Copyright 2011-2018 John N. Lupia, III

Excerpts from an unpublished manuscript. 

Fig. 1. Photograph of Ebenezer Locke Mason, Jr., as it appeared in Mason’s Numismatic Gallery, a photographic plate of 48 numismatists, in Mason’s Coin and Stamp Collector’s Magazine, February, 1869. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.

            Ebenezer Locke Mason, Jr., did not like the name Ebenezer and preferred to be called Eben, or Edward, or Ned. The majority of the documents of his life use these various names in place of Ebenezer. 

Along his unusual career he evolved from being a tailor and saddler, to a poet, dime novelist and journalist, activist in the Order of the Lone Star, showman, entertainment agent, aeronautic engineer and pilot, Civil War soldier, United States Special Agent for the Department of the Interior who recovered the stolen Washington relics, musical song writer and publisher, photographer for carte de visite, curio shop owner, occasional book publisher, coin and stamp dealer, to the first full-time coin and stamp dealer who published a monthly coin and stamp magazine that ultimately folded after twenty-four years though he continued his coin business until his death as one of America’s leading numismatic authorities. There was never a dull moment in the life of Ebenezer, who was a high energy, driven and highly industrious and intellectually active personality. He knew many famous Americans including one of his oldest friends Edward Zane Carroll Judson popularly known as Ned Buntline, Buffalo Bill Cody, Professor Thaddeus Lowe, President Abraham Lincoln, Joseph J. Mickley.

Among numismatists he is best known for his coin magazine, photographic gallery of American coin collectors, coin price lists, contributions to coin journals and books, public debates and coin auction catalogs. However, Ebenezer is also well known among the students, scholars and researchers of magic and ventriloquism for his work in this field.  He is also well known as the editor, personal friend, and traveling companion of Ned Buntline, a showman and American original, who made wild west and rifle shooting shows, and Buffalo Bill famous. American literature students, scholars and researchers know him for his colorful stories published in Ned Buntline’s Own, under his favorite nom de plume, “Our Ned”. During the presidential election of 1864 Ebenezer continued publishing songs, music and lyrics under the pseudonym “Our Ned,” and are very famous to American historians, especially his Lincoln Songster. He is also famous as a pioneer balloonist and was active as an aeronaut during the Civil War. He is also famous as the man who was hired by the Department of the Interior to restore the stolen Washington relics during the Civil War, and did it.     

Working on a traveling exhibition he purchased thousands of coins throughout the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada and resold them to two coin dealers, A. C. Kline, and Edward Cogan, and to the collectors Dr. Montroville Wilson Dickeson, and Joseph Napoleon Tricot Levick, all fellow residents of Philadelphia. At last, Mason became a full-time coin dealer opening a shop at 434 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, where he published a monthly magazine devoted to the hobbies of coins, postage stamps and other collectibles such as minerals, rare books, autographs, paper money, Indian relics, fossils, memorabilia and anything considered a novelty or curiosity fashionable at that time for hobbyists forming a collectors’ cabinet.  He began publishing his hobby magazine during the early Reconstruction Period in April 1867, on the second anniversary of the end of the Civil War.  Consequently his publications are an invaluable primary resource for American historians, researchers and specialists in the Reconstruction Period, American literature, American archaeology and anthropology, American numismatics, U. S. and foreign philatelics, dealers and collectors of rare books, autographs, paper money, Indian relics and Americana.  Subscribers to Mason’s publications were from coast-to-coast and included several foreign countries: Canada, England and Malta, and included many prominent numismatists. The correspondence published monthly reveals a wide range of demographic diversity among the subscribers clearly exhibiting that the subject matter appealed to men, women and young adults from diverse socio-economic backgrounds throughout the country. Mason launched his mass media vehicle transforming the realm of hobbies, where wealthy and poorer classes alike both enjoyed what was formerly considered a king’s pass time for recreational amusement, fun and enjoyable enthusiastic study.


Ebenezer Locke Mason, Jr. (1826-1901), was born on March 21, 1826, son of Ebenezer Locke Mason, Sr. (1801-), and Mary Scott Cobbe (1803-), at Portland, Cumberland County, Maine. He is a direct descendant of John Mason (1644-1729) a native of Watertown, Massachusetts.

