|Volume 64 No. 3
This issue does not have the minutes of the February meetings; the minutes of both the regular and board meetings will be in the next issue.
Paul Hybert, editor
by Robert D. Leonard Jr.,
presented to our February 14, 2018 meeting.
The Lesher Referendum Dollar is one of the least-known episodes in U.S. private coinage, relegated to the back of the Red Book after all the private gold coin listings. It is the story of one man who defied the U.S. government in an attempt to reopen closed silver mines following the failure of the Free Silver movement – by minting silver dollars himself! Joseph Lesher succeeded in placing his coins in circulation throughout Colorado in 1900 and 1901, and was never prosecuted. And one of his issuers was a transplanted Chicagoan.
But before we come to Chicago, we must start at the beginning, at Cripple Creek. In the 1870s, a calf frightened by a gunshot jumped into a stream and injured its leg – so they say. In any case, the name Cripple Creek stuck, but it would be little known today except for the persistence of one man, prospector Bob Womack. In 1890, he stayed sober long enough to discover an extremely valuable gold mine, and while he derived little benefit, others became very wealthy as more mines were opened. In 1900, peak gold production was over 18 million dollars.
A huge mining camp sprang up in what became the Cripple Creek Mining District, and within ten years, 50,000 people were living there. The chief cities were Cripple Creek and Victor, but there were many smaller settlements. Nearly all the miners were members of the militant Western Federation of Miners union, and voted heavily Democratic.
Nineteenth-century bimetallism was always unstable – the United States had to make adjustments in 1805, 1834, and 1853 – and major European powers began switching to the single gold standard. In 1871, Germany adopted the gold standard and began selling millions of dollars of demonetized silver coins as bullion. This set off a chain reaction in northern Europe. In the United States, the huge production from the Comstock Lode peaked in 1877. All these events reduced the price of silver.
Western silver mining interests demanded price supports; this led to the Bland-Allison Act of 1878, which required the Treasury to buy $2 million of silver every month and coin it into dollars, though they were not required for commerce. But the price of silver continued to fall, so the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was passed in 1890. It upped the purchase requirement to 99% of domestic production and made the silver coins and certificates redeemable in gold. By June 1893 this had the effect of slashing the U.S. gold reserve to the danger level, and the Sherman Act was repealed in November. The price of silver immediately collapsed to half what it had been 15 years before. Many silver mines became unprofitable.
This action was so unpopular with Democrats that they turned to the young, charismatic William Jennings Bryan and his “Free Coinage of Silver” platform, the unlimited minting of silver into dollars. The addition of all these silver dollars and silver certificates would inflate the money supply, helping debtors and of course embattled silver miners.
But Bryan lost, and though he ran again in 1900, his chances were poor. Then along came Free Silver advocate Joseph Lesher, who decided that, if the Treasury wouldn’t buy any more silver to coin into dollars, then he would. Lesher, who owned an unprofitable silver mine near Central City himself, was a successful real estate operator in Victor. He consulted Colorado senator Henry Teller as to the legality of his project, and was incorrectly told that he would be safe “so long as he did not imitate the lawful money of the United States.” Thus encouraged, Lesher placed an initial order for 100 one-ounce pieces from a firm in Denver, dated 1900. He made the denomination $1.25, because he thought that silver should not be sold for less than $1.29 per ounce, but rounded it down for ease of use. And he marked each piece “Referendum,” indicating that they were referred to the people for acceptance or rejection.
In designing his coins, Lesher took several steps to disguise their true nature: he made them octagonal instead of round; omitted any design, using inscriptions only; called each piece a “souvenir” and “a commodity;” called the face value a “price” (but fatally used “face value” on the reverse); and deliberately misspelled “currency.”
Lesher’s initial shipment received such support that he turned over distribution to local grocer A.B. Bumstead and planned to order hundreds more. But before that could happen, the die sinker called on the Denver office of the Secret Service to make sure that no law was being broken. The dies were seized and Lesher was told to desist by the U.S. Attorney.
