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    Description

    Henry Hentsch Very Large Size Gold Ingot
    176.25 Ounces, Ex:
    S.S. Central America

    Henry Hentsch Gold Ingot. 176.25 Ounces. CABG-223. More than 80% of the gold ingots bought up during the first recovery period for the S.S. Central America comprised bars produced by two makers: Kellogg & Humbert and Justh & Hunter. Small quantities of gold ingots by Harris, Marchand, & Company and Blake & Company were also found, but the fewest bars salvaged from the famed sidewheel steamer were produced by Swiss-born banker and assayer Henry Hentsch.

    Considering his apparent prominence in Gold Rush-era California and his esteemed lineage (his grandfather, Henri Hentsch, founded the eponymous banking institution in 1796 that remains operational to this day), it is surprising that more is not known about the entrepreneurial young man who left the creature comforts of a wealthy European family for the harsh, rough-and-tumble lifestyle of the American West.

    We do know he was born Henri Jean Alexis Hentsch on July 23, 1818 in Geneva to Charles Jean Ernest Hentsch and Catherine Marie Louise Chevrier, who were married in 1811. In his early 20s, Henry worked as a banker before entering the Swiss military as a fusilier in the Conseil de Discipline during the mid-1840s.

    Less than a decade later, in January 1854, Hentsch left for New York en route to Panama and eventually San Francisco, where he arrived on May 31 on the newly minted Sonora. (Coincidentally, this was the same ship that would eventually carry 33 of his gold bars to Panama in August 1857, where they were transferred to the S.S. Central America before perishing.) Henry Hentsch quickly set up a bank, and in February 1856 added an assay office. Three years later he was appointed Swiss Consul in San Francisco, a position he held through 1867.

    Hentsch formed a partnership with his former cashier and fellow Swiss national Francis Berton in 1863, opening Hentsch & Berton at the southwest corner of Clay and Leidesdorff streets. According to Dan Owens' California Coiners and Assayers:

    "The firm of Hentsch & Berton became the San Francisco branch office of the Swiss-American Bank on January 20, 1873. Hentsch, who had previously relocated to Switzerland [in 1868], presided over the bank at the home office in Geneva. Berton worked as a director and manager for the San Francisco branch office."



    The Swiss-American Bank was dissolved in 1877, and Francis Berton died in 1885. Henry Hentsch lived in Geneva until his death in 1905 at the age of 87. Today, all objects relating to his banking and assaying career in San Francisco, including checks and these ingots, are rare and highly sought-after by collectors. This is a Very Large Size ingot that measures 57 x 157 x 33 mm. The imprints are all located on the top side and are well-spaced: No 3213 / 894 FINE / Hy HENTSCH / Oz 176.25 / $3257.20. The left margin of the top side and the entire long left side is patinated, most likely from the effects of the rusted iron hull of the ship. The surfaces are remarkably clean with almost no abrasions or surface flaws of any sort.
    From The Marcello Collection, Part IX.


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

    View all of [The Marcello Collection, Part IX ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2019
    5th-8th Thursday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,400

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