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    Harris, Marchand & Co. Gold Ingot, 17.48 Ounces
    S.S. Central America

    Harris, Marchand & Co. Gold Ingot. 17.48 Ounces. CABG-126. The town of Herndon, Virginia is situated about 25 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. in Fairfax County. It was first settled in the early 19th century, with the construction of a mill on a stream that travels north-south along the eastern edge of the village. The building of the railroad during the 1850s, including the establishment of a rail depot in 1857, spurred the village's first real population boom. Accordingly, community members decided that year that the previously unnamed town should be called something. They agreed on Herndon in memory of Captain William Lewis Herndon, commander of the S.S. Central America.

    Captain Herndon was a U.S. Navy veteran with 29 years of experience "in the Mexican War and the Second Seminole War, in the Atlantic and the Pacific, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean Sea. He knew sailing ships and steamers and had handled both in all weather," according to Gary Kinder's Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea. Herndon was also an explorer, having spent a year travelling through the Amazon Valley from Lima, Peru to Para, Brazil in 1851-52, vividly cataloging the details of his trip in a best-selling report, Explorations of the Valley of the Amazon. Unfortunately, William Herndon is most widely recognized today for being at the helm of the ill-fated Central America, which sank off the coast of the Carolinas in September 1857.

    By all accounts Herndon was a hero, bravely and resolutely guiding women and children toward the life boats as crew members and male passengers bailed water through the night. According to Ann Small, a passenger:

    "Capt. Herndon remained self-possessed, calm and firm throughout. I shall forever think of him with gratitude. I am not surprised to hear that he is among the lost, because I knew by his appearance when I parted from him that he would be the last man to leave the ship."

    According to a 2016 article in the Herndon Patch, the town's local circular, "Remembering Herndon's History: Why Commander Herndon was a Hero," Superintendent of the U.S. National Observatory, Lieutenant Matthew Fontaine Maury (and Captain Herndon's cousin) explained in a report to the Secretary of the Navy on the sinking of the S.S. Central America:

    "The law requires every Commander in the Navy to show himself a good example of virtue and patriotism; and never was example more nobly set or beautifully followed. Captain Herndon, by these noble traits which have so endeared his memory to the hearts of his countrymen, and won the respect and admiration of the crew and passengers of that ship in such a degree as to acquire an influence over them that was marvelous in its effects."

    In handling the extraordinary treasures preserved amid the wreckage of the S.S. Central America, like this gold ingot by the celebrated firm of Harris, Marchand & Co., we should always keep in mind the individual experiences that make the story so tragic, but also so compelling and historically significant.

    The firm of Harris, Marchand was the only firm in Gold Rush California to use a coin-like hallmark on their ingots. This small to medium-sized ingot is nearly square with all the inscriptions on the top face. That side is laid out: No 6508 / curved H&M logo / circular H&M coin-like hallmark / 17.48 OZ. / 885. FINE / $319.78. Most of the surfaces are yellow-gold, except for a patch of iron ore rust from the ship's hull that still adheres to the lower portion of the back side and tiny portions of rust seen on the lower-left corner. The ingot measures: 40 x 50 x 12 mm.
    From The Marcello Collection, Part V.

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The Marcello Collection, Part V ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    March, 2019
    14th-16th Thursday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 30
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,608

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