US Coins

The Huntingtons and American Numismatic Society

Anna Hyatt Huntington is illustrated working on one of her many sculptural works.

Image courtesy of Anna Hyatt Huntington Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries.

The Joys of Collecting column from June 20, 2016, Weekly issue of Coin World:

The American Numismatic Society had uncertain times in the early 20th century. Enter Archer M. Huntington, an heir to a railroad fortune, who loved numismatics and history. He became president of the society and gifted to it land and money to erect a veritable temple on Audubon Terrace off Broadway between 155th and 156th streets in New York City.

Huntington and others gave many coins and medals to the ANS and paid for other acquisitions.

Archer was married twice. His first wedding, on Aug. 6, 1895, was to Helen Manchester Gates, the daughter of the sister of his stepfather, railroad magnate Collis Huntington. As to any numismatic interest Helen may have had, this is not recorded. 

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In August 1914 war broke out in Europe, and within a short time it was Germany against England, France, and their allies. Archer and Helen happened to be in Bavaria at the time, carrying with them a number of maps furnished by the American Geographic Society, another of Archer’s interests and beneficiaries. The German authorities arrested them on suspicion of being spies. Through diplomatic channels, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan successfully appealed for their release. 

The couple divorced in 1918.

On March 10, 1923, Archer married well-known sculptor Anna Hyatt, a woman with interests close to his heart. They pursued art, history, and numismatics together. In 1931 they founded an American treasure, the Brookgreen Gardens sculpture center and nature preserve near Myrtle Beach, S.C.

In the meantime, there were challenges at the ANS. Expenses exceeded income from 1917 to 1925, due to the inflation of costs, arising from the Great War and not matched by income or donations. 

Scholarship continued, however. On Jan. 4, 1917, the society hosted a special meeting that showcased sculptors Hermon A. MacNeil and Adolph A. Weinman, who discussed their creation of new 1916 silver coin designs. The ANS’s Dr. George F. Kunz and Dr. T.L. Comparette, curator of the Mint Collection, also spoke. 

On May 26, 1919, some duplicate coins from the society’s collection were sold at auction by Wayte Raymond, but the amount realized did not do much to help with the deficit.

In time, matters improved. More on this next week.

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