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Other tokens and medals => Advertising, propaganda and numismatic artefacts => Private countermarks => Topic started by: Henk on April 22, 2020, 03:43:54 PM

Title: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: Henk on April 22, 2020, 03:43:54 PM
I have a 1872 victorian penny with a counterstamped name and profession:

J / HARRIS / ENGINE / CLEANE / R

It is somewhat amateurishly made by stamping with individual punches. The "G" has been punched upside down and the last letter did not fit after the first part of the wordt so it was stamped below, giving a nice symmetry to the piece. Maybe this Mr. Harris used punches in his job and  used them to make this piece.
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: brandm24 on April 22, 2020, 07:37:05 PM
I'm not familiar with this one, Henk, but I'll look around for you. It's a shame the name Harris is so common as it makes it difficult to nail down an issuer.

The "R" of cleaner being on a separate line isn't unusual on these homemade counterstamps. The size of the message is often underestimated, the coin's too small, and / or the punches are too big. I've seen quite a few like this and others where the last part of the stamp is struck on the other side of the coin. All a matter of poor planning. ::)

Bruce
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: Figleaf on April 23, 2020, 05:50:58 AM
Perhaps not as much poor planning as poor taste. The number of letters pattern by line, 1/6/6/6/1, is symmetrical.

Peter
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: brandm24 on April 23, 2020, 12:28:47 PM
Surprisingly, I found out a small bit about the issuer.

I came across an official report titled "Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons" (Vol.72). It listed as part of its report railway accidents and resulting injuries and deaths. In some cases, there were additional notes detailing the type of injury and any resolution concerning lawsuits or paid compensation.

There was a report of an accident on November 3, 1876 at the Swindon workshop of the Great Western Raulway (GWR). One of the injured was a man named J. Harris who was an engine cleaner in the shop. His injury was described as "crushed feet" but there were no other details of the accident. There's no doubt this is the man who issued your counterstamped coin. The host  coin dated 1872 fits the timeline and the fact that he would have access to metal punches at the shop are good indications.

I also saw a report of what was described only as a "train accident" on the GWR line at Newtown on January 8, 1869. J. Harris was also involved in that, but to what degree I don't know.

I took my search a bit further and decided to see if I could find anything else about him. The three names mostly associated with the initial J are John, James, and Jacob. I came across a John Harris born on March 31, 1833 in Lianrian Pembrokeshire. He had several children with his wife Dorothy. There were some details supplied about his family including that "he" was an engine cleaner with the GWR. I assume the "he" was a reference to John and not his son, but it wasn't clear to me. Anyway, I think John Harris is the man who stamped your coin.

Bruce
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: brandm24 on April 23, 2020, 12:32:36 PM
Perhaps not as much poor planning as poor taste. The number of letters pattern by line, 1/6/6/6/1, is symmetrical.

Peter
Good thought, Peter. For a crude piece it is well balanced and quite symmetrical. A diamond in the rough for sure.  :)

Bruce
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: FosseWay on April 23, 2020, 02:15:22 PM
Surprisingly, I found out a small bit about the issuer.

I came across an official report titled "Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons" (Vol.72). It listed as part of its report railway accidents and resulting injuries and deaths. In some cases, there were additional notes detailing the type of injury and any resolution concerning lawsuits or paid compensation.

There was a report of an accident on November 3, 1876 at the Swindon workshop of the Great Western Raulway (GWR). One of the injured was a man named J. Harris who was an engine cleaner in the shop. His injury was described as "crushed feet" but there were no other details of the accident. There's no doubt this is the man who issued your counterstamped coin. The host  coin dated 1872 fits the timeline and the fact that he would have access to metal punches at the shop are good indications.

I also saw a report of what was described only as a "train accident" on the GWR line at Newtown on January 8, 1869. J. Harris was also involved in that, but to what degree I don't know.

I took my search a bit further and decided to see if I could find anything else about him. The three names mostly associated with the initial J are John, James, and Jacob. I came across a John Harris born on March 31, 1833 in Lianrian Pembrokeshire. He had several children with his wife Dorothy. There were some details supplied about his family including that "he" was an engine cleaner with the GWR. I assume the "he" was a reference to John and not his son, but it wasn't clear to me. Anyway, I think John Harris is the man who stamped your coin.

