It is refreshing when someone is honored — and widely and
extensively — when he or she is alive to read and receive the accolades.
Such is the case with my fine friend, Eric P. Newman, who on May
25 celebrated his centenary.
I don’t recall when I first interfaced with Eric, but it was
sometime in the 1950s. I have always loved numismatic research, and a
focal point was the enigmatic Machin’s Mills — a private mint on
Orange Pond near Newburgh, N.Y.
Sylvester S. Crosby had printed some fascinating correspondence
about the mint in his 1875 book, Early Coins of America.
Operations were conducted in secret, and a guard wore a hideous
mask to frighten any curiosity seekers who happened by.
The place was actually a nest of counterfeiters who, without
authority, made their own versions of the copper coins of Connecticut,
New Jersey and a few other places.
In seeking to learn more, I found out that Eric Newman had studied
the subject in depth, but still was following clues; that Walter Breen
had his own set of theories; and Ken Bressett was another numismatist
who enjoyed pursuing the mystery.
In 1957, several of us decided to form the Rittenhouse Society, a
club devoted to writing and research in American numismatics. The
organizers were Bressett, Breen, Dick Johnson (who in 1960 would
become founding editor of Coin World), Grover C. Criswell
Jr., Ken Rendell, George Fuld and me. After several meetings at coin
shows, we had our first formal (sort of) annual breakfast meeting at
the American Numismatic Association convention in Boston.
We set about formulating rules for membership. The “old guard”
dealers in the rare coin business were not particularly interested in
research, and at the time it was usual for years to pass between
publication of new references in the American series. We would change
things! Or at least try to.
In 1961, Eric became our first honorary member — as we all agreed
he was our leader and inspiration.
Further about Eric, we talk and correspond often, and in years
past we would often meet at conventions. He has helped me greatly in
my research and, among many other things suggested the title for my
book, A California Gold Rush History Featuring Treasure from
the S.S. Central America, wrote the foreword for Obsolete
Paper Money Issued by Banks in the United States 1782 to 1866,
and has helped in so many other ways that I could never list them all.
He is truly one of a kind.
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries
and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached
at his private email, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or at Q. David Bowers, LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.