By Steve Carr
One of the definitions of hero is “any person admired for his qualities or achievements and regarded as an ideal or model.” Some people choose sports figures for their heroes. Others idolize their parents. We all have heroes, even if we do not admit it.
When I started collecting early copper, Frank Andrews was my first hero. At the time, all I knew about Andrews was that he was the first person to systematically classify the varieties of large cents for the last 42 years of their production, from 1816 through 1857. All the other large cent personalities studied the earlier coins, from 1793 through 1814.
Andrews” work, An Arrangement of United States Copper Cents, 1816-1857, was first published in 1881. For the first time, collectors of these cents had a guide with diagnostics to identify the variety of their cent. Prior to Andrews’ work, cents of these dates were identified haphazardly, as most “serious” collectors saved only the earlier coins. When Ed. Froussard published his monograph describing the varieties for large cents and half cents in 1879, “slight varieties” was the descriptor used for most of these years.
As a collector of middle date cents, Frank Andrews was definitely my hero! His classification of these coins made identifying them possible, thus making them more collectible to me. When I first started looking at late date cents, he became an even bigger hero. Imagine, classifying these cents, where die diagnostics are sometimes difficult to distinguish, even on unworn coins with a loupe. To top it all off, Andrews’ work stood as the standard for collecting middle and late date cents for more than 60 years, until Howard Newcomb’s United States Copper Cents 1816-1857, was published in 1944. Quite an achievement!
I like to know about my heroes, but my quest for information about Andrews did not begin until I bought an 1830 large cent in January 1997. The cent is a Newcomb 6 variety, with the “small letters” reverse. The most important thing about this cent is the identity of one of its prior owners, Frank D. Andrews, of Vineland, New Jersey. Andrews’ coin envelope accompanied the cent. I had a coin once owned by my hero!
I charged off in full gear, expecting to find information about Andrews fairly easily. But I discovered that information on Andrews was sparse. Pete Smith, in his Bibliography of Numismatics, gave year of birth (1847), year of death (1937) and the notation that Andrews had exhibited his cents at the 1912 ANA Convention. John Wright, in The Cent Book, added the fact that some of Andrews’ coin envelopes had been found, unused, in his home. George Ramont, another large cent collector, had an article in the September, 1974 Penny Wise describing his visit to the Vineland Historical Society, still in the building Frank Andrews built. The society, at that time, had a date set (minus the 1799 and 1804) of Andrews’ large cents.
Over the next 7 years, I was only able to add the fact that Andrews was a corresponding member of the ANS in 1902. That was it. I had run into a brick wall. Frustration turned to resignation. Maybe this was all the information available about Frank Andrews.
During the spring of 2004, my resignation retreated. I was in Washington D.C. working on a project at the Smithsonian Institution and, in April, had the opportunity to visit Vineland, NJ, where Andrews had lived. Surely some of my questions about Frank Andrews would be answered.
When I drove into town, my first stop was the public library, where none of the librarians recognized his name. Using their catalog, I discovered that Frank Andrews had been very active since the “coin” world last heard from him in 1912. Andrews, it seemed, was a cataloger at heart. When he finished cataloging large cents, he just found different areas to study and classify. He published at least 33 manuscripts from 1908 until 1934 on such topics as “The Tea-Burners of Cumberland County,” “Tombstone Inscriptions at Harwinton, Conn.,” and “History of the Post Office and Postmasters of Vineland, New Jersey.” A start, but I had really been hoping for more information
Then, I visited the Vineland Historical Society. I discovered that Frank Andrews’ memory was alive and living there! Frank Andrews was a long time member of the society. He was elected a trustee in 1888 and served as secretary and treasurer from 1890 until his death. He also printed the society publications, as well as many of his own monographs, on his own hand-operated printing press. The society still has the press and it is still in working condition.
There is a Frank Andrews room in the building. The room contains several pieces of antique furniture Andrews gave the society, his book shelves (none of the books dealt with large cents), his enormous ANS membership certificate, and a portrait of Andrews himself (see the start of this blog). Now, I knew what Frank Andrews looked like! But the best find was a copy of The Vineland Historical Magazine, dated January 1938. This issue contained three memorials to Frank Andrews and, in a real way, told the story of his life. My quest for information about my hero, Frank Andrews, was realized!
Today, Andrews would be considered a perfectionist, or perhaps a nerd. “His mind was scientific and his work accurate and carefully produced,” wrote a memorialist. “A man of upright character, and unfailing courtesy, he endeared himself to all who knew him.” Another noted, “He was happiest when alone with his books, his papers, and manuscripts, digging out a fact here and a fact there, fitting them together and making of them a whole.” His biggest wish was “living and doing research work in Washington on a much broader scale.”
Andrews was also a gentleman. “Kind and gentle always, I never in the twenty some odd years that I knew him once saw him ruffled nor angry,” wrote another memorialist “His courtliness of manners belonged, no doubt, to that age…of…Victoria. He assumed these manners naturally and graciously. To these virtues can be added his devotion to the Vineland Historical Society and to local research for these two constituted the actuating principle of his life.”
I also discovered a lot of facts about Frank DeWette Andrews. He was born in Southington, Connecticut on August 1, 1847. He was the third child of Bennet J. and Lavinia Frost Andrews. His father was a farmer and later quarried limestone. The family was well-to-do.
In his youth, Andrews collected coins, stamps, and, especially, Indian relics. His earliest education was in New Britain and he later attended the Hull English and Classical School in Hartford. Andrews later graduated from a business college there.
