Copyright © 2011-2018 John N. Lupia III
Fig. 1. John Gideon Laidacker photograph circa 1890 at the Lee Stearns Studio, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

            John Gideon Laidacker (1867-1927), was born the son of German-American parents : Daniel Laidacker (1844-1929), a third generation Pennsylvania farmer and miller, and Christiana Wertman Laidacker (1836-1890), on Christmas day, December 25, 1867 at Turbotville, Montour County, Pennsylvania.  The Laidacker and Wertman families record their origins in America to the time of the Revolutionary War. John Gideon Laidacker was named after his paternal grandfather John Laidacker (1813-1881), and his maternal grandfather Gideon Wertmen (1809-1882). The 1870 U. S. Census records the family farm at Anthony, Montour County, Pennsylvania. The 1880 U. S. Census records the family farm at Limestone, Montour County, Pennsylvania. He and his brothers are not recorded as going to school but at home. Consequently, he appears to have been home schooled. However, we also know at least one brother graduated college and became a physician. So, it is possible that the Census records obscure the education the children received. According to a latter writer he began collecting coins and curios in the 1880's. That would probably be about 1886. He worked as a station ticket agent for the Pennsylvania Railroad.  There he was able to cherry-pick the best coins and paper money specimens replacing them in the cash box with his own money. From this daily exchange he was able to compile complete sets of coins and surplus stock sufficient to advertise as a coin dealer. This is clear since many coins and medals in collections both public and private have a Laidacker provenance. He was able to assemble several sets of U. S. Large Cents this way which he traded for antique weapons. Among the American numismatist he is considered the greatest gun collector in American history. He was also an amateur archaeologist and excavated Indian relics. This was sparked by local farmers finding old coins, arms, and Indian relics while plowing. He then went to targeted sites to dig where Indian relics were know to be found. Some of his finds and their renderings were published in archaeological journals. The same might be said of his glass bottle collection which probably began discovering discarded old glass bottles left as debris. According to the evidence available in the Lupia Numismatic Library it appears that he began dealing with the Chapman Brothers in February 1895. There are dozens of pieces of correspondence from Laidacker to the Chapman Brothers in the Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive, including those specimens formerly part of the Neil Danielson Collection that were published in The Wichita Stamp Club Newsletter, Vol. 79, No. 6, June (2011). Among the Danielson specimens is one from Laidacker that has an extensive letter written on the back in six lines of shorthand. Perhaps other sources like the ANS can provide more light on these subjects.

Fig. 2. Laidacker Correspondence with the Chapman Brothers postmarked February 13, 1895, Pottsville, Pennsylvania on a Thorp-Bartels Postal Stationery No. 1298 with a Duplex-Target cancel. There are dozens of pieces of correspondence from Laidacker to the Chapman Brothers in the Lupia Numismatic Library. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.

Fig. 3. Laidacker correspondence with the Chapman Brothers sent on his business stationery with corner card from his curio shop in Pottsville. Postmarked November 24, 1897 Pottsville, Pennsylvania, with a Duplex Grill-Ellipse. Laidacker collected and sold many relics of the Revolutionary War including muskets, flintlocks, pistols, and engraved powder horns. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.

Fig. 4. A very rare Laidacker business card, perhaps unique, circa 1908/1909. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.

             In 1898, he and his brother Nelson Elbert Laidacker enlisted in the United States Army in the Spanish-Cuban-American War. At the end of that war, on June 2, 1898, he married Katie Mae Deibler (1875-1957). They had six children: John Daniel Laidacker (1899-1990), Robert Laidacker (1900-1903), Samuel H. Laidacker (1904-1994), Richard H. Laidacker (1907-1908), Edith May Laidacker (1909-2002), and Katherine Margaret Laidacker (1916-2009). 


        On June 19, 1900, he stopped a train at the South Danville Station by signaling the train brakeman saving the life of George Hoffman who slipped and was about to be run over.

Fig. 5. Laidacker's advertisement in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, August 5, 1900, page 23. Note his ad is directly below that of noted coin dealer and numismatic publisher, Ebenezer Locke Mason, Jr.

Fig. 6. Ebenezer Locke Mason, Jr. correspondence to  Laidacker postmarked September 5, 1900, Philadelphia. This was one month following the above ad. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.

        He is ANA member 728 and listed living at St. Clair, Pennsylvania in The Numismatist, October, 1905, page 300. While at St. Clair, he published a catalogue of the coins and curios in his shop and advertised it in the American Society of Curio Collectors Bulletin (1906). (Not listed in Remy Bourne, Premium Paid For Lists of United States Coin Dealers).

He is listed in The Numismatist, March (1909) : 88, as living at Mocanaqua, Pennsylvania.

