LE PÈRE, FRANCIS XAVIER
Copyright 2011-2018 John N. Lupia, III
Francis Xavier Le Père (1822-1906), also commonly spelled Lepère, was born the eldest of six children on September 7, 1822, son of Martin Le Père (1794-), an immigrant from Belgium, and a Grocer, and Elizabeth (1801-1884), a native of Kentucky.
Lepère owned a wholesale and retail grocery store in St. Louis, Missouri, and his clerk was James Edwin Love. He is also noted among glass collectors for glass bottles with Francis Leper molded in the glass, or Lepère & Richards, most probably manufactured by the Ellenville Glass Company. He was very successful and wealthy and had four domestic servants at his home.
He married Catherine M. Dyer (1828-), a native of Massachusetts, on 17 October 1848 in St. Louis, Missouri. They had at least nine children : Catherine "Kate" (1854-1910), Frances "Fanny" (1856-1913), Mary (1858-), William "Willie" H. (1862-), Lewis (1865-), Zoe (1867-), John B. (1869-1871), and Clara (1873-). Two daughters named Adeline Le Père died in infancy in 1862, and 1868.
During the Civil War, March 1862, he wrote a letter of inquiry to Joseph Jacob Mickley of Philadelphia to investigate the market value of numismatic items in his collection. Mickley replied on March 19, 1862 with a letter discovered by Eric P. Newman who first published it in Coin World, October 29, 1969.
Fig. Detail of Joseph J. Mickley's letter to Francis Le Père. Note the maladroit hand of Mickley making the name Le Père nearly illegible. The loops of the letter "e" get progressively smaller and finally closed, and the grave accent mark above the second "e" resembles a dotted "i" since it leans in the wrong direction like the aigu. Courtesy Newman Numismatic Portal per Leonard Augsburger.
Link to the Mickley letter on the Newman Numismatic Portal
Letter transcribed :
Your letter of the 13th was received and contents noted. I have made inquiry of a Coin dealer, what he would sell the coins you inquire about, at. He gave me the following. 1793 Cent 75 Cts to $2 and as high as $10 if in fine preservation, 1795 ½ Cent, 50 Ct, $1 upwards, 1797 do. 25 cts, - 1831, $6 to $8, 1836 $4 to $6, 1852 $4.50 to $6 – Dollars 1796, $2 – 1797 $1.25, - 1801 & 1802 1.50 each.
A young man left the Cents of 1793 & 1794 with me to sell for him for which he wants $2. The 1793 has the 13 links on the Reverse, which is a rare Type, it is in a fair condition, all legible, I think you would do well to procure these.
I don’t deal in coins any further than that frequently some are left with me by persons, for sale. I have a lot now, sent to me from England, to be disposed of, they consist of Coins and medals relating to this Country, among which are Massachusetts Silver Shillings, from $1.50 to $10 each, - Sixpences – Threepences & twopences. – The Chalmers Annapolis Silver Shilling, Sixpence & Threepence, the price of this is 17 pounds 17 shillings, this is rather high, though the last two pieces are extremely rare, a number of Copper pieces: Washington, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, several Cents & Halves of the U.S. Mint, etc., etc., - The rare U.S.A. Bar Cent Reverse 13 bars. The price of this is five pounds.
There are also some Silver & Bronze Medals in the lot, viz: Lafayette 5th – Louisburg taken, 2 varieties, - Quebec taken 8/6 each (copper.) Two in Silver, 2 pounds 2 shillings each, these medals are in remarkable fine condition. These, as well as the coins, are very desirable to one who collects pieces relating to this country. I have them all in my cabinet.
The price of American coins has gone up very high within several years past, owing to there being a great many Collectors and to our old coins being recoined, the old Copper Cents and Halves disappearing from circulation rapidly.
If you['ve a] collection [of] foreign Coins, I would assist you a great deal, for they are more frequently offered to me than American, they are also cheaper in proportion, it will give me pleasure to assist you in anything in my power, if you would inform me more particularly of what you wish to collect.
In hopes of hearing from you at your leisure, I remain Yours Resply. Jos. J. Mickley.
In the Lupia Numismatic Library there is another letter written postmarked March 26, 1862, sent by Charles Kimball of New York to his friend George Russell of Boston telling him he attended the Ed Cogan coin auction sale on Wednesday, March 26, 1862, at Bangs, Merwin & Company, New York City. He included newspaper clippings that discussed the contemporary situation of the Civil War affecting the coin market with the headline "Depreciation in the Prices of Coins, Medals, Etc., etc." I assume it is either the New York Times, Herald or Tribune since I have not been able to discover which newspaper the clippings came from. More on this story will appear in the paper print version of E-Sylum, called Asylum, for which membership in the Numismatic Bibliomania Society is required and the Asylum is included with your membership dues. Each issue is highly illustrated and the articles are written by the best writers. It's not a steep investment to grow in knowledge of numismatic literature and its history. So join us today!
In December 1868, J. N. T. Levick remarked that Lepère and E. Richards, Jr., were among the noted American collectors of St. Louis, who collected Store Cards.
From July 17-18, 1876 he sold part of his coin collection at Thomas Birch & Sons, Philadelphia, catalogued by Captain John White Haseltine, as Centennial IV.
On his thirtieth wedding anniversary 17 October 1878, his twenty-four year old daughter Catherine Hannah Lepère married William Dicks, a notable of St. Louis Society.
In 1893, he composed a libretto to the opera Jacinta written by Alfred G. Robyn.
Fig. Le Pere's son William was also a collector. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.
From February 15-16, 1904, S. H. & H. Chapman sold part of his coin collection at Davis & Harvey, Philadelphia, together with M. L. Coleman, Rev. Jeremiah Zimmerman, Dr. W. E. Booker, and Charles S. Wilcox.
He died on January 8, 1906 at St. Louis, Missouri. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum, Saint Louis, Missouri.
Special thanks to Leonard Augsburger for supplying the transcription of the Joseph J. Mickley letter dated March 19, 1862 at the Newman Numismatic Portal.
Joseph N. T. Levick, "Reminiscences of Coin-Collecting," American Journal of Numismatics, Vol. III, No. 8, December (1868) : 64
"Haseltine's "Centennial Sales, &c.," American Journal of Numismatics, Vol. October (1876) : 46
Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri (1901) Volume 4 : "Music In St. Louis," 554
John W. Leonard, ed., The Book of St. Louisians : A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of St. Louis (St. Louis, The St. Louis Republic, 1906) : 155