His first business venture was a partnership with a photographer in Hartford during the Civil War. Like many other photographic businesses, this one failed soon after the end of the war. Andrews then worked as a clerk in a tobacco shop, but found he was allergic to tobacco leaves.
His mother, who suffered from asthma, sought relief in Vineland, New Jersey in 1869. Andrews went with her. For the next decade, he spent his winters in Vineland and his summers in Hartford, where he owned property. He spent his time in Vineland studying topics he liked.
The first of these was the classification of middle and late date cents. We do not know when Andrews started collecting and classifying cents. Most of his cents were lower grade examples, perhaps pulled from circulation while he lived in Connecticut. But Andrews also circulated a want list and several dealer price lists from the 1880’s are still among his papers.
By early 1881, Andrews was ready to share his results. Andrews had 40 copies of An Arrangement of United States Copper Cents, 1816-1857 printed. He distributed them to friends and libraries. Andrews sent one copy to the ANS and was invited to join the society as a corresponding member in 1885. Another, the first public appearance of the work, appeared in W. Elliott Woodward’s 37th sale on April 8-9, 1881. Granted, there was probably some bad blood involved in this appearance, as Woodward and Froussard were constantly waging verbal battles. At any rate, Andrews’ monograph was a success. An updated second edition, with a printing of 275 copies, was made in 1883.
Andrews monograph was the only work available for the next 60 years. From the 1920’s into the 1940’s, it was reprinted by a number of coin dealers, including Lee F. Hewitt, Guttag Brothers, and B. Max Mehl. Apparently, 315 copies were not enough to satisfy demand.
At some point in time, Andrews’ interests turned to different topics. He was fascinated with early Vineland and Cumberland County history and wrote many monographs on the subject. Most of his work was very esoteric – like the listing of every land owner on a street, including when they took title to the property, how much it cost, and any improvements made upon it. Come to think of it, his classification of the middle and late date cents was pretty esoteric, especially to someone not interested in the topic.
Franks Andrews was a “do it” type of person. In the early 20th century, he took a job in the printing plant of the Vineland Evening Journal. His purpose was to learn the profession of printing. You see, Andrews has purchased an old army hand press and type. Starting in 1908, he used his equipment and skill to print all his own monographs (except for his large cent monographs, which had been printed earlier). Starting in 1916, he began the Vineland Historical Magazine, the journal of the Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society. Andrews was editor and printer of this magazine until his death. These monographs and the magazine are professionally done.
Andrews last numismatic appearance was at the 1912 ANA convention. His exhibit “was particularly interesting on account of embracing so many die varieties….including over four hundred different specimens.” He showed his coins in a joint display with Edgar H. Adams, who exhibited his pattern coins. Henry Hines and Howard Newcomb, who later owned many of Andrews’ cents, were also present. I wonder if a deal was struck at the convention.
Frank Andrews was also a religious man. He became a member of the First Unitarian Church of Vineland in 1869, soon after moving to town. He served the church at various times as president of the board of trustees, as treasurer, and as a Sunday school teacher. He was married twice, first to Kittie Gallup in 1878. The two met during one of Andrews’ trips to find fossils in upstate New York. She died in 1880 while giving birth. He married his second wife, Bessie Ayars, in 1890. She became interested in his work and wrote three monographs on the history of Greenwich, New Jersey. She died in 1921. No children survived from either marriage.
Frank Andrews suffered a short illness in early 1937 and passed away at the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia at 2:55 am on January 28, 1937. His funeral was held in the Frank Andrews room at the historical society and he was buried in Siloam Cemetery, Vineland on January 30. He left a sizable portion of his estate, including his house, to the Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society. The house was later sold by the society and torn down in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s. A parking lot stands in its place today.
Wow, that was everything I had hoped to learn about my super hero - Frank Andrews - and probably more. I now know what he looked like, what he did after he left numismatics, and have some understanding of what drove him to classify the middle and late date cents. He was a true collector, seeking cents (and other items) to study their similarities and differences. He is my hero, and now my hero has come to life.
And, yes, my spelling of Andrews’ middle name as “DeWette” is correct. This is how his name appears in the Vineland Historical Magazine, which he edited and published. In previous numismatic writings, Andrews’ name is given as either “Frank D. Andrews” or “Frank DeWitte Andrews.”
Andrews, Frank D., An Arrangement of United States Copper Cents, 1816-1857, 2nd
edition, Vineland, NJ: 1883.
Frossard, Ed., Monograph of United States cents and Half Cents Issued Between the
Years 1793 and 1857, Irvington, NY: Ed. Frossard, 1879.
The Numismatist, September 1912, p 318.
Ramont, George, “The Reivers and George Ramont Tour Frank D. Andrews’ Museum,”
Penny Wise, Vol. VIII, No. 5, September 15, 1974, pp. 212-213.
Smith, Pete, American Numismatic Biographies, Rocky River: Gold Leaf Press, 1992.
Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society, The Vineland Historical Magazine, Volume
XXIII, Number 1, January 1938 Vineland, NJ: 1938.
Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, College Edition,
NY: The World Publishing Company, 1966.
Woodward, W. Elliot, Thirty-Seventh Sale of Coins and Medals, April 8 and 9, 1881,
Boston: T.R. Marvin & Son, 1881, p 59.
Wright, John, The Cent Book, Bloomington, MN: Litho Technical Services, 1992.
Wright, John, correspondence, 6 June, 1997.