FRENCH, DR. GEORGE PETER

Copyright 2011-2018 John N. Lupia, III


Fig. Photograph of Dr. George Peter French published in his obituary in Democrat and Chronicle, Saturday, November 26, 1932, page 9.


Fig. Two portraits of Dr. George P. French : (Left) Copper Half Tone (Right) Rochester Numismatic Association's Dr. George P. French bronze medal by the Bastian Brothers. Photos published in RNA News, November-December 2015, page 1.

Dr. George Peter French, MD (1865-1932), was born in 1865 at Rochester, Monroe County, New York son of Irish Catholic immigrants John French (1820-), a contractor, and Bridget French (1830-1902). His parents came to America in 1850 settling at Rochester, New York. His mother was famous as a noted inventor of over 36 objects of utility including : a steam sterilizer, various patented medicines and remedies and  a burglar proof lock.


His family lived at 486 Parke Street, Rochester.


From at least 1870-1880, he was known as Peter G. French. 

In 1872, at age seven he began collecting coins and obsolete paper money.

In 1875, he began collecting art which later on included works by Rembrandt, Raphael, Turner, Evans and Reynolds.

He graduated Rochester Public School, and the Cathedral High School.

Later on he began collecting guns including flintlocks, matchlocks, and wheel-locks. Among the flintlocks was one issued by the Committee of Safety before the Revolutionary War. He also collected many and varied  curiosities including  a valuable rare stamp collection, a Friesland hooded clock made circa 1558, Venetian blown glass, Egyptian mummies, Louis XV furniture, and the Barnum Mermaid exhibited by Phineas T. Barnum in his circus.

In 1888,  he married Mary A. Donnelly. They had a daughter Nina who later on in her first marriage married Irving H. Hoare, and second Mr. Shaffer.


In 1889, he graduated Columbia Medical College, and lived at 234 Adams Street, Rochester.

He began his practice at St. Mary's Hospital, Rochester, New York.


On May 8, 1891, the New York Tribune reported that he was the Commander of the Knights Templars York Commandery, No. 55.

He and his family resided at 15 Clifton Street, Rochester, New York.  He was general practitioner physician by profession. 

He joined the ANA in December 1910 and is ANA member No. 1457

He was a member of the American Philatelic Association.


He was a member of the Elks.


On January 14, 1912, Dr, French and a group of numismatists gathered together at the Hotel Rochester and founded the Rochester Numismatic Association. He served as the first president.

RNA 1913 Picnic Photograph. Top row standing second and third from the far right end are George P. French and his wife Mary.

On August 22, 1917, he wrote and copyrighted the lyrics to the song Hang Out the Flag, music by Fred Melville.

French amassed an extensive collection of stamps, coins, and antiques over his lifetime. His large cent collection which was broken up and sold through sales by four coin dealers : first, U. S. Coin Co. on December 5, 1917 who sold 110 large cents, second, combined with Gilette and Fred B. King of 1058 lots sold through Henry Chapman, Jr., 47th  sale on December 19, 1927  which comprised some 98 large cents, third, a group of 830 large cents were sold by B. Max Mehl in 1930 through fixed price lists, and fourth, Barney Bluestone held a sale on February 17-18, 1933, which contained 549 of his cents. The group held by B. Max Mehl were reported in his obituary in the Democrat and Chronicle, as having been sold to Mehl directly from Dr. French in 1929 for $50,000. Many of French’s large cents were purchased by T. James Clarke and Henry Sternberg. He also had a prized 1853-O half dollar without arrows.


The legendary sale of Dr. French's large cents to B. Max Mehl captured the attention and fascination of Americans long afterwards. Here a rendition of Mehl's check to Dr. French was published in The Daily News, Sunday, January 19, 1941, page 191.
Dr. French correspondence with Henry Chapman, Jr., postmarked special delivery mail, Rochester, New York, July 11, 1923. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive. 

He died of pneumonia on Friday, November 25, 1932.

His obituary was published in the Rochester Times-Union 26 November 1932

Last Services Held For Dr. Geo. French
Funeral services for Dr. George P. French, 66, physician and collector of coins, stamps and antiques, who died Friday at his home, 15 Clifton Street, were conducted this morning at 8:30 o'clock at the home and at 9 o'clock at Immaculate Conception Church. Mass was celebrated by the Rt. Rev. Mgr. Joseph S. Cameron. The bearers were W. H. Amberg, George J. Bauer, A. H. Plumb, John W. Horner, W. F. Sunday, George A. Gillette. Burial was in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, where the final blessing was pronounced by the Rev. John Hogan. Delegations from the Elks and the Liederkranz attended the service.

Notice of a posthumous auction sale of the late Dr. George P. French collection of art, glass, guns, furniture etc. published in the Daily Messenger, Thursday, January 12, 1933, page 3

Bibliography :

New York Census of 1875

Officers and Graduates of Columbia University (1900) : 642

The Numismatist, Vol. XXIII, No. 12, December (1910) : 276

Library of Congress Copyrights (1917) n: 778

Pete Smith-American Numismatic Biographies, 92

                Gengerke, Martin, American Numismatic Auctions, 8th edition (1990) : 34; Adams, Vol. 1, 97

 




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