But he persisted, and was later told, “that if the coins were payable in merchandise only, it would make much difference.” So this is what he did, ordering new dies – from a different engraver – stating that his dollars were payable in merchandise only, at a single location, A.B. Bumstead’s grocery in Victor. This had the effect of stymieing the Secret Service. And the following year, 1901, Lesher made them a little smaller and changed the denomination to an even dollar, also leaving a blank space for imprinting the name of any issuer.
To distribute these pieces Lesher appointed five “exclusive agents,” printing a card to advertise them. Ten merchants signed on, all in Colorado except one. But these 1901-dated issues were the last; though sold as late as 1903, the supply of 1901 blanks was not exhausted and interest waned.
Of these 1901 issues, the only one with a Chicago connection was the jewelry store of Lewis G. Goodspeed. He was born in Chicago December 29, 1846, the son of Albert Griffith and Abigail Goodspeed. A blue blood, he was ninth in descent from Roger Goodspeed of Barnstable, Massachusetts. Lewis grew up on farms in Ohio and LaSalle County, Illinois. After finishing school, he became a “traveling agent” or traveling salesman for large “eastern” jewelry manufacturers, and spent much of his time on the road.
About 1879 he moved back to Chicago to open a sales office at 149 State Street. Prior to 1909, as I learned when researching this program, all Chicago street numbers were south unless preceded by N for North. (This information is not found in my book.) However, the Chicago Business district was renumbered in 1911, and I have not found a cross-reference between the old and new numbers. Still, there is a good chance that his office was in an upper floor of one of these buildings.
For 329 Marshfield Street, we are on surer ground; it was renumbered 620 S. Marshfield in 1909. At this address, her uncle’s house, lived 22-year-old dressmaker Fannie Goetchins, with her widowed mother and her brothers and sister, when the census was taken here on June 1, 1880. How Lewis Goodspeed met Fannie Goetchins is not known. But he did, and they fell in love. On Friday, October 29, 1880, Lewis G. Goodspeed, 33, and Fannie D. Goetchins, 23, both of Chicago, were issued a marriage license. Their wedding was held the next day, October 30, 1880.
From their wedding day to 1885, Lewis and Fannie’s whereabouts are unknown, but by 1885, Lewis Goodspeed had returned to Chicago and opened an office downtown. He was then living at 321 Lewis in the suburb of Lake View with his mother-in-law and his brother-in-law Alfred M. Goetchins, who was working as a clerk at 125 State Street. Today Lake View is simply a neighborhood on the North Side, but it was a separate township in 1885 and was not annexed to Chicago until 1889.
Lewis was a north-south street, later renamed Magnolia Avenue, after the tugboat Magnolia, which rescued many during the Chicago Fire; strangely, the street is named after the ship and not its heroic captain, Joseph Gilson. According to Chicagology, “As to why the City of Chicago chose the ship’s name and not his will remain a mystery. Perhaps the tug had more pull?” 321 Lewis was between Wrightwood and Marianne (now Schubert Avenue) streets in 1892. (However, the 1909 street renumbering guide does not show this address under either Lewis or Magnolia.)
In 1885, Goodspeed’s brother-in-law, Alfred M. Goetchins, was working as a clerk at 125 (South) State. Goodspeed is listed as selling jeweler’s supplies and watchmaker’s tools as late as the 1887 Chicago directory.
On September 7, 1887, Colorado Springs jeweler Lucien C. Davis died; the business was then taken over by a young relative. That year or the next, Goodspeed sold his interest in L.G. Goodspeed & Co., working out of this address as a commercial traveler. He next moved to Colorado Springs while his wife, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law remained in Chicago. After first working for a time at the Davis store, at 15 South Tejon Street in downtown Colorado Springs, he purchased the store and stock in June 1888 and began “building up a fine business,” per his obituary. Later that year, Fannie joined him. Before long, Goodspeed moved around the corner, on the same block, to a better location at 26 E. Pike’s Peak Avenue. The following year, his brother-in-law moved to Denver to work for Goodspeed’s former partner, L.H. Guernsey, joined by his mother-in-law.
