge Winthrop of Cambridge. All the specimens in natural history thus
furnished were suitably arranged in their respective classes and upon the establishment of the East India Marine Society, made an
important addition to its valuable museum.”
Rev. Bentley was the central numismatic figure in late 18th century Salem creating interest and inspiring some to study and collect
coins. His interest in coin collecting and coin dealing was widely known during his lifetime and his most celebrated client was Judge
Winthrop of Cambridge. Below is an inventory for an invoice sent by Rev. Bentley to Judge Winthrop for various coins quoted from his
“A list of Medals & Coins sent to Mr. Winthrop of Cambridge. Medal from Sweden in honor of the Augsburg Confession.
A George reigning.
Russian, 4 Copec.
Danish, XXIV skill:
George II, penny: eng:
Charles I, penny.
Charles rose. Jus divinum.
five northern Copper Coin.
& besides Chinese Lanthorn.”
It appears that the majority of the proceeds from his coin sales were given to the poor and needy. The entrepreneurial coin dealer had
no self-interest whatsoever but used his coin dealings as a charity fund raiser to help support the downtrodden of his parish and others
known to him. It would serve readers well to learn from him.
It appears to this writer that Rev. Bentley was the spiritual father not only of souls but also of coin collecting and coin sales in
Salem since the late 18th century.
Rev. Bentley died on December 29, 1819, at Salem, Massachusetts.
To read the complete article, see:
Wayne Homren, Editor
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