The Numismatic Bibliomania Society


The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 11, March 13, 2022, Article 7


Heath White added this article with more background on the stamping dies from the Fraternal Supplies vault. See the previous article in this issue for more information on the company lineage.

The first image is of boxes of Masonic Penny dies. The final image shows a die before and after cleaning. -Editor

Masonic Penny Dies The majority of the Stamping Die Collection was originally acquired by the C.E. Ward Company (New London, OH) from The Lilley-Ames Company (Columbus, OH) in 1951. The dies have been stored in what was known as 'the vault' of the C E Ward metal plant in New London, OH . While not really a vault, it was a room in the basement level of a building with cement block walls and a heavy metal door that was normally closed and locked much like a vault. Because of this the company employees affectionately called this room 'the vault'.

  FSI - Vault Room - Wooden Shelves for Dies

FSI - Vault Room - Metal Shelves for Dies The dies were moved from Lilley-Ames in Columbus, OH in 1951 and most hadn't been touched again until 2019. The Vault was a damp, dark room that had standing water on the floor every time it rained. The dies were stored in metal bins that were mostly stacked on wooden shelves (a few were stored on metal shelves). Over the years the bottom of the wooden shelves rotted and legs of the metal shelves rusted. Many of the shelves with tons (literally) of metal dies stacked on them toppled over like dominos. In 2019 I asked a former manager of the company why the dies were never picked up off the floor and his response was, 'they were like that when I started working there 20 years ago.'

Gathering the dies was much like an archaeological dig, trying to pick out the dies from the jumbled up mess of rotting wood shards and rusty metal bins. Most of the dies had a cosmoline-like substance on the face of the die which protected them from rusting. In total, I estimate there were over 10,000 dies, hubs, & trimming tools in the collection. Most of them were sold to three dealers in November & December, 2019.

The subject matter on most of the dies is Military, Police Department, Fire Department or Fraternal Organizations. Political, universities, events (i.e. Wright Brothers Celebration [1909] and Jamestown Ter-Centennial [1907]) and many other topics are represented in smaller quantities.

Many dies were also found in random places spread throughout the factory. When I asked a former manager of the company why these were all over the building his response was that the dies 'made great paper weights' and were used as such.

In May, 1951, the C E Ward Company purchased most of the assets of what had become The Lilley-Ames Company in Columbus, OH. Lilley-Ames (1932-1951) was the successor company name of M. C. Lilley & Company (1864-1882), The M. C. Lilley & Company (1882-1921), and The Lilley Company (1922-1932). Before being sold to C.E. Ward, Lilley had acquired the assets of the many companies including the following:

* Henderson-Ames - Kalamazoo, MI - 1866-1932 * Wm H Horstmann - Philadelphia, PA - 1816-1947 (Fraternal and military assets of Horstmann were acquired by Lilley in 1924 and operated as Horstmann Uniform Company from 1924-1947) * Ames Sword Co - Chicopee, MA - 1829-1922 * E A Armstrong Company - Detroit 1871-1892 & Chicago - 1892-1894 * E A Armstrong Mfg Company - Chicago - 1894-1923 * Detroit Regalia – Detroit, MI – 1903-1911 * Morgan, Puhl & Morris Company - Detroit, MI - 1892-1904

The C E Ward Company was sold in 1968 to the conglomerate of Crowell, Collier and Macmillan. In 1980 Oak Hall Cap & Gown Company from Salem, VA purchased the company and split it into two operations in 1984: Oak Hall Industries (for cap & gown business) and C E Ward Fraternal Supply, Inc. (for fraternal, military, & other business assets). The cap & gown business was moved to Salem,VA in the mid 1980's and in 1987 C E Ward Fraternal Supply, Inc assets were sold and operated as Fraternal Supplies, Inc.

Fraternal Supplies continued in business until around 2012 and the sole owner of the business when it closed was Thom Mezick. Thom died in 2016. After the company ceased operations in 2012 until 2019 all company assets sat idle in a 100 year old factory building that was quickly deteriorating with windows getting broken out and new leaks developing in the roof on a regular basis.

  FSI Factory Building - c2021

The largest collection of dies are from The M. C. Lilley & Co and date from between 1885-1935. There are also many dies I can prove are from each of the following companies: The William H Horstmann & Sons Company, The Henderson-Ames Company, The E.A. Armstrong Company, The E. A. Armstrong Mfg Company, and The C.E. Ward Company.

Die Before and After Cleaning The oldest documented dies were used to make military insignia before the Civil War by Horstmann. Several of the earlier dies are stamped with the name of the die maker (blacksmith) that forged the block of steel or the diesinker (engraver) that carved the design in the die. Some of the engravers are well-known and have had much information written about them and others very little is known. Some of the best known engravers (die sinkers) represented in the collection include Frederick C Key & Sons (Phila.), Anthony C Paquet (Phila.), Peter H Jacobus (Phila.) , Frederick Smith (NYC), & Gustav Horst (NYC). I have done extensive research on and have much information on the different die makers and die sinkers represented in the collection.

I attempted to keep or acquire most of the 'better' dies and after cleaning the dies, plan to photograph, organize, and document them as well as possible.

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: FEBRUARY 27, 2022 : More on M.C. Lilley & Co. (

E-Sylum Leidman ad02new portrait

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address:

To subscribe go to:


Copyright © 1998 - 2021 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster