Fig. 1. A photogravure by Elson of the Portrait of John Ward Dean by James Harvey Young, 1888, New England Historical Genealogical Society.

Copyright © 2000-2019 John N. Lupia III

John Ward Dean (1815-1902), was born in Wiscasset, Lincoln County, Maine, on March 13, 1815, the fifth of six children, son of Charles (-1829)and Patience Tappan Dean.

Dean is a noted American antiquarian, scholar, writer, editor and publisher with a myriad of associations with noted numismatists, especially his close friend and colleague Jeremiah Colburn (1815-1891), and the New England Historical Genealogical Society, Boston Numismatic Society, and the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia of which he was a corresponding member, and was the first editor for Boston of The Historical Magazine and Notes and Queries published at Boston by Dean's friend and colleague Charles Benjamin Richardson (1832-1891). Dean was an Early American historian and scholar and expert on American Colonial Numismatics.

He graduated the Latin School at Mt. Vernon, Maine, which recently had been incorporated in 1792 a little over three decades previous. He then graduated from the English High School, Portland, Maine (which Ebenezer Locke Mason, Jr. also graduated a decade after Dean).

In 1830 he began his apprenticeship in bookbinding working in Portland, Maine until 1835.

In 1835 he moved to Boston working for Seth Goldsmith until about January 1837. He then traveled into New York but due to the Panic of 1837 was forced to return home living with his mother and again working for Seth Goldsmith. He moved to Providence, Rhode Island working for the firm of Brown & Cady until 1838.

The Summer of 1838 he traveled throughout the Northeast Region. He returned to Providence and worked for William G. Hathaway at his bookstore and bindery. The business failed in 1841 and Dean purchased the bookbinding tools as part of his settlement.

He entered into the bookbinding business in 1841 at Providence, Rhode Island, in partnership with George Burgess forming the company of Dean & Burgess.

In 1843 he moved to Boston entering partnership with his brother Jeremiah in the firm of Dean & Co. From 1848-1859 he worked alone. He then entered partnership from 1859-1861 with Willian Hill in the firm of Dean & Hill. From 1861 to 1872 he returned to partnership with his brother in Dean & Co.

In 1850 he was elected a member of the New England Historical Genealogical Society, and made a Life Member in 1859.

On June 29, 1853 he married Lydia Emerson, daughter of John S. Emerson and Abigail Dean Emerson. They had no issue.

From 1855-1857 he served as the Treasurer of the New England Historical Genealogical Society.

In January 1857 he began as editor of The Historical Magazine and Notes and Queries, that published many numismatic articles in the interest of numismatic history and collecting and served as the organ for the Boston Numismatic Society, the Rhode Island Numismatic Association, the American Numismatic Society, and the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, and the American Antiquarian Society. Dean and Colburn were responsible for publishing the Boston Numismatic Society meeting reports.

From 1858-1863 he served as the corresponding secretary of The Prince Society; in 1863 he was elected vice-president; and president 1870-1880.

From 1860 to 1872 he was recording Secretary of the American Statistical Association.

From 1870-1877 he served as the Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

In 1872 he retired from Dean & Co. and became the full-time Librarian of the New England Historical Genealogical Society. He resigned in 1889 when he became the editor of the New England Historical Genealogical Register. He returned as Librarian in 1892 until his death on January 22, 1902.

The significance and value of the biographical research Dean had undertaken is summed up in the final address given in 1862 by the then stepping down president of the New England Historical Genealogical Society, and noted numismatist, Dr. Winslow Lewis :

"The union of Genealogy with Biography, Heraldry, Numismatics and History was set forth and exemplified fully; but there was a province of Genealogy of peculiar importance, which has seldom been brought before the notice of our Society; and coming from one of eminent professional experience it has the sanction, as it were, of a truth ex cathedra. It is this: "That mental as well as physical qualities are handed down more or less from parent to child, from forefathers to posterity, and that thus, pure and healthy descent is of immense importance. * * * And very frequently we can ascribe the united qualities of valor and of virtue, of great intellect and gentle heart, to the marriage union of parents, whose families were respectively distinguished for these virtues."

U. S. Consul in Mexico, Franklin Chase correspondence with John Ward Dean addressed to him at the New England Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts, postmarked June 18, 1884. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.

His portrait was painted in 1888 by James Harvey Young and is now in the collection of the New England Historical Genealogical Society. A photogravure of the painting was produced by Elson was made after his death.

Correspondence from Captain C. H. Townshend dated July 18, 1888, but mailed one week later on July 25th regarding historical notes on the Battle of Bunker Hill. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.

In 1893 he wrote and published Memoir of Jeremiah Colburn, A.M. portraying him a la sentiment of notions we have just read presented by Dr. Lewis just over thirty years previous.

Fig. 2. Letter addressed to John Ward Dean, Esq., at the New England Historical Genealogical Society Office, sent by George Frederick Joyce from the Boston Numismatic Society, cork cancelled and postmarked Wolfboro, New Hampshire (where Joyce taught), August 11, 1872. In another hand are two names inscribed in black ink within parenthesis (probably written by Dean). In a more recent third hand in pencil, probably written circa 1950 are various notations by a stamp dealer. Note the address is the same as that of the Boston Numismatic Society where the American Journal of Numismatics was edited and sent out for printing. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. For sale. Estimate $300-$400. Write

He died at his home in Medford, Massachusetts just seven weeks short of the age of 87 (though the papers reported his age as 85).

Fig. 3. Obituary of John Ward Dean, Boston Journal, Friday, January 24, 1902, page 3.

Bibliography :

J. H. Sheppard, "A Brief History of the New England Historical-Genealogical Society," New England Historical Genealogical Register, Vol. 16, July (1862) : 208

American Journal of Numismatics, Volumes 14-16 (1879-1880)

American Journal of Numismatics, Volumes 26-28 (1893) : 72 obit of Jeremiah Colburn; Reprinted from the New-England Historical and Genealogical Register for October, 1893

New England Historical Genealogical Register, Vol. LVI (1902) :223-234

Proceedings of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia, By Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia