DU SIMITIÈRE, PIERRE EUGÈNE

Du Simitière, Pierre Eugène

Copyright © 2011-2017 John N. Lupia III


Pierre Eugène Du Simitière (1737-1784)Swiss engraver working in Philadelphia. He is among the early numismatists of the 18thcentury in America and a contemporary of Rev. Johann Christoph Kunze (q.v.). He was a typical gentleman of his time when educated men were absorbed with a keen interest and fascination with the physical and historical world and of human endeavors throughout historical times preceding their own. As a typical educated gentleman of the  18th century he was a collector of many things that fall within the three domains or categories of collectibles : Natural History, Antiques and Antiquities and the Curious and Curiosities. From 1764 to 1765 he was in Charleston, North Carolina and may have been involved in preliminary steps that later evolved into the first American Museum established in 1773. Regardless, nine years later we find in 1782, he opened his American Museum of Natural History. In 1785, a coin auction of the collection formed by Pierre Eugène Du Simitière was sold posthumously on March 10th. This has been formerly known or thought to have been the earliest known American coin auction until John N. Lupia had discovered those which came before this date. As John N. Lupia has shown in his book American Numismatics To 1875. Volume 1 : 1738-1850, William Proctor of New York held the first known coin auction in 1758. 


Posthumous Coin Auction Sale of Du Simitière in a Recent Survey of the Literature 

Notices about Du Simitière's coin collection were cited in magazine articles in 1868 and again in 1874 and 1879. Publications about Du Simitière's Museum were published in the 1880's culminating with William John Potts, "Du Simitière, Artist, Antiquary, and Naturalist, Projector of the First American Museum, With Some Extracts from His Notebook," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 13, October (1889). Notices about this auction broadside were published in recent years in 1900 by Robert F. Roden, who dated the sale on March 10, 1784; in 1937, by George Leslie McKay for The New York Public Library in the Union List; the sequel to that work was by Harold Lancour in 1944 who cites this as his first entry; Hans Huth's study that followed in 1945. In 1960, Paul Ginsberg Sifton, published his Ph.D. dissertation, Pierre Eugène Du Simitière (1737-1784): Collector in Revolutionary America. This was followed by Edwin Wolf 2nd, Marie Elena Korey, eds., Quarter of a Millennium: The Library Company of Philadelphia, 1731-1981 (Philadelphia: The Library Company of Philadelphia,1981).Wolf and Korey wrote extensively about the first American coin auction sale and published a breathtakingly handsome full photograph of the 1785 auction broadside on page 44 of their very impressive and gorgeously illustrated huge thick tome. This was the best early description of the Du Simitière coin auction published by 1981. Their article on Du Simitière ran from pages 43-46, illustrating him as a magpie collector.

    In 1985, John C. Van Horne, wrote and published the Exhibition Catalog celebrating the Bi-Centennial of Du Simitière's Museum in a catalog titled :  Pierre Eugène Du Simitière : His American Museum 200 Years After. An Exhibition At the Library Company in Philadelphia. July to October 1985.  Horne also published the full photograph of the 1785 auction broadside. 
    Due to this exhibition Joel J. Orosz learned about Du Simitière and his coin collection and posthumous auction and then immediatelywrote an article, "Pierre Eugène Du Simitière: Museum Pioneer in America," Museum Studies Journal, (1985) : 11-14, which does not mention the coin auction. Three years later in 1988, Du Simitière was given an in-depth prosopographical study by Joel J. Orosz in his work, The Eagle that is Forgotten, where he wrote about the coin auction for the first time. That was seven years years after Wolf & Korey published the photographic reproduction of the  Du Simitière auction catalogue of 1785 and wrote about that in their landmark book.  Joel J. Orosz, repeats most of what they had had already published as well as that by 
Van Horne three years earlier making The Eagle that is Forgotten, a handy reference work that concisely collates all useful material and information on Du Simitière in one volume.

For sale at public vendue, on Thursday the 10th day of March : at the late dwelling house of Pierre Eugene du Simitiere, Esq. in Arch-Street, between Third and Fourth-Streets, where the state lottery office is now kept, the American Musaeum. This curious collection was, for many years, the principal object of Mr. Du Simitiere’s attention, and has been thought worthy of notice by both American and European literati: it consists of the following articles, which will be sold in lots, viz. ...(Philadelphia, : Printed by Charles Cist, at the corner of Fourth and Arch-Streets., [1785]). Broadside. 36 lots.

