Author Topic: American Civil War store cards  (Read 297 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline brandm24

  • BR & M
  • Moderator
  • Meritorious Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 744
American Civil War store cards
« on: May 08, 2020, 11:37:40 AM »
Of the two main types of tokens privately issued for emergency money during the Civil War, store cards are by far the most interesting to me. The patriotic cards as well as contemporary and non-local issues,while having their own appeal, aren't as interesting from a research standpoint. Store cards were actually issued by a specific merchant or group.

One of those that grabbed my attention was the Buffalo, NY issue of auctioneer and commission merchant F.J. Bieler. Though there's not a lot about Bieler to share, his token, or should I say the crudeness of it, really drew my attention. There are six varieties of Bieler's cards detailed in George and Melvin Fuld's token reference. All are in copper and range from a fairly common Rarity-3 to a unique Rarity-10 (An overstruck example). The reverse (portrait side) is cataloged as die # 1079. Fuld's overall reference designation is NY 105D-2a.

Though die sinkers, engravers and manufacturers who produced most of the era's emissions are well documented, some dies and their makers are still unattributed. This is one of them.

There are known sinkers described by Q. David Bowers in his wonderful reference "Engravers, Minters, and Distributors of Civil War Tokens" (2016) as "primitive engravers." These were the individuals who displayed poor workmanship which certainly includes this one.

There are several possibilities here. August William Escherich was a Chicago engraver and gunsmith. He was described by Bowers as an amateur and "probably not very literate." Dies ascribed to him are of poor workmanship and even contain misspellings. He was known to produce dies with similar designs (1080) but cannot be linked to 1079.

Another possibility would include Henry Higgins of Mishawaka, Indiana. Higgins was actually a jeweler and optician who "dabbled" in making dies and striking tokens. His highly sought after tokens are known as "Indiana Primitives" because of the quirky nature of them.  Alexander Gleason of Hillsdale, Michigan is a third possibility, though probably not the culprit.

In all likely hood Bieler's token was struck by an unidentified man known simply as "The Buffalo Engraver" There are four issues with many similarities and likely produced by the same individual. All are of Buffalo merchants like Bieler. The other three include T.J. Conroy, C.R. Walker, and Webster & Co. who were grocers. Though unidentified , the maker of these tokens might one day be identified through city directories or other historical documents.

These primitive issues always appealed to me, not only in Civil War oieces, but on counterstamped coins and tokens. I've always referred to these as "American Primitives."

Bruce

(Images courtesy of Steve Hayden / eBay ID stevehayden)
Always Faithful

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 731
Re: American Civil War store cards
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2020, 11:45:12 AM »
Why are these tokens called cards?

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline malj1

  • Moderator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7 356
  • "illegitimi non carborundum"
    • Mals Machine Tokens
Re: American Civil War store cards
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2020, 12:38:41 PM »
They're advertising cards much like a business card of today.

I imagine that Main ST. is intended as superscript father than poor workmanship; an abbreviation for street.
Malcolm
Have a look at  my tokens and my banknotes.

Offline brandm24

  • BR & M
  • Moderator
  • Meritorious Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 744
Re: American Civil War store cards
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2020, 01:04:18 PM »
They're advertising cards much like a business card of today.

I imagine that Main ST. is intended as superscript father than poor workmanship; an abbreviation for street.
Yes, a business card of the day, only in metal. They were generally valued at a cent and were roughly the same size as government issues. The "t" was part of an abbreviation for street, but the letter is too high as evidenced by the height of the period. Some words, like Philadelphia, were routinely abbreviated this way ( PHILa , PHILADa) with an underlined "a" I've never see St(reet) done this way.

Bruce
Always Faithful

Offline brandm24

  • BR & M
  • Moderator
  • Meritorious Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 744
Re: American Civil War store cards
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2020, 11:50:33 AM »
Sadly, one thing missing in the reams of good research on this series of tokens is the history of the issuers. Much is known about composition, die cutters, mules, and other technical data, but the human factor is largely ignored. Some issuers are relatively unknown and have left a small footprint on history, but others not so. Both are important to me, their stories even more so than what the coin looks like or their weight, diameter or composition. This is one of them.

Thomas White was a successful New York City butcher, cattle broker, and slaughter house owner during the Civil War. White, at  68 years of age in 1863, was obviously too old to serve in the military, but instead carried on a robust business in the Upper West Side of New York. His address, 13 & 14 Abattoir (now W. 12th St.) was located in what must have been a meat packing district. Other competing business, including Bartlett's and Spring & Jameson, were located very near to him.

Thomas was born in New York in 1795 to Thomas White and his wife Elizabeth. He was christened at Trinity Church Parish on October 12, 1797. His father was also a butcher, and was likely an influence on young Thomas in the career he choose. His father died in 1857 and Thomas carried on in business as a cattle broker at  E. 44th N. of Madison. It's not apparent that father and son were ever in business together.

The 1860 US Federal Census lists him as a cattle broker and living in New York's 1st Division / 22nd Ward. His personal worth was put at $100,000, so he was obviously quite successful. His wife, Asenath, several children, and two domestic servants lived in their home. One son, named Garner, was 39 years old and was also a cattle broker.

The 1863...the year the token was issued... New York City directory had the family living at 1331 Broadway. He was described as a butcher. While no search in city records was conducted after this, a search of the 1870 federal records found no Thomas White so he must have passed by then.