Bruce

Searching records on names like J. Harris is virtually impossible, but with the addition of a place and date of birth and the name of his wife, it gets easier. I've found a John Harris with wife Dorothy and a herd of children living in 1881 at 2 Upper Prospect Place, High Street, Griffithstown, Monmouthshire; his occupation is "G.W.R. laborer loco dept" and place of birth Fishguard, Pembrokeshire. Llanrhian is about midway between Fishguard and St Davids, about 10 miles from both. It is quite common for birthplaces of people "not from round here" to be "rounded up" in census returns, especially if they're not in the same language as that used by the enumerator.

The family is in the same town but a different address in 1891, and John is just a "labourer". Again in 1901 - still in Griffithstown and now a railway store keeper.

I tried to go backwards as well and found him I think in 1871 (but born in Carmarthenshire), where he is living in Gelligaer, Glamorgan. He is a "re-heater" there - I don't know if this is a railway-related profession.

I haven't found anything showing him living in Swindon (or anywhere else outside southern Wales), but it's possible he went there and came back between censuses.

These historical/genealogical investigations seem to be following my own family around. The last one involved Barleys from March in Cambridgeshire, where some of my direct ancestors are from. Now it's Griffithstown, where I had coalmining relatives in the 19th century.
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: brandm24 on April 23, 2020, 04:16:16 PM
A great bit of research on Harris, FosseWay. I don't have some of the resources over here that you have, but I think we've found the same man. The connection to the GWR, although in different capacities, is quite telling. Other than in Swindon, he may have worked in other depots or shops, but was assigned to Swindon at the time of the accident. I don't know how severe his "crushed feet" injuries were, but perhaps they weren't as dire as the gruesome description suggests and continued working for the company.

I don't recall where I came across Harris' information, but it was very sketchy at best. It gave me his birth place and date as well as his wife's name. It mentioned children but I don't believe it provided their names. That was about all, so I couldn't trace him as thoroughly as you have. A number of years ago when I did heavy research, I had a subscription to Ancestry. It was a valuable resource that just became too costly to keep up. I think at the time it was over $300 a year for worldwide access.

Anyway, do you think we've found the correct J. Harris on Henk's coin? I'm pretty confident that it is but, as you know, you can never be 100% sure unless your subject walks up to you and says "Yep, that's me." ;D

Many thanks for your help on this.

Bruce
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: Figleaf on April 23, 2020, 04:17:49 PM
This is a crowd of magicians. Superb teamwork, gentlemen!

I love the "herd of children". TV hadn't been invented yet.

 :perfect: :bow: :applause:

Peter
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: FosseWay on April 23, 2020, 04:54:59 PM
Bruce, I think we can be pretty certain that the J. Harris you found in the accident reports and other parliamentary and GWR documents is the same person as I've found in the censuses. His age, place of birth, occupation and wife all match, either precisely or at least within bounds that I would consider perfectly reasonable with my family historian's hat on. To borrow an analogy from the legal world, he's left DNA at the scene of the crime and was positively identified by a witness - it's proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Whether that person is the creator of Henk's token is a different question. The circumstantial evidence is strong, but there is a reasonable doubt: nothing on the token says what his first name is, when or where he was born, or where he was an engine cleaner. There could be one or more other J. Harrises with the same occupation who were active over the several decades in which that penny in that condition could well have fallen into his hands. Getting an idea of how many J. Harrises who worked as engine cleaners on British and Irish railways between say 1872 and 1914 would go some way to quantifying the level of doubt. Many of the pre-1948 railway company archives are available for study, but I don't have access to them online (and travelling is, well, a bit of a pain just now in Europe...).

For fun, here is a six-inch (1:10 560) map of Griffithstown (https://www.sabre-roads.org.uk/maps/index.php?view=51.68316,-3.02926&map=NLSMap&zoom=16&layer=6) in the last decades of the 19th century, showing the railway and the yards where John Harris probably worked.
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: brandm24 on April 23, 2020, 10:42:55 PM
This is a crowd of magicians. Superb teamwork, gentlemen!

I love the "herd of children". TV hadn't been invented yet.

 :perfect: :bow: :applause:

Peter
I like the "herd of children" description too. Very clever .
It wasn't far off the mark though. Some families had 18 or 20 children in those days...probably as a result of not having TV. :D

Bruce, I think we can be pretty certain that the J. Harris you found in the accident reports and other parliamentary and GWR documents is the same person as I've found in the censuses. His age, place of birth, occupation and wife all match, either precisely or at least within bounds that I would consider perfectly reasonable with my family historian's hat on. To borrow an analogy from the legal world, he's left DNA at the scene of the crime and was positively identified by a witness - it's proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Whether that person is the creator of Henk's token is a different question. The circumstantial evidence is strong, but there is a reasonable doubt: nothing on the token says what his first name is, when or where he was born, or where he was an engine cleaner. There could be one or more other J. Harrises with the same occupation who were active over the several decades in which that penny in that condition could well have fallen into his hands. Getting an idea of how many J. Harrises who worked as engine cleaners on British and Irish railways between say 1872 and 1914 would go some way to quantifying the level of doubt. Many of the pre-1948 railway company archives are available for study, but I don't have access to them online (and travelling is, well, a bit of a pain just now in Europe...).