He went to the Latin School on Exchange Street, Portland, where he studied and learned Classics, especially about Roman coins as was typical for all schoolboys at that time. His education from the Portland Latin school gave him the necessary background to enjoy ancient Roman coins as well as possessing a well rounded knowledge of Latin that occasionally surfaces in his publications.  In the very first issue of Mason’s Coin and Stamp Collector’s Magazine, Ebenezer chose for his magazine’s motto the Latin dictum : Multum in parvo, which literally means, “much in little,” or “much in something small,” but can also be translated as, “small but significant,” or “brief but profound,” or “much conveyed in few words”, or “much said in a small space,” since it is a rhetorical figure of speech applied to economy in the art writing.  Walter Breen, , Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia, 169, 199, tells us, “The term "Classic Head" is credited to Ebenezer Locke Mason Jr., who proposed it in his hobby periodical, Mason's Coin and Stamp Collector's Magazine, in 1868. The "classical" connection is the fillet, or narrow headband, a device which dates back to ancient Greece. But the parallelism is flawed, for only young male athletes wore fillets in ancient times: They were prizes awarded to winners of local sporting competitions.”
Ebenezer mentions his old neighborhood in that same February 1872 issue of Mason’s Coin Collectors’ Magazine, mentioning Congress Street, Pleasant Street, Fore Street. He also mentions Clay Cove, and Pooduck, two communities annexed to Portland. Pooduck was the nickname the locals used for the village Purpooduck Point at the mouth of the Casco River.

Ebenezer’s father Ebenezer Mason, Sr., owned a clothing store at 195 Fore Street, along the wharves of Portland Harbor, and his residence on King Street.

About 1834, the Mason family moved to Philadelphia, where Ebenezer Mason, Sr., opened a saddlery business.

In his own words Mason tells us that when he was eighteen years old he moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 1844. “In 1844 the writer resided on Baltimore Street, near High Street—just over the bridge, and here we first met Dr. De Bonneville, the famous antiquarian and public lecturer, who appeared in Masonic Hall, St. Paul Street, and with whom we spent many happy hours.” (Mason’s Coin Collectors’ Herald, Vol. II, No. 4, March (1881) : 26a).

Mason then moved to Troy, New York for a brief period. 

“During the year 1855 the writer was employed in the counting room of Mr. Newell, Commission Merchant, Front street below Chestnut, this city, and in the same building was the firm of Freeman & Simpson, who employed the well-known numismatist, J. N. T. Levick, as chief book-keeper. Here, for the first time, met two individuals, who in their own way have made considerable stir in the coin line; one as a private collector, the other as a public dealer, and the two have been friends to this day and had and have now considerable business dealings in a numismatic way. One of these individuals we familiarly term “Jo,” and the other “Ned,” for the sufficient reason that these were the “short” for their rather long front names, and were theirs by right of possession and usage. When these two youths first met neither had any special predilection for old coins, but were rather inclined to social enjoyments, in which the fair sex was an important factor. About a year subsequent to this acquaintance Ned “was on the road,” as showman say, with a public exhibition, and Jo remained at his post posting away at his accounts, and when the two met again both had become interested in coins; Jo as a collector, Ned as a speculator. The first interview after a year’s separation occurred in 1856 in front of the general post-office, then in Dock Street, this city. Jo had the nucleus of a prospective large coin cabinet, in a few choice pieces, and Ned had gathered some old coppers and silver coins during his peregrination as a showman.” (”Personal Numismatic Reminiscences, No. 2., Numismatic Chums,” Mason’s Coin Collector’s Magazine, Vol. IV, No. 2, September (1882) : 25-27). He worked for an Albany showman “Wyman the Magician” Wyman, Wizard and Ventriloquist until September 1861. 

In 1856 Ebenezer was already actively collecting old coppers and other old curious coins and sold them as a dealer for profit. We learn from him that his first customer, or at least numbered amongst them, was Joseph N. T. Levick. Ebenezer was well aware that collecting old coins for fun and profit was an already existing craze and he neither let this golden opportunity escape him nor pass him by. 

Also, late in that same year a man by the name of Ryan, probably identical with Charles Ryan, had visited Edward Cogan, a dealer in art works and books in Philadelphia, and while there sold him an electrotype of an old colonial Washington Cent of 1792 for twenty-five cents.

In 1856, Ebenezer Locke Mason, Jr., married Lavinia (1833-1883). They had five children.

In the late 1850’s he compiled a book on the history of magic tricks and ventriloquism. Edward Mason Jr. (Our Ned), Ventriloquism Made Easy. Also, an Exposure of Magic, and the Second Sight Mystery. The Complete History and Exposure of Ventriloquism (Philadelphia: Wyman the Wizard, Publisher, 1860). 

Fig. Mason's 1860 Campaign Song, "Rally Round the Cause Boys". Note he did sell medals, etc. in 1860 at his first shop rented from his landlord, Dr. Montroville Wilson Dickeson.

Beginning in December 1861 Ebenezer served in the United States Balloon Corps, Army of the Potomac during the Civil War as an aeronaut, constructing, piloting and surveillance of air balloons. He served under Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe (1833-1913)
who was put in charge of the aeronaut corps.

