FRANKLIN, CALVIN WESTLEY
Fig. 1. Photograph of C. W. Franklin in the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, Sunday, April 16, 1905, page 41.
Copyright © 2011-2018 John N. Lupia III
Who in the world is Calvin Westley Franklin (1854-1911)? He is an aloof and evasive figure in American numismatic history though he was a successful coin dealer for at least seven years and published several numismatic publications. In the Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive, there are many pieces of correspondence of which only a few are shown here. Though we know sufficiently about his numismatic dealings we know virtually nothing about him as a person. Did he have children? Where did he go to school, and so forth? Carefully studying his penmanship and spelling skills in the Chapman Brothers correspondence it is obvious he did not attend college and therefore used the title Doctor rather loosely. These and many other personal questions remain unanswered about his private life and background. Curiously he frequently went about with the title Doctor C. W. Franklin, yet no record of his college studies has yet been discovered. After reading his postal cards sent to the Chapman Brothers it is clear he had very little schooling and was an unlettered man. We know nothing of his personality and character which very well may have amply compensated him for his lack of eloquence and refinement. We can only assume he was a cheerful man of good character which is reflected somewhat in two feature articles about him and coins published later on. His enthusiasm and passion for coins is very evident in his advertisements and letters as well as in his 1907 book that seems to have become completely forgotten and lost to posterity save the two extant copies " one in the Dan Hamelberg Numismatic Library, and the other in the Lupia Numismatic Library. It is an important work in the history of auction sales since it opens the door shedding light on the market from 1905 to 1906. A book of such importance was not well received since few copies were ever purchased. He wound up offering them at discount prices and kept slashing the price from one dollar to twenty-five cents probably selling few or none. One copy was given to the Carnegie Institute as a gift by him about 1907 or thereabouts, and another to the editor of The Numismatist who ran a notice in the July issue 1907.
He was born the second son of four children to John Franklin (1826-1905) and Nancy Skinner (1833-1919) on April 12, 1857 at Marietta, Ohio. Franklin left his family who moved to West Virginia, and after finishing school set out as a traveling salesman eventually settling at Pittsburgh sometime around 1901.
Franklin is an interesting personality judging from his myriad of newspaper advertisements and numerous correspondence with the Chapman Brothers. He sold coins, paper money, rare gold, stamps, curiosities, Indian relics, cash registers, and fire and burglar proof safes. On one occasion he even sold a meat market and on another he sold billiard equipment. His earliest advertisement previous to the gold plated medallions with mounted photographs was for residential building lots, which he privately owned. Unfortunately we do not know when Mr. Franklin entered the field of numismatics except the earliest known correspondence with the Chapman Brothers. In his 1907 publication which we shall see shortly he claims he was a coin dealer for many years. What he meant by that statement is unclear. Like prunes is four enough or is seven too many? We also are not certain of his age at that time either, i.e., was he 20, 30, 40 or was he 50? His photograph was published in the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, Sunday, April 16, 1905, and looks to be between the age of thirty and forty, which would necessitate his being born from 1865 to 1875. Because we do find him listed in the 1885 Pittsburgh Directory as a salesman he would necessarily have been born about 1865. Yet we know he was born in 1857 and like so many others he probably submitted an older photograph to make himself appear younger.
As already stated the earliest Pittsburgh record of C. W. Franklin is in the 1885 Pittsburgh Directory on page 330 where he is listed as a salesman living at 162 Lacock Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was a traveling salesman and his earliest record as such he was staying at Salamanca, New York in 1880. He is annually listed as a salesman at various addresses until about 1900. A few years later we begin to find him advertising his wares and services in local newspapers. The first advertisement beyond selling his building lots is selling gold plated bezeled medallions that he will have finished with your photograph of choice set in by your mailing in the photograph that will be reproduced and sized and set in the gold plated medallion.
Fig. 2. Franklin's earliest known advertisement was for selling gold plated bezeled medallions with a photographic medallion reproduced from your photograph sent in. Indiana Weekly Post, (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Wednesday, June 13, 1902, page 2.
Just before selling medallion portraits he married a Scottish immigrant seventeen years younger, Agnes Morrison Kerr (1874-1909) on March 30, 1901. Perhaps due to the age gap she claimed she was 30 years old on their marriage license, rather than her actual age of 26, two months before her 27th birthday.
Shortly after the medallion photograph venture he advertises selling fire and burglar proof safes with a showroom at 6 Fourth Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As fate would have it the property he rented was part of a take by the Wabash Railroad and he was forced to vacate and sell his entire stock.
Fig. 9. The above advertisement was a frequently published one offering 25 foreign coins each from a different country together with an old Roman coin, all for the price of one dollar. Pittsburgh Press, Friday, November 25, 1904, page 22.
Fig. 8. C. W. Franklin advertisement claiming "The largest collection of old coins ever shown in the city of Pittsburgh, both European and American" Apparently a rival or at least a reasonably fair competitor to Thomas Lindsay Elder in the day at Pittsburgh before Elder moved to New York City in May 1904. Lachesis throws her mysterious dice leaving us in our day wondering "Who in the world is C.W. Franklin?" Pittsburgh Press, Wednesday, October 26, 1904, page 15.