For fun, here is a six-inch (1:10 560) map of Griffithstown (https://www.sabre-roads.org.uk/maps/index.php?view=51.68316,-3.02926&map=NLSMap&zoom=16&layer=6) in the last decades of the 19th century, showing the railway and the yards where John Harris probably worked.

I'm a little more sure of the attribution than you but there's always room for doubt Too bad the guys name wasn't Jasper Throckmorton or Jabez Snerd. If it were, there would be no need for him to introduce himself. ;D

You can carry on with these investigations for a long time, but at some point you just have to throw in your cards. I've spent many very satisfying hours over the years searching for people as I'm sure you have too. This one isn't as my friend Bill says, a slam-dunk, but the circumstantial evidence is pretty convincing. In any case, I've enjoyed the search and thank you for supplying a lot of the details.

Also, thank you for the map. It's sometimes surprising what information studying a period map can supply.

Bruce
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: malj1 on April 24, 2020, 12:16:18 AM
Harris is a common Welsh name unfortunately. I once had a welsh schoolteacher named Harris. Don't remember his first name if I ever even knew it.

As for the "herd of children" My mother was one of 14 children with another 2 stepbrothers added after she married. my grandfather married 3 times and out-lived them all. My father was one of 12.

Our prime minister many years ago was Billy Hughes from Wales, he lived less than a mile from me here, looking at your map I see Panteg is prominent. this was the name used for the road put in when his property was subdivided.

Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: Henk on April 28, 2020, 11:15:10 AM
Many thanks for all interest shown in my counterstamped coin and the fascinating information.. I never would have thought that the issuer could be identified. This again shows the power of a platform like WoC , of course due to its members! Thanks!
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: brandm24 on April 28, 2020, 11:25:45 AM
Many thanks for all interest shown in my counterstamped coin and the fascinating information.. I never would have thought that the issuer could be identified. This again shows the power of a platform like WoC , of course due to its members! Thanks!
Nobody was more surprised than me, Henk. Thanks to a great deal of solid research by FosseWay, we at least have a good possibility who issued your coin. With a name as common as J. Harris that's as good as it gets.

I remember researching a man named William Brown many years ago and came up with tens of thousands of hits on Ancestry. It didn't take me long to abandon that project. ???

Bruce
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: FosseWay on April 28, 2020, 02:58:25 PM
I remember researching a man named William Brown many years ago and came up with tens of thousands of hits on Ancestry. It didn't take me long to abandon that project. ???

There is a sweet spot for searching old records, somewhere between the "William Brown" type of name and the really outlandish, often foreign, names that ought to be easily searchable but in practice are so odd that census enumerators etc. often got them wrong.

Specifically related to this topic, there is also a problem with the Establishment's anglocentricity in the UK. It seems they didn't have enough common sense to ensure they employed enumerators who spoke the local language, with the result that many Welsh personal and place names are garbled in the records. Back in the 19th century there were still quite a lot of people in Wales whose grasp of English was limited. The same applies to Ireland, which was part of the UK until 1922. This is why the 1911 census (also 1901 in Ireland) is particularly valuable, because the records that we can see digitized are the actual schedules filled in by the householders, and not the enumerators' interpretation.
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: brandm24 on April 28, 2020, 04:29:14 PM
Agreed, FosseWay. While census records are valuable tools to use, they often contain errors that can throw off your investigation. As you mention, misspellings are a major problem. Poor handwriting is another.

 Early US census enumerators would enter the word "refused" if the household at a certain address wouldn't provide information. I often thought this was used as a dodge at times when they simply didn't want to approach certain households...bad dog, maybe. That would be fine if we were searching for a family named Refused, but it never happened to me. ;D

Bruce
Title: Re: Victoria penny with name and profession
Post by: brandm24 on May 01, 2020, 12:11:15 PM
This reminded me of your coin, Henk, so had to post it. Mr. Edwards should have found a larger coin for his stamp rather than this beat up Flying Eagle Cent.  ???

Bruce