Sadly, Lewis G. Goodspeed lived only a short time after this move; on August 8, 1892, he died of typhoid fever, age 45. Fannie had him buried in Riverside Cemetery in Denver next to her mother, who had died there the previous year. Goodspeed’s brother-in-law moved to Colorado Springs to manage the business.
For almost 10 years, until April 30, 1902, Alfred Mosher Goetchius – as he then spelled his name – managed Goodspeed & Co. on behalf of his sister; the business thrived. Both Goodspeed & Co. and Goodspeed’s were used by him as business styles. After Imprint Type Lesher Dollars were released in 1901, Alfred Goetchius had a few engraved to test demand for them, Zerbe wrote, “expecting later to have some stamped.” But this was never done. By mistake, their two business styles were combined as “GOODSPEEDS & CO.”, maybe by an engraver in Victor unfamiliar with the business. Only four are known, with stamped serial numbers 1014, 1015, 1020, and 1027; it would seem that only 10 or 12 were made.
Lewis Goodspeed’s widow Fannie began traveling in the West after his death, returning to Colorado Springs by 1907. During this period she apparently joined the rapidly-expanding Seventh-Day Adventist Church, becoming a social worker. In 1909 or 1910, she moved back to Chicago to live with her younger sister, now married, Mary “May” Bookwalter, at 5417 Madison Street in the Austin neighborhood, across the street from Robert Emmet School.
In 1910, Fannie Goodspeed became assistant matron at a Seventh-day Adventist home for unwed mothers in Chicago. In May or June 1912, by then a “prominent social worker,” she moved to Byron Center, Michigan, which is seven miles from Grand Rapids, to become an assistant matron at the Michigan Home for Girls. This institution was founded in 1903 as “a rescue home for the destitute and erring girls and their children.” Unfortunately, her tenure there was short: on August 17, 1913, she died of nephritis at the Home during a severe heat wave, age 56. According to the Grand Rapids Herald, she was buried in Chicago, but I have not been able to learn where.
If you do a Google search for Lesher Dollars, one of the items that comes up high in the results is a story from 2008 in the Colorado Springs News about a buried treasure of Lesher Dollars. In my book, I ran this story to ground and debunked it, but in the process uncovered another treasure story: the “Coffee Can Treasure.” My co-author Ken Hallenbeck recalled, “When I first came to Colorado Springs in 1978 or so, a guy had come in to ANA Headquarters there claiming to have a coffee can full of Lesher Dollars. He came in several times (but always when I was out) to show me some of them. But whenever I actually saw him, he never had any with him. So I finally concluded that he was just jerking my chain. After all these years (over 30) I have no idea of who the guy was. But he was a pleasant person as I remember.”
In 1958, Lesher Dollar collector and researcher Dr. Philip Whiteley of Denver wrote that he was aware of a hoard of 23 pieces that had not surfaced, 17 of David Klein of Pueblo and 6 of W.C. Alexander of Salida, Colorado. A clue to the owner of this hoard was published in the Salida Mountain Mail, April 30, 1969, when Alexander’s widow mentioned that she had sold “several” for $5 each during the Depression to a collector in Denver. They have never appeared and must be all or part of the hoard of 6 pieces known to Dr. Whiteley. Perhaps these 23 pieces are the lost “Coffee Can Treasure.”