Fig. Photograph taken from an unpublished manuscript on Ebenezer Locke Mason, Jr.,  by John N. Lupia, III.

John Palmer Usher (1816-1889), sometime after March 1862, when Lincoln asked him to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Interior, is the the time when he hired Ebenezer to recover the stolen Cincinnati set of dishes and other relics that belonged to George Washington.


            In April of 1867 he began publishing Mason’s Coin and Stamp Collector’s Magazine.
Mason’s Coin and Stamp Collector’s Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 2. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. 

Perhaps the earliest known mailing of Ebenezer Locke Mason, Jr., sent to Frank DeWette Andrews, postmarked July 6, 1867. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. 

             Ebenezer’s first known business partner in the coin trade was established probably in mid January 1868 and officially announced by Ebenezer in an article “Our Associate Partner” in the February 1868 issue of Mason’s Coin and Stamp Collector’s Magazine. Ebenezer took on a business partnership with George H. Wells of Boston, Massachusetts, who moved to Philadelphia in January 1868. Mason & Wells moved into a new building near where Edward Cogan’s coin stand had been prior to his move to New York. His new address on the Westside of Philadelphia was at 50 North 10th Street below Arch. 

            From October 28th-29, 1868 he held his first coin auction sale, the collection of Joseph Colvin Randall. The sale realized $1,294.45. Edward Cogan bitterly criticized Ebenezer Mason’s catalog of the Randall collection engaging the two in a long drawn out verbal battle for more than a year. 

Fig. Mason's business envelope sent to Joseph N. T. Levick, written November 28, 1868, postmarked Dispatched, Philadelphia, November 30, 1868. 
Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. 

John W. Haseltine was the treasurer of Mason & Co., mining companies located at 506 Walnut Street, Philadelphia. Haseltine was the second business partner of Ebenezer Locke Mason. 

Ebenezer was a pioneering numismatist, who, wanted to establish a documented history of numismatists of his era, something quite novel at the time. One of the great achievements for which modern numismatists and researchers are most appreciative is the famous Daguerreotype plate created by Benjamin F. Reimer, as a commission by Ebenezer for Mason’s Coin and Stamp Collector’s Magazine, and published in February 1869. This photograph is something unique historically for February 1869, and was ahead of its time anticipating the first photographically illustrated numismatic coin auction catalogue in June 1869 catalogued by Ed Cogan, and anticipating by 25 years, the first group-photograph of numismatists at the American Numismatic Association convention in Detroit, Michigan, 1894. 


            The second partnership, which was to fund a Coin and Stamp Depot in New York was first met with a mishap when the gentleman (Leon W. Durbin, St. Louis, Missouri) had a near fatal accident with a dumb bell being struck in the head at his temple with a near fatal blow. Durbin ran the stamp department for one year ending on April 1, 1870. In April 1869 Leonidas W. Durbin becomes a partner taking control of the stamp department of the Magazine in May 1869.


          To be continued  . . . 

Auctions :

[01] October 28th-29, 1868
[02] April 13-15, 1869
[03] June 9, 1869
[04] September 6-8, 1869
[05]  September 27-28, 1869, 1st New York Sale
[06] October 13, 1869
[07] October 18-19, 1869
[08] November 16-17, 1869
[09] December 1, 1869
[10] December 21, 1869
[11] December 22, 1869
[12] May 19, 1870
[13]  June 17, 1870
[14] October 4-7, 1870
[15] February 16-17, 1871
[16] September 5-6, 1871
[17] November 7, 1871
[18] January 31, 1872
[19] April 8-10, 1872
[20] October 5-7, 1880
[21] October 19-21, 1880
[22] October 20, 1886, 1st Boston Sale
[23]  December 21, 1886
[24] February 15, 1887
[25] May 17, 1887
[26] November 8, 1887
[27] January 10, 1888
[28] April 24, 1888
[29] December 24, 1888, 8th Boston Sale
[30] April 9, 1889
[31] June 27, 1889
[32] October 29, 1889
[33]  January 16, 1890
[34] March 12, 1890
[35] May 14, 1890
[36] June 18, 1890 15th Boston Sale

Bibliography :

American Journal of Numismatics
John Tiffany, The Stamp Collector’s Library Companion, no. 7
The Numismatist

J. L. L. Earl of Crawford, Bibliotheca Lindesiana

Lorraine S. Durst,
John Weston Adams,
Martin Gengerke,
Charles Davis,
The Asylum
Remy Bourne, American Numismatic Periodicals 1860 -1960 (Minneapolis, Minnesota : Ramm Communications, 1990) : 1865-16-19

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