CWTS Article of the Month!

Winter 2016

"My First Sulter Token"

by Cole Hendrickson

The 2016 American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money was held in Anaheim California in August which I attended as a new Youth Member of the Civil War Token Society. While there I met a lot of amazing people and also obtained some fantastic pieces for my collection. I arrived the first day on Tuesday afternoon and was able to get the feel of the bourse floor as this was my first major coin show. I attended the Pacific Northwest Numismatic Association Spring Show in April, but I knew that this was the big leagues. On Wednesday, I met Susan Trask who has been so friendly and encouraging in my pursuit of numismatics. On Thursday, I was fortunate to be able to sit with Q. David Bowers and Kenneth Bressett during their autograph session which was sponsored by Whitman Publishing. It was an amazing experience to be able to spend time with two people who have made countless contributions to the hobby. The majority of the books I have in my small but growing numismatic library were either written by or contributed to by these two icons. Even with their numismatic fame, they were some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I have ever met. After the signing I attended the educational Money talk that Susan Trask and Dave Bowers were presenting on Sutler tokens. The presentation was amazing and enlightened me in the fantastic world of Sutler tokens.

The next day, inspired by the presentation, I visited Steve Hayden’s booth to look at the Sutler tokens he had for sale. I had already bought a few Civil War tokens from him, but the informative presentation I attended the previous day made me want a Sutler token for my collection. After looking through the box of Sutler tokens I found one in particular that caught my eye. It was issued for Sutler Harvey Lewis of the Massachusetts 23rd regiment and was good for 50 cents in goods. It was in great condition and I instantly fell in love with it. I now had my first ever Sutler token and was eager to research its history!

Since acquiring this item I have researched this token extensively. During the American Civil War, a Sutler, an individual who served as a civilian merchant for a specific regiment in the army, would travel with the regiment to sell supplies to the soldiers and usually were based out of a wagon or a tent. This token, which is listed as Schenkman-MA-B50C, was made for Harvey Lewis who was the Sutler for the Massachusetts 23rd Regiment during the Civil War.

The words “Merriam” and “Boston” appear on the reverse of the token which gives insight into who created this token for Harvey Lewis. Joseph H. Merriam, who was based out of Boston, Massachusetts, was the leading die sinker in Boston during the 1800s. He began his business in 1850 but did not appear in the Boston directory until 1854 where he appeared as “Merriam, Joseph H., seal presses, brands and seals, rear 147 1/2 Washington”. He later appeared in 1856 at 37 Faneuil Hall Square where he is partnered with his brother John C. Merriam to form Merriam Brothers. A year later he was listed without his brother at 18 Brattle Square where he remained until he disappears from the directories in 1865. His brother (John C. Merriam) takes his place in the directories from 1865 to 1868. Joseph strangely reappears in the 1869 and 1870 Boston directories. 1870 is the last year he is in business since a new company is listed in the 1871 directory at 18 Brattle Square. Joseph died sometime in the early 1880s and was buried in Providence, Rhode Island. Merriam was a mysterious man with not much known about his personal life and his disappearance from the Boston directory adds to the mystery.

The 23rd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was composed of ten companies with six companies coming from Essex County and one company each coming from Bristol County, Plymouth County, Middlesex County, and Worcester County. The ten companies gathered to form the regiment on September 28, 1861 in Lynnfield, Massachusetts. A total of 1,761 men and officers would serve in the unit. On November 11, 1861 the Regiment left for Annapolis, Maryland where they set up Camp and stayed until January 6, 1862. The Regiment then left Annapolis for North Carolina, where they took part on February 8, 1862 in their first battle, the Battle of Roanoke Island. The Regiment would eventually take part in 12 Battles in the approximately 45 months that the unit was in service. The 12 battles took place in many different locations in North Carolina and Virginia. The Massachusetts 23rd Regiment fought its last battle on March 8, 1865 in the Battle of Wyse’s Fork. The unit was decommissioned on June 25, 1865 in New Bern, North Carolina and the soldiers received their discharge and final pay when they arrived on July 5th in Readville, Massachusetts. In total the regiment lost 218 soldiers with 80 men and 4 officers being killed or fatally wounded and 132 men and 2 officers dying from disease.

Harvey Lewis’s tokens were made in four different denominations: 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents. The tokens were made using a unique technique that enabled the diesinker to produce one obverse and reverse die to be used for all the denominations. This was done by using modular dies which allowed the die sinker to change the denomination by adding an insert to the reverse die. In other words, there was a circular hole in the reverse die which allowed anyone to put in a circular die that contained the denomination.

My first Sutler token will always be special to me because of acquiring it at my first ever ANA World’s Fair of Money and it marked the beginning of my membership in the CWTS. I enjoyed the entire process of writing this article, from acquiring the specimen to the completion of this article. After researching this Sutler token, my love and appreciation for tokens has increased exponentially. I am confident that this Sutler token is going to be the first of many in my collection.

I would like to thank the following individuals for their support, contributions, and encouragement: Susan Trask, Q. David Bowers, Kenneth Bressett, and Steve Hayden.

Schenkman, David E. "Joseph H. Merriam Die Sinker." The Numismatist (April 1980).

United States. National Park Service. "Battle Unit Details." National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, Web. 08 Oct. 2016.
Fuld, George and Melvin. U.S. Civil War Store Cards. 3rd ed. Civil War Token Society, Print.

Bowers, Q. David. A Guide Book of Civil War Tokens. 2nd ed. Whitman, Print.
CWTS Article Archive
Winter 2016 A Reminiscence
Winter 2016 My First Sulter Token
Spring 2016 Protesting Union Civil War Policies
Winter 2015 Slave Owner Issued Civil War Tokens
Fall 2014 Hill the Barber & African American Store Card Issuers
Fall 2014 Gustavus Lindenmueller: The Myth, The Man, The Mystery
Apr. 2004 Henry Varwig - OH165GD
Mar. 2004 Dating Mr. Sayre's Tokens
Feb. 2000 Knowledge of Civil War Tokens
Jan. 2000 Ohio 710A
Dec. 1999 Speculations About Yankee Robinson
Nov. 1999 Hussey's Private Message Post
Oct. 1999 The Great Central Fair
Sep. 1999 Wm. S. Wilcox of Adrian, Michigan
Aug. 1999 Grading Isn't Really a Monster
July 1999 The 1860 Presidential Campaign Medalets
June 1999 The Other Store Cards of Central New York
May 1999 George McClellan - The Peace Maker?
Apr. 1999 Sutler Tokens at Gettysburg
Mar. 1999 More on the Monitor and Merrimac
Feb. 1999 Civil War Token Mini-Set -- General Franz Sigel
Jan. 1999 Die Sinker Errors on Civil War Tokens
Dec. 1998 The Abraham Lincoln Mini-set
Nov. 1998 Civil War Token Errors
Articles reprinted with permission of The Civil War Token Society.
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