Bibliography :


A Catalogue of Books Belonging to the Library Company of Philadelphia (Philadelphia : C. Sherman & Co., 1835) Vol. II : 864, 965,F and 911-13, Q

"Literature of the Day," Lippincott's Magazine, Vol. 1, January (Philadelphia : J. B. Lippincott & Co, 1868) : 115

The American Historical Record, and Repertory of Notes and Queries. Vol. I (1872) : 510-513

William John Potts, The American Historical Record, and Repertory of Notes and Queries. Vol. III (1874) : 270

Charles R. Hildeburn, ed., The Inscriptions in the St. Peter's Church Yard (Camden : Sinnickson Chew, 1879) : 565-567

William Spohn Baker, The Engraved Portraits of Washington (Philadelphia : Lindsay & Baker, 1880) : 39-40

Matthew A. Stickney, "Notes and Queries. Washington Medal", American Journal of Numismatics, July (1886) : 22-23

William John Potts, "Du Simitière, Artist, Antiquary, and Naturalist, Projector of the First American Museum, With Some Extracts from His Notebook," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 13, October (1889) 

John Hall, Samuel Clarkson, Memoirs of Matthew Clarkson of Philadelphia, 1735-1800 (Thompson Printing Company, 1890) : 77

Editorial : "Du Simitière and Early Continental Medals," American Journal of Numismatics, October (1894) " 66-68

Charles Adiel Lewis Totten, The Seal of History (Volume 1) : Our Inheritance in the Great Seal of "Mannaseh," the United States of America. (New Haven, Connecticut : The Our Race Publishing Company, 1897) : 8

 Robert F. Roden, "Book Sales" . "Famous Ones in Philadelphia Since the Time of Franklin," The New York Times, September 1 (1900)  see the 3rd column.

Dictionary of American Biography (New York : Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928-1936) see Du Simitière, Pierre Eugène.

       Harrold E. Gillingham, “An Eighteenth Century Coin Collection, The Numismatist, Vol. XLVII, No. 11, November (1934) : 723-724

George Leslie McKay, American Book Auction Catalogues, 1713-1934 : A Union List (New York : The New York Public Library, 1937). See 118A, and 9944

Hans Huth, "Pierre Eugène Du Simitière and the Beginnings of the American Historical Museum," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 69, October (1945) : 315-325

Harold Lancour, American Art Auction Catalogues 1785 to 1942: A Union List (New York : The New York Public Library, 1944). See Entry No. 1

Paul Ginsberg Sifton, Ph.D. dissertation, Pierre Eugène Du Simitière (1737-1784): Collector in Revolutionary America. (University of Pennsylvania, 1960)

Edwin Wolf 2nd, Marie Elena Korey, eds., Quarter of a Millennium: The Library Company of Philadelphia, 1731-1981(Philadelphia: The Library Company of Philadelphia,1981)

Meyer Reinhold, Classica Americana (1984)

John C. Van Horne, wrote and published the Exhibition Catalog celebrating the Bi-Centennial of Du Simitière's Museum in a catalog titled :  Pierre Eugène Du Simitière : His American Museum 200 Years After. An Exhibition At the Library Company in Philadelphia. July to October 1985

Joel J. Orosz, "Pierre Eugène Du Simitière: Museum Pioneer in America," Museum Studies Journal, (1985) : 11-14 (not on the auction but his museum)

Paul Ginsberg Sifton,ed., Historiographer to the United States: The Revolutionary Letterbook of Pierre Eugène Du Simitière (New York : Vantage Press, 1987)

Joel J. Orosz, The Eagle that is Forgotten. (Wolfeboro, 1988)

Whitfield Jenks Bell Jr., Patriot-Improvers : Biographical Sketches of Members of the American Philosophical Society (1997) Vol. 1 : 26, 40, 85, 232, 291, 332, 403, 413, 444, 480, 505-513

Q. David Bowers, American Numismatics Before the Civil War 1760-1780 (Wolfeboro, 1998);

Pete Smith, American Numismatic Biographies 77

Pete Smith, “American Numismatic Pioneers : An Index to Sources,” Asylum Vol. XXII, No. 3, Consecutive Issue No. 87, Summer (2004) : 279;


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