A Harris, Marchand & Co. gold ingot of the California gold rush
era recovered from the 1857 shipwreck SS Central America, the
only bar identified as being from the firm’s Marysville office
recovered from the wreckage, is available to the marketplace for the
The salvage firm that located the Central America,
Columbus-America Discovery Group, found 37 Harris & Marchand gold
ingots scattered amongst the ship’s wreckage on the floor of the
Atlantic Ocean. Thirty-six of the ingots were from the firm’s main
office in Sacramento, Calif., with just one ingot from the Marysville branch.
According to Stack’s Bowers Galleries, which is offering the ingot
at private treaty, the 1857 Marysville ingot is unique. “It is
identifiable by having different letter punches and other
characteristics, and a somewhat smoother surface, than the ingots
attributed to the main office in Sacramento,” writes Q. David Bowers,
chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries.
A March 7, 2005, Coin World article identified Q. David
Bowers as the owner of the ingot. Bowers was then numismatic director
of American Numismatic Rarities LLC. Bowers said May 12 that he is now
a partial owner and the other owner wishes to remain anonymous.
Bowers explained: “I had first opportunity to purchase any ingot.
I studied a number of them and found this one to be different from any
of the others — with two hallmarks, with different punches, and with
different surface. At that time, August 2000 at the World’s Fair of
Money in [Philadelphia], I had not completed my detailed study of the
assayers, ingot characteristics, etc., which was subsequently done
with [SS Central America researcher] Bob Evans taking the
lead for technical aspects and me for historical considerations. I
purchased the ingot but allowed it to remain with the Ship of Gold
exhibit for a while. I was as excited as all get out as I studied the
ingot and learned more about it.”
Bowers acquired the ingot from the California Gold Marketing
Group, a consortium formed by Dwight Manley and John Albanese as equal
and majority owners, along with Larry and Ira Goldberg, and Bowers, as
minority owners. Many of the gold ingots recovered from the ship were
publicly displayed in various venues in a Ship of Gold exhibit created
by the California Gold Marketing Group.
The Harris & Marchand Marysville bar is described as a “Very
large size ingot” in A California Gold Rush History,
Featuring Treasure from the S.S. Central America, the 2002
book by Bowers published by the California Gold Marketing Group. The
ingot weighs 174.04 ounces, is .942 fine and is stamped with a
$3,389.06 face value. The mold used in casting the ingot measured 65
millimeters by 176 millimeters.
The Marysville ingot bears an assay chip at the upper left corner.
Assayers would cut a small sample of a cast bar to test it for
fineness. Many of the ingots recovered from the Central America
display such assay chips.
All of the inscriptions are on one face of the ingot and appear
with the bar horizontally oriented.
The ingot’s serial number is centered at the top of the face as
no. 7095. The company name is stamped twice, one at left, one right,
from a curved logotype reading harris, marchand & co.; beneath
each company stamp is a second, coin-style hallmark showing an
all-seeing eye with marchand above and essayeur below, and a
five-pointed star to either side. At the center bottom is stamped
$3389.06. The weight is punched as 174.04. oz. beneath the company
logotype and hallmark at the left, with 942. fine. at right beneath
the company identifiers.
The surface of the bar was finished by tapping with a hammer and
bears smoother surfaces than the company’s Sacramento bars, according
to Bowers’ book.
The circular hallmark is “reflective of Desiré Marchand’s training
in Paris which earned him the privilege of having his own private
stamp,” according to Bowers. No other firms’ ingots bore hallmarks of
this nature. Slightly different hallmark dies were used in Sacramento
and in Marysville.
Marchand was partner with Harvey Harris in the company. Harris was
from Denmark. He served as a melter and refiner at the New Orleans
Mint before moving to San Francisco, “where he worked at the [San
Francisco] Mint as well as Kellogg & Co. (Kellogg & Humbert)
and Justh & Hunter,” according to Bowers in the 2002 book.
Marchand was from Belgium and, when a teenager, was a student at the
Lost at sea
The Harris, Marchand & Co. gold ingot was amongst the tons of
gold coins and bars shipped aboard the side-wheel steamer SS
Central America from the eastern shores of Panama destined
for New York City in September 1857. The vessel carried tons of gold
from the gold fields of California — ingots, coins struck by the San
Francisco Mint, raw nuggets and even gold dust.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, the Central America encountered a
hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean, which battered the steamer helpless.
A press release from Stack’s Bowers Galleries details what happened:
“Its boilers extinguished, and the structure damaged, the ship
foundered in the sea, and then slipped below the waves, taking with it
several hundred unfortunate souls and $1,600,000 in registered gold
coins and ingots. ...”
The loss of the vessel with many of its passengers and crew
members, and its cargo of tons of gold bullion and coins, represented
a major personal and financial blow to the United States. Eventually,
however, the loss of the vessel became known mainly to maritime historians.
“The ship was forgotten for many years, until in the 1980s the
Columbus-America Discovery Group, based in Columbus, Ohio, sought to
locate the wreck,” notes Stack’s Bowers Galleries. “Tommy Thompson,
Bob Evans, and Barry Schatz undertook a study to learn everything
possible about the long lost vessel. The accounts of survivors, who
managed to escape by clinging to debris, rafts, and the like, and who
talked with newspaper reporters, were studied in detail. The movement
of the Gulf Stream current, estimates of the wind velocity of the
hurricane, and information about the last known position were also
studied. The result was the creation of a grid of hundreds of miles of
area far off the coast. This was plotted into segments, and over a
period of time studied by undersea camera and a sonar-like device.
“After many hopes and disappointments, what appeared to be the
remnants of a ship’s sidewheel was discovered [in 1987]. Although many
vessels had been lost in the area, relatively few were sidewheel
steamers. Closer examination found coal and other debris on the
bottom. A lump of coal was retrieved, taken to the court, and a claim
was established for the unknown ship.
“In time, further explorations revealed what the discoverers
called a ‘garden of gold’ on the ocean floor — double eagles, gold
ingots, and more — in incredible profusion, a carpet of treasure! The
discovery of the ship’s bell, with the maker’s name, confirmed that,
indeed, this was the long-lost S.S. Central America! A
specially constructed undersea submersible vehicle, the Nemo, explored
the wreck at 7,200 feet below the surface, carefully grasping
artifacts. In time, over 400 gold ingots and over 6,000 coins were recovered.”
An inventory of the Central America’s cargo revealed more
than 5,000 newly struck 1857-S Coronet gold $20 double eagles, struck
at the San Francisco Mint shortly before the treasure shipment was
sent to the East.
In addition, more than 400 gold ingots of various sizes and shapes
were included. These were the products of five different assaying
firms, most prominently Kellogg & Humbert, a partnership formed by
John G. Kellogg and Augustus Humbert, two famous individuals in Gold
Rush history with offices in San Francisco. Justh & Hunter, with
offices in San Francisco and Marysville, produced other ingots, as did
Blake & Co., located in Sacramento, Henry Hentsch in San
Francisco, and Harris & Marchand, which had its main office in
Sacramento and a branch in Marysville.
“An inventory of the ingots showed 36 ingots attributed to the
Sacramento office with only one attributed to the Marysville location.
The Marysville ingot ... thus stands as unique — the only one of its
kind,” according to Stack’s Bowers.
“It is identifiable by having different letter punches and other
characteristics, and a somewhat smoother surface, than the ingots
attributed to the main office in Sacramento.”
For information about the availability of the ingot, contact
Christine Karstedt or any other Stack’s Bowers representative at (800)