The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 24, Number 42, October 17, 2021, Article 15


American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article on the Chapman brothers of Philadelphia. Thank you! -Editor

The Chapman brothers, Samuel Hudson Chapman and Henry Chapman, were the first career coin dealers in the United States. They were born in Philadelphia to Irish Quaker immigrants Henry (1827-1907) and Jane (1827-1891) Hudson Chapman. The senior Henry went broke in the tea business and went into business as a money or specie broker.

The children collected stamps and went to work as teenagers for coin dealer John W. Hazeltine in 1876. By 1878, the two were experienced enough to start their own coin company, S. H. & H. Chapman, Numismatists and Antiquaries.

Chapman.Samuel.Hudson.02 Samuel Hudson Chapman was born on July 15, 1857, and was educated at Friends School. In 1897 he married Bertha Jayne Bucknell (1870-1938). Their children included Samuel Hudson Chapman, Jr. (1899-1979), Robert Penrose Chapman (1901-1959), Laura Jayne Chapman (1902- 1903), and Philip Jayne Chapman (1905-1986).

When the American Numismatic Association was established in 1891, S. H. Chapman joined as charter member 29 and was designated as Librarian and Curator. In 1892 to 1898, he was designated as ANA counterfeit detector. He served on the ANA Board in 1913, 1916 and 1920.

S. H. Chapman was an authority on Greek and Roman coins and world coins up to William the Conqueror. He took extended trips to Europe to participate in archaeological digs and to acquire coins for his collection and for stock. His library has been described as the finest numismatic library of its time. The Chapman library was transferred to the Free Library of Philadelphia. S.H. Chapman served as president of the Archaeological Society, as vice president of the Pennsylvania Geographical Society and was on the board for the Department of Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania.

S. H. Chapman compiled United States Cents of the Year 1794 published in 1923.

  Henry Chapman 

Henry Chapman was born on October 18, 1859. On December 2, 1896, he married Helen Collings (1873-1958). They used little imagination in naming their son Henry Chapman III (1898-1970), and their daughters Helen, Henrietta and Jane.

Henry was the partner with more knowledge of modern and world coinages issued after William the Conqueror. He formed an important collection of colonial currency.

Henry was ANA member 28. He was elected to the ANA Board of Trustees for 1899-1901 and 1910-1912. During 1919-1920 he served as first vice president.

The brothers conducted their first auction sale from their stock in October 1879, illustrated with a photographic plate. Their second sale, named for Samuel Bispham, is noted for the discovery appearance of the 1794 starred reverse cent. They were innovative with the use of photographic plates to illustrate their catalogs and surviving plated sales are highly sought. In 1882 they scored a numismatic coup by acquiring the Charles Ira Bushnell collection which they sold through a large and plated catalog. Bushnell has been described as their uncle. The brothers conducted 83 auctions as partners from 1879 to 1906.

The Chapmans were generous hosts when the 1908 ANA convention was held in Philadelphia. At that time S. H. Chapman was out of the country, but he had arranged for Farran Zerbe to preside over a complimentary dinner at the Hotel Stenton. While the men were attending the ANA auction, Mrs. Henry Chapman hosted a party for the ladies where they saw The Virginian at the Park Theatre. Following the close of the convention, Henry Chapman led a group of guests on the electric railway to Atlantic City. After time exploring the Boardwalk, guests were treated to a luncheon at the Chalfonte Hotel.

Going their separate ways, Samuel Hudson Chapman conducted an additional 28 sales 1907 to 1924, and he retired about 1929. S. H. Chapman died at home of bronchial pneumonia on September 22, 1931. He is buried at Friends Southwestern Burial Ground at Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.

Henry Chapman, Jr. had 39 sales 1906 to 1919. His sales included the annual ANA sales in 1908, 1919, 1924 and 1925. The catalog of the John Story Jenks Collection, sold in December 7- 17, 1921, realizing $61,379.42. With 7302 lots and weight of six pounds, it is considered by some as the finest auction catalog ever published.

After his retirement, the retail business was conducted by his wife Helen. Henry was confined to his home for two years prior to his death on January 4, 1935. He is also buried at Friends Southwestern Burial Ground at Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.

The business was continued by former manager Ella B. Wright until 1948. On January 28, 1941, Helen Chapman and Ella B. Wright were robbed at gunpoint by two men in the shop. An estimated $15,000 in coins and stamps were taken.

The Chapman brothers and their parents are all buried in the same plot, C147, as well as Annie Chapman (1840-1902), wife Bertha Jane Chapman, wife Helen C. Chapman, son Henry Chapman III, infant daughter Laura Jayne Chapman and son Samuel Hudson Chapman Jr. Robert Penrose Chapman is in the adjacent plot C146. Philip Jayne Chapman is in the same cemetery as are the wives of Samuel and Robert.

Henry Chapman was inducted into the American Numismatic Association Hall of Fame in 1970. Samuel Hudson Chapman has not received the same honor. Both were inducted into the PCGS CoinFacts dealer Hall of Fame in 2010.

Smarty-Pants question of the week.

William Bushnell (1610-1683) married Rebecca Chapman (1616-1703) in Saybrook, Connecticut, before 1644. There are many Chapmans in the published Bushnell genealogy and many Bushnells in the published Chapman genealogy. How was Charles Ira Bushnell related to the Chapman brothers? I have been unable to make the connection.

Great question. The topic recurs with regularity. Can anyone help with this? Thanks.

Samuel H. Chapman Pete did answer for us a question posed back in 2010 by Benny Bolin: "There is a nice line drawing of Samuel H. Chapman on p90 of United States Numismatic Literature, Volume I by John W. Adams (1982). Does anyone have a portrait photo?" Pete provided the above photo, noting that it appeared in Chapman's obituary in The Numismatist, November 1931, page 793, and again in The Numismatist, December 1979, page 2658. At right is the drawing from the Adams book. -Editor

To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see:

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