Fig. 7. Laidacker at his store in front of his rifle mount display circa 1911. Published in Magazine of Antique Firearms, July 5, 1911

Fig. 8. Laidacker's advertisement in The Curio Collector, Vol. 2, No. 1, April (1911) : 36

            He ran a curio shop at Shickshinny that won fame and attracted important collectors including Henry Ford. Magazine of Antique Firearms, July 5, 1911, ran an article on Laidacker's curio shop which contained over 1,500 Kentucky rifles considered the largest and most complete collection in the country. He amassed over 13,000 firearms of all sizes and types.

Fig. 9. Pistol and revolver display at the Laidacker curio shop.

            He served in several public capacities including as representative of the Pennsylvania Good Road Train, and as board member and Secretary of the Shickshinny School District, and vice-president of the Shickshinny Hose Company. He was a Veteran of the Spanish-American War and a member of the Grand Old Army (G.A.R.) and served as toastmaster delivering his speech "The History of Our Country on the Field of Battle" at a reunion in Shickshinny on May 20, 1913.

            In 1914, George Heye purchased from him a Parfleche case circa 1875 probably of the Taos Pueblo Indian tribe of New Mexico, now in the National Museum of the American Indian.

            On September 16, 1915, a fire broke out at his home on Main Street, Shickshinny, but was quickly extinguished.

Fig. 10. Ontario Legislative : Sessional Papers, Vol. XLIX, Part IV, Third Session of the Fourteenth Legislature (1917) : 74

Fig. 11. Newspaper story on Laidacker's curio shop. Evening News, Monday, September 27, 1926, page 26. He died nine months later.

  Fig. 12. Newspaper report of his death misidentifies him with his father Daniel.  

Fig. 14. The first Estate Auction known of  the Late J. G. Laidacker was held May 19-20, 1930, including many items from his curiosity shop, which may have included some paper money, medals, tokens and coins. Wilkes-Barre Record, Thursday May 15, 1930, page 15. A circular was printed and distributed on request as noted in the same newspaper on May 9, 1930, page 17. No known copy has been found by this author.

He died of a ruptured appendix on June 9, 1927 at the hospital at Nanticoke, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. His wake was at Shickshinny, Pennsylvania. He is buried at the Sweitzer's Memorial Cemetery, Berrysburg, Mifflin Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. The second known Estate Auction known of  the Late J. G. Laidacker included the remaining coin collection was sold posthumously at public auction in Jake Borry's Auction House, June 20, 1959. Martin Gengerke notes "many coins in original Chapman envelopes".

Fig. 13. Tomb monument of Laidacker in the  Sweitzer's Memorial Cemetery.

His son Samuel H. Laidacker continued his father's business as an antique dealer including coins and became an associate of the Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York City. Samuel's, Standard Catalogue of Anglo-American China, Parts 1 & 2, is considered indispensable. Papers and documents of John Gideon Laidacker and his son Samuel H. Laidacker are kept at the Winterthur Library, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum. His grandson John S. Laidacker wrote two books, Engraved Handguns of .22 Calibre 1855-1885 (Schiffer Publishing, 2003), and Developmental Cartridge Handguns in .22 Calibre, As Produced in the United States and Europe from 1855-1875 (Schiffer Publishing, 2003), based on guns from his grandfather's collection.

Bibliography :

1870 U. S. Census
1880 U. S. Census
1900 U. S. Census
The Danville Morning News, Tuesday, June 19, 1900, page 1
Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, August 5, 1900, page 23.
The Numismatist, October, 1905, page 300.
The Numismatist, March (1909) : 88
Yearbook : American Society of Curio Collectors (1909) : 25
1910 U. S. Census
The Curio Collector, Vol. 2, No. 1, April (1911) : 36 ad
Wilkes-Barre Semi-Weekly Record, Friday, June 23, 1911, page 5 
Magazine of Antique Firearms, July 5, 1911
Wilkes-Barre Record, Monday June 10, 1912, page 3
Wilkes-Barre Semi-Weekly Record, Friday, May 23, 1913, page 6
The Curio Collector, Vol. 4, No. 4, January (1914) : 15
Wilkes-Barre Record, Thursday, September 16, 1915, page 9 
Warren King Moorehead, Stone Ornaments Used by Indians in the United States and Canada (1917) : 299
Ontario Legislative : Sessional Papers, Vol. XLIX, Part IV, Third Session of the Fourteenth Legislature (1917) : 74
1920 U. S. Census
"Colonel G. E. Laidlaw, Effigy Pipes in Stone," Archaeological Report 1923 (Toronto, Canada) : 75, fig. 38 (see also 1966 Reprint)
Proceedings and Collections of the Wyoming Historical and Geological Society (1926) : 160
Evening News, Monday, September 27, 1926, page 26. 
1927 Death Certificate
Wilkes-Barre Record, Thursday May 15, 1930, page 15.
Jake Borry's Auction House, Broadside, June 20, 1959.
Martin Gengerke, American Numismatics Auctions, see Jake Borry's Auction House.
The Wichita Stamp Club Newsletter, Vol. 79, No. 6, June (2011).
Paul J. H. Leaser, "Collectible Bits and Pieces," Heron, (East Lake Woodlands Community Association)Vol. 14, Issue 6, June (2014) : 11