Fig. 7. C. W. Franklin advertisement with his new address at 126 Fourth Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His new store becomes combined business with selling discounted and used safes and cash registers together with old coins. Here we see his ad selling gold quarters and half dollars twice their face value. Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, Friday, October 21, 1904, page 11.
Figs. 5 & 6. C. W. Franklin correspondence with the Chapman Brothers. Top: postmarked October 4, 1904, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 5 P.M. Bottom : postmarked October 8, 1904, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 5 P.M. Franklin sent in and paid for an order of various coins amounting to $36.53. This is the earliest known coin transaction, but suspect he had earlier dealings not yet known. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.
The coins purchased from the Chapman Brothers were not his exclusive stock as a dealer. He ran ads selling Gold Quarters and Half Dollars in the same advertisements selling his burglar proof safes.
Fig. 4. Pittsburgh Daily Post, Sunday, May 10, 1903, page 21.
His interest and involvement in numismatists is only first heard of about a year later when we find him corresponding with the Chapman Brothers purchasing numismatic items in the Fall of 1904.
Fig. 3. Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, Thursday, March 12, 1903, page 11.
He reopened his store selling safes a few blocks down the same street relocating at 126 Fourth Street. Alerting the public and clientele he ran fresh ads in the local newspapers.
Figs. 10 & 11. C. W. Franklin correspondence : Top : to the Chapman Brothers postmarked December 27, 1904, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 4 P. M. Lower : Envelope hand stamped with a rubber stamp inked in purple writing to the Chapman Brothers postmarked December 31, 1904, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 5:30 P. M. Here we see a typical pattern of flurry mailings a few days apart illustrating his business ethic. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.
Fig. 14. No! You are not seeing double! Franklin had the advertisement printed twice in the same column. You too can buy from him a genuine 1804 Silver Dollar for only $5. Hurry while supplies last! Caveat emptor! Curiously in a featured article he tells the interviewer in an article published in January 1906 that there are only seven known specimens of the 1804 Silver Dollar and the rest were sunk at sea. Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, January 22, 1905, page 29.
Figs. 12 & 13. January 12, 1905 and January 19, 1905. Another illustration of a flurry mailing a few days or a week apart, typical of his manner of dealing with the Chapman Brothers for stock. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.
Fig. 16. Franklin advertising the sale of old coins and Indian relics! Note his change of address to 23 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Leslie's Monthly Magazine, Vol. LIX, February, 1905.
Fig. 15. Franklin also ran ads soliciting to buy old and rare coins. Here is willing to pay up to $5 for a 1799 Large Cent, but only $4 for the 1856 Flying Eagle, and just $3 for the 1815 Half Dollar. Like B. Max Mehl he was probably offering his 100-page Hub Coin Book which follows the same description. It was widely used by several coin dealers in the first decade of the twentieth century. They ordered copies and had the printer place their name and address on the front cover, probably paying about twelve cents a piece. Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, January 29, 1905, page 29.
Fig. 28. Advertisement selling billiard equipment. Note his address is 2 Taylor Street, Bellevue, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thursday, December 27, 1906, page 11.
On January 6, 1907 he was the subject of a feature story, "Rare And Valuable Coins Have Been Collected in Pittsburgh," Pittsburgh Daily Post, Sunday, January 6, 1907, page 29. Apparently he caused quite a stir in Pittsburgh stimulating the imaginations of the public and creating a want for the coin market. He was certainly the starlight of the Pittsburgh coin industry in the first decade of the twentieth century.
On March 10, 1907 another feature story written by Mrs. A. B. Sperry, "Some of the World's Oldest Coins Owned by Pittsburgh Collectors," Pittsburgh Daily Post, Sunday, March 10, 1907, page 42.
Fig. 27. Advertisement selling the standard package of 25 coins, but now we find him offering a gold coin in the mix. Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, Sunday, January 28, 1906, Page 49
Fig. 26. Advertisement selling the standard package of 25 coins, but now we find him offering a 150-page coin book for twenty-five cents. Pittsburgh Press, Wednesday, October 11, 1905, page 18.
Fig. 25. Advertisement selling Papal Gold Ducats of Pius VI, 1776. Note the new address at 239 Fourth Street. Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, July 16, 1905
Fig. 24. Franklin writing to the Chapman Brothers postmarked July 15, 1905. "Please send by register mailywo sets of Philipine coin be sure and send at once as we have them sold. Your truly, C. W. Franklin. Per LBM" Well we can all tell he means to say "mail two" and "Philipine" is close enough to communicate his want. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.
Fig. 23. Franklin writing to the Chapman Brothers postmarked July, 14, 1905. "Please ship us some Ten Dollar Gold pieces 1798 - 1799. Do not ship them if you cannot sell them so that we can sell them at $14 or $15 apiece; and also Five Dollar Gold pieces of 1802. Do not send them if you cannot sell them so that we can sell them at $7.50 to $8.00. Respectfully, C. W. Franklin Per LBMcG [LBM]"
Fig. 22. Franklin writing to the Chapman Brothers postmarked July, 1, 1905. "Please send us at once $3 gold pieces, some fractional currancy as big a collection as you can. We will send you on next week. Yours Truly, C. W. Franklin" Apparently the author about currency like the orthography "currancy". Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.
