The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 5, February 4, 2024, Article 13


Chester Sullivan submitted these notes to add to our discussion of collector William Summer Appleton. Thank you. -Editor

Edith Pilcher's seminal book Castorland—French Refugees in the Western Adirondacks 1793-1814 is a reliable source of Castorland materials. She summarized Hough's translation of Journal of Castorland, which includes the New York company's Constitution. Numismatists have relied on this paragraph in the Constitution.

"The commissaries in Paris shall receive no salary. In recognition of the care which they may bestow upon the common concerns there shall be given them an attendance fee, droit de presence, for each special or general assembly where they may meet on the affairs of the company. This fee is fixed at two Jetons of silver of the weight of 4 to 5 gros. The jetons shall be made at the expense of the company, under the direction of the commissaires, who shall decide upon their form and design." Heading 5, Article 9 of the Constitution.

The Constitution is bound with other documents in a volume known as the Journal of Castorland. Its discovery was described by Edith Pilcher.

"In 1862 the Journal of Castorland was discovered by mere chance! The finder was William Appleton, a young Bostonian who was celebrating his graduation from Harvard by taking a European tour. While in Paris he was browsing among open book stalls along the Seine and came across the Journal among materials discarded to be sold for their rag content. Recognizing the manuscript had some historical value, Appleton bought it for a small sum and upon his return home the following year donated it to the Massachusetts Historical Society, where it remains today."

The Journal of Castorland was written primarily by Simon Desjardins. He explored the vast wilderness, procured local laborers, supervised their work, and reported his transactions and discoveries and difficulties back to Chassanis in Paris. The accounts ring true. In them Desjardins described life on the American frontier as seen through the eyes of a French aristocrat. In 2010 John A. Gallucci published a vastly improved translation of Castorland Journal. Gallucci's translations provide cross-cultural insights that expand and clarify the Castorland story. His painstaking research is reflected in his Appendices and Notes, essential reading for students of American history alongside the Lewis and Clark journals and Michel St. Jean de Crèvecoeur's American writings. Castorland Journal, an Account of the Exploration and Settlement of Northern New York State by French Émigrés in the Years 1794 to 1797. Edited and translated by John A. Gallucci, Cornell University Press, 2010.

Amazing story! And here's more from the Massachusetts Historical Society on Appleton's collection. -Editor

In response to Pete Smith's article on William Sumner Appleton, curators Anne Bentley and Mary Yacovone of the Massachusetts Historical Society would like to assure E-Sylum readers that reports of the Appleton Collection's demise are premature!

Although some medals from the collection were indeed sold at Stack's in the early 1970s, most of the American colonial and later medals and NE silver coins collected by Appleton are still at the Massachusetts Historical Society and are available for research. Indeed, new medals [ex-Appleton and not] are added to our online catalog weekly.

For those interested in discovering what Appleton medals survive here, a search in our library catalog ABIGAIL, the Library Catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society ( will reveal our progress to date. Simply type appleton AND medals AND 1905 into the search box and select Keyword search with relevance to the right. This is a moving target as we aren't finished recataloging the numismatic collection.

For those interested in the Samuel Appleton medal—created for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society (not the Historical Society)--here's a look at the obverse and reverse of the medal given to us by—yes—William Sumner Appleton.

  Samuel Appleton medal obverse Samuel Appleton medal reverse

Anne E. Bentley adds:

"Looking at Pete Smith's information, I think he was using the Stack's catalog as reference. Upon reflection, the powers that be at that time realized that it would be a mistake to sell Appleton's Americana medal collection, so all of those lots were recalled at the last minute, too late to reprint the catalog."

Pete adds:

"I was happy to revise the Appleton listing in American Numismatic Biographies to note that the MHS / Appleton Americana medal consignment was withdrawn."

Thanks, everyone! -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Garrett Mid-American E-Sylum ad08a

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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