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 Rochester, New York collector John C. Lighthouse.
John C. Lighthouse (1844-1909), was born in March 1844, at Rochester, Monroe County, New York, son of German immigrants Johann Jakob Leuchtweiss (1813-1897), a nautical
engineer, and Anna Maria Liszt Lighthouse (1820-1891).
His family arrived in America in 1842 and sometime Anglicized the spelling to Lighthouse.
The 1850 U.S. Census places his birth in Germany in March 1844. However, in The Numismatist January (1905) : 28-29, he claims he was born in Rochester, New York. Charles
Ricard, great-grandson of Lighthouse, settled the issue in his landmark and award winning article in January 1988, The Numismatist, pages 47-54.
He lived most of his life in Rochester, New York except for his long stays with his family in their residences out west in Washington and later on in California.
Lighthouse was an industrialist who began as a leather goods craftsman and rose to a national mail bag, and harness manufacturer. He began collecting in 1860 and his remaining
collection including 660 proof coins was sold posthumously by J. C. Morgenthau at auction on February 18, 1936. His family and he were all abolitionists. He specialized in Roman
and papal medals, but, especially in U. S. coins of all metals and denominations as well as paper money. Lighthouse had written : ' My United States series is as fine as I
could obtain and approaches completeness in copper and silver and is quite good in gold; 1793 to 1857 good to uncirculated, and from 1858 in proof." He owned a specimen of
the scarce Shultz & Co., San Francisco, 1851 $5 gold piece with the misspelling Schults & Co. He displayed the coin to George Bauer at his daughter's wedding on June
3, 1890. Only three were known to exist at the time. The other two were held by H. O. Granberg and Virgil M. Brand. His biography and photo first appeared in the January 1905
issue of The Numismatist. In August 1906, Thomas Elder complained against him in his own magazine remarking that he returned 44 lots of coins after winning them at auction.
He says another dealer had a similar complaint and urged dealers not to sell to him at auction.
In 1865, he opened a tanning factory making horse collars of straw and leather at 203-205 State Street, Rochester.
In 1867, he married Margaret F. Lighthouse
From 1879 to 1885, Lighthouse was awarded the United States a U. S. patent and subsequently a contract to manufacture mail bags for the Post Office Department. That same year
he purchased a 1794 silver dollar, an 1801/2 silver dollar, and a proof 1836 Gobrecht dollar, as well as an 1838 and 1839 silver dollars off Ed Cogan.
In 1880, he opened a large tannery in partnership with his brother in the firm J. C. Lighthouse and Brother. In 1883, he purchased a Stella proof set.
In 1885, like J. J. Mickley before him he was robbed of his coin collection valued at $60,000. Most of it was recovered from a married couple, the Gaffields. Among the loot was
his three 1792 half dismes.
In 1887, while visiting out west with his family his factory burned down at an uninsured total loss of $135,000. He retired the rest of his life spending time with family,
friends, traveling, and coin, fish, and game hunting.
In the April 1903 The Numismatist, page 122, Lighthouse is listed as a member who collects "all United States issues, foreign silver, ancient and modern." He
was ANA member #479.
Lighthouse's correspondence with the Chapman Brothers, postmarked Rochester, December 27, 1903, soliciting proof sets needed. Recalling his statement cited earlier he
boasted of his U. S. series in proof 1858 on we see where he was at this date. This remark was published by him in his brief biographical sketch in the January 1905, The
Numismatist. "Gentlemen - If you can sell me the following proof sets in addition to the list sent you I will take seq. [the following] Proof sets . 1896. '98 '99
1901 @ 2.75 set; 1873 Trade Type @ $3 set' minor proof sets 1865 & 1866 same as last. Yours truly, J.C.H."
In October 1903, he visited his family in California remaining until Christmas but soon returned until May 1, 1904. In the January 1904 issue of The Numismatist on page
23 the announcement that "Mr. Lighthouse will pass the winter and spring in California where his address will be 2914 24th Street, San Francisco, California. This pattern
remained for the following years 1905 to 1906.
In October 1904 Lighthouse joined the ANA Convention held on the St. Louis Fair Grounds and was active becoming elected to the board of trustees. He served on the board until
1907. He remained in Missouri hunting and fishing and afterwards to travel to New Orleans for the same during winter.
About this time Lighthouse held monthly coin chats at his home.
In 1905, he published the fact his coin collection weighed 400 pounds. George Bauer recalls he kept his gold coins individually wrapped in a nail keg.
Very fortunately, on April 16, 1906, two days before the devastating earthquake and fire he removed his entire holdings from the safe in the Safe Deposit Company vault at San
Francisco to exhibit it for Farran Zerbe and fellow numismatists visiting at the Palace of Art bringing it home afterwards. Though he stored his coins at his house escaping the
devastation downtown his home was badly shaken during the earthquake shattering the family china.
In 1908, Mrs. Lighthouse returned to Rochester, New York due to John's serious illness. She remained until after his demise settling the estate and its affairs.
On June 30, 1908, Lighthouse sold 142 lots of his collection of coins at auction in The Numismatist pages 191-192.
On September 9, 1909, he died after a protracted illness at his home in Rochester. In his final moments he exclaimed he was surrounded in flames. Such a sad and poor ending to
a story that should have ended bright!
To read the complete article, see:
* * * * *
LIGHTHOUSE, JOHN C.
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