The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 27, July 7, 2019, Article 9


Last week I asked "[What buildings] would be ripe for inclusion in a future numismatic tour of New York City[?] Besides the obvious places like the American Numismatic Society and major coin shops, what other interesting places might be worth seeing on such a tour?" -Editor

Max Hensley writes:

"Federal Reserve Museum, ANS holdings and library, American Bank Note Company structure (street view, company is gone), Stacks and other dealers, Museum of American Finance when they reopen."

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: JUNE 30, 2019 : Mr. 880's House Today (

Most of those are the usual candidates, but the facade of the American Bank Note Company building might be interesting. I'm surprised no one mentioned ANS Chief Curator Dr. Peter van Alfen's Numismatic Walking Tour of Lower Manhattan held July 14, 2018. I was unable to attend, but it sounded fun: "... as part of the ANS Summer Seminar, a walking tour that vividly illustrates the many connections between numismatic and medallic art of 20th century and the architectural and free standing sculpture found throughout lower Manhattan." -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

I caught up with Peter via email in Antalya, Turkey, where he's giving a seminar this week at Koç University's AKMED center. -Editor

Peter writes:

"Every year as part of the ANS's seminar, I've given a numismatics oriented walking tour of lower Manhattan that I call Monuments, Medals, Metropolis that ends in Staten Island's St. George historic district for a barbecue in my back yard.

"This year's tour on July 19th is just for the students, I'm afraid. Even so, this year we will be experimenting with creating an online version of the tour, either as a sort of virtual tour or as something that folks can self-guide if they happen to be in town."

Peter kindly forwarded a tour handout. It's too lengthy to republish here, but we'll look forward to a future version online. Here's an excerpt for flavor. Stops include City Hall Park, the Telephone Building at 195 Broadway, Nassau Street offices of U.S. Mint envravers Brenner, Laubenheimer, and Paquet, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Chamber of Commerce, Trinity Church, the New York Stock Exchange, Federal Hall, Battery Park, and the Alexander Hamilton Custom House. -Editor

This walking tour is meant primarily to highlight the art and architecture of lower Manhattan of the period between roughly 1900 and 1930, when artists and architects frequently worked in close association with one another as never before, and the connections between many of these artists and contemporary numismatic art. At the same time, we will also consider the history of New York City more broadly.

Much of what we will be looking at was created when the City Beautiful movement had captured the imagination of architects, artists, politicians, and other elites. The City Beautiful movement was a Progressive reform movement in North American architecture and urban planning that flourished in the 1890s and early 1900s with the intent of using beautification and monumental grandeur in cities to counteract the perceived moral decay of poverty-stricken urban environments. The movement did not seek beauty for its own sake, but rather as a social control device for creating moral and civic virtue among urban populations. Advocates of the movement believed that such beautification could thus provide a harmonious social order that would improve the lives of the inner-city poor.

Many of the same artists who were involved in the City Beautiful movement in New York City, producing both architectural and free standing sculpture, were also involved in President Theodore Roosevelt's attempt to beautify US coinage. Roosevelt worked closely with Augustus Saint-Gaudens, one of the most preeminent sculptors in the US, to produce a new set of gold coins introduced in 1907, the year Saint-Gaudens died. Soon thereafter several of Saint-Gaudens' former students and apprentices were approached to produce other coins as well, while they continued to work on larger sculptural projects in New York City. These artists include James Fraser, Herman McNeil, and Adolph Alexander Weinman. At the same time, other artists, like Daniel Chester French, Frederick Macmonies and Paul Manship, were heavily involved in the production of medallic art for the Circle of Friends of the Medallion and the Society of Medallists, as well as for various private commissions. Thus for a time, at the beginning of the 20th century, there was, in New York City, an amazing confluence of numismatic, architectural and public artistic endeavors such as had not been seen before or ever since.

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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