Copyright 2000-2019 John N. Lupia, III

Dr. William Dickinson (1822-1894), was born, the second of eight children on September 22, 1822, at Walpole, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, son of Rev. Pliny Dickinson (1777-1834) and Mary Brown Bellows Dickinson (1800-1885). His ancestors lived in Granby, Connecticut, during 17th century. He is a Son of the American Revolution. After his father's death his mother remarried in 1838 to James Crawford (1798-1846), a lawyer, at Putney, Vermont, and died in Dubuque, Iowa, where the family had moved. Her second marriage bore three more children. His mother remarried a third time after her second husband's death to Captain George King Smith (1787-1868), at Dubuque, Iowa.

A native of New England. Graduated Dartmouth College (1842), New Hampshire. Historically, Dartmouth taught Greek and Latin with the use of coins. Apparently, Dr. Dickinson acquired the coin collecting hobby while a schoolboy. He collected U.S. coins, except U. S. dollars, and kept a modest collection of Greek and Roman coins. He had a complete set of U. S. Cents and all Half Cents except the 1793 and 1796, and none of the proof issues in the 1840's and 1850's. In all his collection comprised about 1,500 specimens at the beginning of 1890.

He served several years as President of the University of Mississippi. Later graduated Harvard Medical School (1851). He was a Fellow of the Massachusetts State Medical Association.

He traveled in Europe staying at Paris and Berlin. At Berlin he studied ophthalmology at the Virchow and Graefe clinics.

In 1857 he moved to 82 Locust Street, St. Louis, Missouri, opening an oculist and ophthalmologist practice there. He was an ophthalmologist pioneer and author of important ophthalmological studies.

On June 2, 1857, he married Evelina Crane (1821-1878). They had three children : William Crane Dickinson (1858-1858), and Mary Crane Dickinson (1859-1862), and Evelina Laura Dickinson (1862-).

In 1860, he lived at 66 North 7th Street, St. Louis, Missouri.

Dickinson's advertisement specializing in Eye and Ear. St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Friday, July 6, 1860, page 2

He was Brigade Surgeon from 1861-1865.

During the Civil War he was a surgeon for the government and placed in charge of the Good Samaritan Hospital on Jefferson Avenue in St. Louis.

St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Friday, July 4, 1865, page 2

In 1866, he was one of the early ophthalmologists who restored eyesight to patients blind by cataracts.

In the Summer 1871, Dr. Dickinson organized a group interested in founding the St. Louis Aural and Ophthalmic Hospital. Members included : Dr. Niccolls, George Bain, Dr. P. G. Robinson, and Hon. Henry Overstolz, supported it with private donations of $100 each to provide medical care for the less fortunate. It was voted down for funding by the state and city government in April 1874 since $40,000 was estimated to establish it. In 1873, The American Medical College, St. Louis, Missouri, had been established offering herbal medical treatments, which may have caused officials to think another medical school and hospital were not dire needs at that time.

In 1875, Mrs. Evelina C. Dickinson was chair for the Missouri State centennial.

In 1880, he lived at 14 Washington Street.

In 1892, he was the Chair of Ophthalmology in Barnes Medical College, St. Louis.

A frequent buyer from the Chapman Brothers in the second half of the 1880’s beginning with the Collier/McDonald sale until the early 1890’s. There are several pieces of correspondence in the Lupia Numismatic Library. Only a few shown here and 10 more at the ANS website. The ANS has 10 letters which I have examined : 1 postal card, 9 covers, 5 of which the letters are removed and lost; with post office received marking and varying degrees of annotations on the back of the envelopes : clients' surname written by one of the Chapman's we find also the amount spent, sometimes a breakdown of the money into categories (see December 24, 1890) : cash, check, and receipted, also notations if any coins were sent on approval (as that dated September 27 with note dated September 29th), and date of their reply

In 1881, he bought a home at 1322 Olive Street, St. Louis, Missouri. He lived at this address until he moved to his daughter's home in California in January 1894.

Dr. Dickinson to the Chapman Brothers paying for coins and the priced catalogue of the Friesner sale held April 5-6, 1888, postal stationery Thorp-Bartles #1250/Scott #U311-U71. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.

In January 1892, he expressed the notion that coin prices were seasonal and asked when they were high and low to the coin firm of the Chapman Brothers.

Dickinson’s missive of March 12, 1892, complaining to the Chapman Brothers about their consignment rates :

“…in regard to the sale my Coins, I am appalled by the fact that at your terms proposed for disposing of them every half dollar must realize 67 cents in order for me to obtain its face value, whatever the cost to me may have been….shall I not better dispose of them here at private sale….many of the pieces I took of you paying you 10%. Now if by you sold I must pay 25%, making 35% for me, more than one third this cost to me. I shall lose less by selling them here…..I feel I am paying pretty dear for a defunct whistle to pay 35% for indulgence in this fad….you can appreciate the occasion of my hesitation to sell at auction….” Apparently, dismayed he was adamant not to sell through the Chapman Brothers. O, but what do heirs know about our will? His estate handed the entirety over to the Chapman Brothers after his demise.

In Summer 1892, he stayed with his daughter Mary in California.

Dr. Dickinson to the Chapman Brothers still complaining, this time for not having received a reply regarding certain coins though in his inquiry he enclosed a S.A.S.E, postmarked October 30, 1893, on Scott #UX10. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.

Dickinson tomb, Forest Hills Cemetery and Crematory, Jamaica Plains, Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

He retired in winter of 1893 and moved to California on January 24, 1894 to live with his daughter there. Nine days later on February 2, 1894, he died a sudden death while at Stanford University, where his daughter was on faculty. He is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery and Crematory, Jamaica Plains, Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

His collection was sold posthumously combined with Louis F. Lindsay of 1197 lots through the Chapman brothers on March 6,1894.

Bibliography :

The American Practitioner, Vol. 13-14 (1876) : 377

Annals of Ophthalmology and Otology, Volume 3 (1894) : 224

Medical Review (1894) : 158

Gengerke, Martin, American Numismatic Auctions, 8thedition (1990) : 32;

Adams, John W. United States Numismatic Literature, Vol. 1, 87