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Stack’s Bowers to Offer 1864 Boston Masonic Lodge Seated Liberty Half Dollar

Stack's Bowers to Offer 1864 Boston Masonic Lodge Seated Liberty Half Dollar. Image: Stack's Bowers

By Chris BulfinchNumismatist, Stack’s Bowers ……

On April 5, 1864, a fire destroyed the Boston Masonic Lodge known as Winthrop House, causing significant loss, including a number of silver ceremonial implements. The silver from these implements was recovered in the days after the fire and sent to the Philadelphia Mint to be coined into half dollars, which were in turn sold for $1 each to raise funds for the temple’s reconstruction. Each of the handful of known pieces is engraved to an individual person.

Stack’s Bowers Galleries is excited to offer one of these unique pieces of Boston Masonic history, a coin with an improbable story, in its August 2024 Showcase Auction.

At the time we last auctioned an 1864 Boston Masonic Lodge half dollar, in spring 2022, roughly eight were known. Some experts on Masonic history think there are likely more, but at time of writing, nine are known (including this example). Expert consensus holds that the engraving was done outside of the Mint, likely by a silversmith or jeweler in the city.

The coin was engraved to William Bogle, a Brother at the Masonic Temple that provided the silver. He emigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1840, settling in Boston, later North Malden, and establishing a hairdressing and wig making business on Washington Street in downtown Boston. He made his fortune selling hair care products of different kinds. He joined the Freemasons at the Lodge of St. Andrew in Boston in 1849 and was a charter member of the Wyoming Lodge, which was established in Melrose, Massachusetts in 1856.

Bogle was a member of other Boston fraternal organizations, including the Scots Charitable Society and the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts. Some historical sources credit him with suggesting the name of Melrose, Massachusetts (formerly North Malden).

He died in 1891. The Boston Post ran an obituary that described him as “godfather of Melrose” and offered this: “In his early years he took quite a lively interest in local affairs of the town and was prominent in its town meetings but alwa[y]s declined any public office.”

The consignor reports that they received this coin in change at a fast food restaurant decades ago. Owing to its unusual design, they kept it and presented it to a numismatist last year.

Our cataloger’s assessment of the Masonic half dollar’s appearance:

“Beautifully and naturally retoned surfaces are dressed in warm dove and pewter gray shades. Hand-engraved with great skill in the left obverse field to WM. BOGLE, and with BOSTON / ENCAMPMENT in the right field. The reverse is similarly engraved around the central device, TAKEN FROM THE RUINS OF MASONIC TEMPLE / APRIL 6”, 1864.”

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