Fig. 21. Franklin writing to the Chapman Brothers postmarked May 31, 1905. "We do wish you mail more prompt shipments of our orders as we are losing sales by your not ship[p]ing. Yours Truly, C. W. Franklin" Franklin is not alone. The Chapman Brothers frequently received complaints for tardiness from other clients. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.
Fig. 20. Franklin writing to the Chapman Brothers postmarked May 27, 1905. Thank God Franklin bought a typewriter, although unfortunately, it was still in the days before spellcheck, grammar check and whiteout. "If you have any half eagles which you could at about $7.50 each, I wish you would send us ab about half doz. Yours Truly C. W. Franklin, L. B. McGrail" A rather confusing signature, leaving us to wonder if L. B. McGrail is a business partner or the client. On a few other postal cards postmarked July 14 and 15, 1905; beneath C. W. Franklin is written per LBM, which does not aid in clarification. Leo B. McGrail worked as a machinist and lived on Wood Street, Pittsburgh, an address Franklin seems to use in an advertisement in the Pittsburgh Daily Post, Tuesday, September 24, 1907. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.
Fig. 19. Franklin writing to the Chapman Brothers postmarked March 21, 1905. Yes, the next day from the above postal card. "Please send some Boveria coins whe sending shipment. Yours Truly, C. W. Franklin." The Bavarian coins is radically misspelled as Boveria, also, the "n" is lacking on "when" and the slanting handwriting can make you seasick if you stare at it long enough. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.
Fig. 18. Franklin writing to the Chapman Brothers postmarked March 20, 1905. "Please send us some fractional currancy scrit by registered mail after April 1 send all our mail to 239-4 Ave. Yours Truly, C. W. Franklin." His penmanship and spelling are atrocious with the word "fractional" crowded where it could have been clearer using a hyphen continuing on the next line; "currency" spelled with an "A" instead of an "E"; and the spelling of "scrip" seems to be "scrit". Maybe he was a Doctor after all. He was astute enough to inform the Chapman Brothers of his change of address to 239 Fourth Street beginning April first. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.
Fig. 17. Franklin writing to the Chapman Brothers soliciting prices on Confederate paper money, postmarked February 24, 1905. "Please give us a price on 5 Confederate Bill such as $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, and $1,000. Yours truly, C. W. Franklin" Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.
Fig. 30. Advertisement selling San Francisco gold quarters and half dollars. Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Sunday, June 16, 1907, page 37
Fig. 29. Pittsburgh Daily Post, Sunday, March 10, 1907, page 42.
Fig. 31. Franklin's very first known advertisement for his new book published in the Pittsburgh Daily Post, Thursday, July 25, 1907, page 9.
Fig. 32. The Numismatist, Vol. XX, No. 7, July, 1907, page 199. A few typos in the notice reads Bellvue instead of Bellevue, and "Auction Sales of American Premium Coins for 1907-1906" which is obviously 1905-1906.
Figs. 33, 34 & 35. C. W. Franklin, Numismatic Bluebook; Ancient and Modern Coins; Giving the Auction Sales of American Premium Coins for 1905-1906. A Handbook of American, Greek and Roman Coins. (Bellevue : C. W. Franklin, 1907). Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. It is rather unfortunate that he authored numismatic works neither listed in Clain-Stefanelli, Remy Bourne, nor in Davis, apparently having become completely lost to posterity.
Fig. 36. Franklin advertising buying and selling coins and stamps. Note his new address at 511 Wood Street, the same street where Leo B. McGrail lived who may have been a business partner or client, and apparently a close friend. Pittsburgh Daily Post, Tuesday, September 24, 1907, page 9.
On July 17, 1909, his wife of eight years, Agnes Morrison Franklin died from an ovarian disease. Her brief obituary appeared in the Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, July 18, 1909, page 22. According to the obituary they lived at 319 Taylor Avenue in Bellevue, Pennsylvania.
Fig. 37. Franklin selling his home in an advertisement in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sunday, March 5, 1911, page 25. He drops out of sight from the coin world completely at this time and died of apoplexy on April 29, 1911 at the Allegheny General Hospital after being admitted eleven days earlier. His death certificate gives his former residence at 321 Taylor Avenue, Bellevue, Pennsylvania. He was buried at Ravenswood Cemetery, Ravenswood, Jackson County, West Virginia. His gravestone reads : Calvin W Franklin 1855-1911.
The mysterious Doctor C. W. Franklin seems to have styled himself after Ben Franklin who also was called Doctor Franklin. He certainly created a breeze in the Pittsburgh coin world but seems to have been a dud in the mainstream of coin collectors and dealers never having been a member of any numismatic association unless this author's weary eyes missed that entry. Reading through his numerous advertisements which only a few have been published here one learns he dealt with a wide variety of gold coins and other rarities.
Special thanks to Julia Purdy with her kind assistance with the genealogical research that gave us C. W. Franklin's full name and opened the doors to research.