But who was the “collector in Denver” in the early 1930s? Since he was actively collecting during the worst of the Depression, Edward Broadbent Morgan, president of the State Historical and Natural History Society of Colorado, is the most likely candidate. Morgan died September 6, 1935 and is buried in Fairmount Cemetery in Denver, near his wife, Grace F. Morgan; he also had stepchildren named Welles. When I discovered this in researching the book, I tried to interest my three Colorado commenters in tracing Morgan’s descendants down to 1978 and beyond, to see whether they could locate this valuable hoard – but no one did anything. If any of you want to search for this treasure, I would start at the Morgan family plot in Fairmount Cemetery and record all the names and dates. It might be possible to find all the images on-line. There may be published family descendant trees, and the Colorado Springs connection should help. Good luck!
Of about 1,800 pieces originally issued, only 602 are known to me today. Where are the rest?
Much more information on Lesher Dollars can be found in Forgotten Colorado Silver: Joseph Lesher’s Defiant Coins, by me, Ken Hallenbeck, and Adna Wilde, published by The History Press in 2017. It includes the work of many researchers over more than two decades.
|Chicago Coin Company
|Harlan J. Berk, Ltd.
Items shown at our February 14, 2018 meeting,
reported by John Riley.
|March 3, 2018, First Session
|At the PCDA National Currency and Coin Convention, which is held at the Hilton Rosemont/Chicago O’Hare, 5550 North River Road, Rosemont, IL.
— U.S. Paper Money Errors
All collectors, even non-numismatists, find paper money errors fascinating. Every time the subject was featured at the Chicago Coin Club, the meeting was well attended. The reason is that paper money errors are so obvious, a magnifier is not needed. It is amazing some of the notes ever got past inspectors. Some errors include: mismatched denominations, mismatched serial numbers, overprints, inverted overprints, etc. Be sure not to miss this meeting. Fred Bart is a recognized expert in the field, and author of The Comprehensive Catalog of U.S. Paper Money Errors, now in its fourth edition. Those who attend are guaranteed to see some of the rarest currency errors.
|March 14, 2018, Second session
At the Chicago Bar Association, 321 S. Plymouth Court, 3rd floor meeting room. Please remember the security measures at our meeting building: everyone must show their photo-ID and register at the guard’s desk.
— Cut Coins
For many years, the fastest way to make change for a large coin was with an axe – or maybe it was with a hammer and chisel. Attend this meeting to learn about cut coins. Maybe the presentation will include the small cuts made to a coin so that its inner metal was visible.
Unless stated otherwise, our regular monthly CCC Meeting is in downtown Chicago on the second Wednesday of the month; the starting time is 6:45PM.
|PCDA National Currency and Coin Convention at the Hilton Rosemont/Chicago O’Hare, 5550 North River Road, Rosemont, IL. Admission is $5 good from 1pm on Thursday through Saturday. Details at http://www.pcdaonline.com
|CCC Meeting - 1pm at the PCDA National Currency and Coin Convention,
which is held at the Hilton Rosemont/Chicago O’Hare, 5550 North River Road, Rosemont, IL.
No admission charge for our meeting.
Featured Speaker - Frederick Bart on U.S. Paper Money Errors
|ANA’s National Money Show at the Irving Convention Center, Irving, Texas. Details at http://www.money.org/NationalMoneyShow
|CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - Dale Lukanich on Cut Coins
|CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - Warren Schultz on Using Coins to Date The Thousand and One Nights
|Chicago Coin Expo which is held at the Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago. There is a $10 per day admission charge. For details, refer to their website, http://www.coinexpo.org.
|79th Anniversary Convention of the Central States Numismatic Society at the Schaumburg Renaissance Hotel & Convention Center, 1551 North Thoreau Drive, Schaumburg, IL. There is a $5 per day admission charge, but admission is free for CSNS Life Members. For details, refer to their website, http://www.centralstates.info/conv.html.
|CCC Meeting - 1pm at the CSNS Convention,
which is held at the Schaumburg Convention Center.
No admission charge for our meeting.
Featured Speaker - Beth Deisher on Current State of Counterfeit Collectible Coins and Bullion
|CCC Meeting - Featured Speaker - to be announced
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CHICAGO COIN CLUB
P.O. Box 2301
CHICAGO, IL 60690
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