An interesting story emerged during this investigation concerning Thomas White's business during the bloody anti-draft riots of July, 1863. Earlier, the government had instituted a draft system to supply men to fill the ranks of the military. At the time, the Union efforts were going badly and the shortage of volunteers to fill the ranks was acute. The decree met with stout resistance and serious riots erupted (see image).

In any case, there was a strong threat by local thugs to businesses and residents in the Upper West Side who didn't support the anti-draft movement. Apparently, White bribed those who threatened to burn his business. He "took care of the boys" by bribing them with "a few shillings" and supplied them with alcohol. He was reportedly told that his business was safe but those of Bartlett and Spring & Jameson would be torched because they resisted paying them. Whether any of the buildings were actually burned or not isn't clear, so we don't know if White's investment paid off.

The token itself is one of only six varieties and is referenced as NY 630CH-3a in Fuld. The name of the die sinkers aren't known to me.

Bruce
Always Faithful

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 731
Re: American Civil War store cards
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2020, 10:03:00 PM »
Sadly, one thing missing in the reams of good research on this series of tokens is the history of the issuers. Much is known about composition, die cutters, mules, and other technical data, but the human factor is largely ignored. Some issuers are relatively unknown and have left a small footprint on history, but others not so. Both are important to me, their stories even more so than what the coin looks like or their weight, diameter or composition.

Amen to that. Tokens in general are a portal to fun stories about normal people who just wanted to survive and feed their family. We already know enough about kings and generals and by far not enough about how real people lived and small businesses came up and disappeared again. Your story is a good example of how, long before Vietnam, long before the Beatles and their bed-ins, people wondered "suppose they gave a war and nobody came."

Just some little fun notes. Abattoir is french for slaughterhouse (in the literal sense). Quite an appropriate address for a butcher. How fresh can your meat be if your neighbours produce it?

On buying off the thugs: what really got me thinking is the parallel with the people Trump tries to stop with his border wall. Many of them flee the same blackmail and worse and they are accused of being the criminals. Token and their stories can give insights.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline brandm24

  • BR & M
  • Moderator
  • Meritorious Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 744
Re: American Civil War store cards
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2020, 11:23:13 AM »
I never thought to check Abattoir for a meaning. It seemed a bit odd to me but I figured the street was named after someone. We have a bad habit here of naming things...streets, buildings, bridges, even naval vessels...after people. Unfortunately, it's usually politicians. ::) I mean a warship named the USS Billy Q. Smith doesn't project a fierce image.

Anyway, you got me to thinking, so I looked it up. Abattoir Place or Row was actually a nickname used for W. 39th St. because of the many slaughterhouses doing business there. The first ones set up shop there in about 1850. The area was known collectively as the Slaughterhouse District and was still the location of "meat packers" well into the 1950's. I think Armour & Co. was one of the last.

Over the years the area became very rundown. Today, it's a high rent district in Manhattan known as the Meatpacking District. A more genteel name, for sure.

Bruce
Always Faithful

Offline brandm24

  • BR & M
  • Moderator
  • Meritorious Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 744
Re: American Civil War store cards
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2020, 12:01:28 PM »
This is another store card that has an interesting history and an unusual "attachment" to it. The attachment is a counterstamp struck on a Frederick Gies token...by Gies himself. I don't know the reason for it, but suppose he wanted to be doubly sure that people saw his advertisement. Interestingly, the examples without a stamp are scarcer than those with one. It was made so by the discovery a number of years ago of a hoard of about 140 specimens. It's not unusual to see counterstamped examples of Gies' card on auction sites. Not so for the un-stamped pieces.

I don't have a lot of personal information on the man himself...one problem being the multiple spellings of his surname. Gies is proper, but other spellings noted are Geis, and Geiss. Even John Stanton, the manufacturer of his tokens, misspelled his name as Geis. Apparently, he noticed, as the correction can been seen in a "shadow" strike under the correct spelling on the two examples posted. Please note the correction on the close-up photo.

In any case, Mr. Gies came to this country from Neustadt, Germany in about 1830. He was probably very young at the time but no birth date for him could be found. He wound up in business in Detroit at some point and would eventually conduct businesses as a dry goods dealer, shoemaker, and roofer (with brothers Paul and John). He issued cards for all three of them.
In addition to his Civil War era businesses he served during the war as a captain in the 23rd Regiment of Michigan Volunteers. Later Detroit directories weren't available to me, so I couldn't discover further details of his mercantile interests. He passed away in 1894 in Detroit

The Gies counterstamp is listed by Greg Brunk in his reference as G-222. The misspelling of Gies' name can be seen on both examples illustrated. The reverse dies (Indian Head) are listed by Fuld, I believe, as 1018, 1042.

Bruce

(Images  of counterstamped coin courtesy of eBay / stevehayden)
Always Faithful

Offline Figleaf

  • Administrator
  • Honorary Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 30 731
Re: American Civil War store cards
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2020, 04:13:31 PM »
Yes, GIES would be the correct spelling, from giessen (to pour, to cast) or Giessen (a town). Anglos would be unfamiliar with the way the letter combinations are used in German. One of my former bosses, an American whose father was stationed in Germany, told me how he reported on hunting parties in German, mixing up schiessen (to shoot) and scheissen (to defecate) to the delight of his German audience.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline brandm24

  • BR & M
  • Moderator
  • Meritorious Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 744
Re: American Civil War store cards
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2020, 07:30:27 PM »
How embarrassing for the man!   :laughing:

Bruce
Always Faithful