Last week I asked about Joseph Saxton's contributions to the history of minting and photography; he was pictured among 19 prominent "Men of Progress" in this 1862 painting at the National Portrait Gallery.
John Phipps writes:
"Joseph Saxton worked at the US Mint. He held various positions with emphasis on the machinery and improving the weights and standards."
Bill Eckberg passed along a couple good publications - a 1975 Smithsonian Institution Press publication by Arthur Frazier and Bill's own May 2021 article in The Numismatist.
Here are a couple pages from the Frazier work illustrating Saxton's medal-ruling machine and examples of its output.
And here are a couple pages from Bill's article. The first page shows Saxton's image of the Second Philadelphia Mint made with his machine.
Also, Pete Smith published a nice article on Saxton here in The E-Sylum just last year (September 25, 2022). Here's an excerpt. See the complete article online, which also discusses Frazier.
The Saxton Medal-Ruling Machine
Joseph Saxton improved on Gobrecht's medal-ruling machine and reduced distortions to reproduce an image of a medal for reproduction in a book or catalogue.
In this machine, a medal is placed in a horizontal position. A stylus is passed over the surface and the resulting line is cut by a graver into the surface of a horizontal copper plate. The position is changed in small increments forming a series of parallel lines that create the appearance of relief on the copper plate. The image on the plate appears reversed, but when inked and impressed on paper, the image is properly aligned.
Eckfeldt and DuBois used Saxton's third version of the medal-ruling machine, now powered by steam, to produce engravings of coins in the Mint Cabinet for their 1842 book, A Manual of Gold and Silver Coins of All Nations Struck Within the Past Century.
Also illustrated was an image of the Second Philadelphia Mint. Saxton made a daguerreotype of the Mint, Christian Gobrecht made a small relief model, an electrotype shell was made and used in place of a medal. A description of the process is in pages 186-188 of the book.
This marked a brief period of time when a daguerreotype and medal-ruling process were both used to create a printing plate. If photography had developed a decade earlier, it is likely that the medal-ruling technique would never have been used for book illustration.
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
ARTHUR HENRY FRAZIER (1899-2000)
WAYNE'S NUMISMATIC DIARY: JULY 30, 2023
Wayne Homren, Editor
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