The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 36, September 8, 2019, Article 13


John Lupia submitted the following information from the online draft of his book of numismatic biographies for this week's installment of his series. Thanks! As always, this is an excerpt with the full article and bibliography available online. This week's subject is collector Dr. William Dickinson of St. Louis, who was mentioned last week in an article from the Newman Numismatic Portal. -Editor

Dr. William Dickinson (1822-1894), was born, the second of eight children on September 22, 1822, at Walpole, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, son of Rev. Pliny Dickinson (1777-1834) and Mary Brown Bellows Dickinson (1800-1885). His ancestors lived in Granby, Connecticut, during 17th century. He is a Son of the American Revolution.

A native of New England. Graduated Dartmouth College (1842), New Hampshire. Historically, Dartmouth taught Greek and Latin with the use of coins. Apparently, Dr. Dickinson acquired the coin collecting hobby while a schoolboy. He collected U.S. coins, except U. S. dollars, and kept a modest collection of Greek and Roman coins. He had a complete set of U. S. Cents and all Half Cents except the 1793 and 1796, and none of the proof issues in the 1840's and 1850's. In all his collection comprised about 1,500 specimens at the beginning of 1890.

He served several years as President of the University of Mississippi. Later graduated Harvard Medical School (1851). He was a Fellow of the Massachusetts State Medical Association.

He traveled in Europe staying at Paris and Berlin. At Berlin he studied ophthalmology at the Virchow and Graefe clinics.

dr. William Dickinson ad St. Louis Globe-Democrat 7_4_1865_2 In 1857 he moved to 82 Locust Street, St. Louis, Missouri, opening an oculist and ophthalmologist practice there. He was an ophthalmologist pioneer and author of important ophthalmological studies.

On June 2, 1857, he married Evelina Crane (1821-1878). They had three children : William Crane Dickinson (1858-1858), and Mary Crane Dickinson (1859-1862), and Evelina Laura Dickinson (1862-).

During the Civil War he was a surgeon for the government and placed in charge of the Good Samaritan Hospital on Jefferson Avenue in St. Louis.

In 1866, he was one of the early ophthalmologists who restored eyesight to patients blind by cataracts.

A frequent buyer from the Chapman Brothers in the second half of the 1880’s beginning with the Collier/McDonald sale until the early 1890’s. There are several pieces of correspondence in the Lupia Numismatic Library. Only a few shown here and 10 more at the ANS website. The ANS has 10 letters which I have examined : 1 postal card, 9 covers, 5 of which the letters are removed and lost; with post office received marking and varying degrees of annotations on the back of the envelopes : clients' surname written by one of the Chapman's we find also the amount spent, sometimes a breakdown of the money into categories (see December 24, 1890) : cash, check, and receipted, also notations if any coins were sent on approval (as that dated September 27 with note dated September 29th), and date of their reply

In 1881, he bought a home at 1322 Olive Street, St. Louis, Missouri. He lived at this address until he moved to his daughter's home in California in January 1894.

In January 1892, he expressed the notion that coin prices were seasonal and asked when they were high and low to the coin firm of the Chapman Brothers.

Dickinson’s missive of March 12, 1892, complaining to the Chapman Brothers about their consignment rates :

“…in regard to the sale my Coins, I am appalled by the fact that at your terms proposed for disposing of them every half dollar must realize 67 cents in order for me to obtain its face value, whatever the cost to me may have been….shall I not better dispose of them here at private sale….many of the pieces I took of you paying you 10%. Now if by you sold I must pay 25%, making 35% for me, more than one third this cost to me. I shall lose less by selling them here…..I feel I am paying pretty dear for a defunct whistle to pay 35% for indulgence in this fad….you can appreciate the occasion of my hesitation to sell at auction….”

Apparently, dismayed he was adamant not to sell through the Chapman Brothers. O, but what do heirs know about our will? His estate handed the entirety over to the Chapman Brothers after his demise.

Dr. William Dickinson grave monument He retired in winter of 1893 and moved to California on January 24, 1894 to live with his daughter there. Nine days later on February 2, 1894, he died a sudden death while at Stanford University, where his daughter was on faculty. He is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery and Crematory, Jamaica Plains, Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

His collection was sold posthumously combined with Louis F. Lindsay of 1197 lots through the Chapman brothers on March 6,1894.

To read the complete article, see:

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

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The entire inventory of the Lupia Numismatic Library is for sale. Individual items will be available before the remaining archives are broken up into parcels sold at philatelic auctions in the U. S. and Hong Kong. Check frequently as dozens of new items with estimates will be posted daily until everything is sold.

All inquiries will be given prompt and courteous attention. Write to: .

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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