Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, December 10, 2017, pg. 16
During this past summer while construction crews were tearing up Superior St. during the daytime as part of the brick street project, there was another operation going on during the evening hours after they left. A small handful of dedicated metal detectorists were scouring the streetscape and sidewalk areas looking for objects that hadn't see the light of day since the road was first paved in 1903. The result was a potpourri of various items indicative of 19th century life in pioneer Albion. This week I'd like to highlight several of the items that were found and relate it to Albion's history.
Items recovered included U.S. large cents (1848 illustrated here), Indian head cents, 2¢ pieces, 3¢ pieces called "trimes,"Shield nickels, "V"nickels, Liberty Seated dimes and quarters; Barber dimes, quarters and halves, and similar coins one might use in ordinary commerce during the 19th century.
A good number of them were found in front of the west side of the 300 block of S. Superior St. This was Albion's 19th century "banking block."Located here at various times were the following banks: National Exchange Bank of Albion, James Peabody Bank, James W. Sheldon Bank, Hannah's Exchange and Banking Office, Mayhew & Irwin Exchange Bank, and the Albion State Bank. It is not surprising that someone coming in or out of a financial institution might have dropped a coin or two getting in or out of their buggy, or while counting their change.
Most interesting were the variety of Civil War tokens that were uncovered. During that War there was a coin shortage as people hoarded metal, including coins. Local merchants, including two here in Albion, issued their own "pennies"dated 1863 that they handed out as change. Both examples of Albion's Civil War tokens were uncovered (Comstock Brothers druggists token illustrated here) as well as some from Jackson, Detroit, and Parma. There were several generic "Patriotic"ones that were also uncovered.
Albion was a village of immigrants coming for a new life here during the mid-1800s. One prominent ethnic group was the Germans, many of whom arrived in the 1850s. Found under Superior St. in front of the Bohm Theatre was a Prussian postal worker button used from 1845 to 1860, illustrated here. These were produced in Berlin by the button manufacturer Gebruder Poesch. The obverse depicts a crowned eagle which holds a trumpet in the clutches. On the reverse is inscribed, "POESCH, BERLIN."
One surprising item that was uncovered in May was a counterfeit (yes, that's right) Bust half dollar dated 1828 with a hole in it. Counterfeit halves were prominent back then, and merchants had to "watch out"for them. The one found in front of Cascarelli's. (illustrated here) is the second-known with this particular die-variety. Why, there even is a Contemporary Counterfeit Capped Bust Half Collectors Club in existence, and their May, 2017 newsletter includes an article about this find.
The oldest U.S. coin found was an 1804 U.S. half-cent, illustrated here. Back in those days people didn't collect coins, and so they circulated as long as they could be identified. 1804 was thirty years before Albion was even settled! It was found on the west side of S. Superior St. just north of Erie St. when workers were scraping the road bed to prep it for the pouring of concrete.
The oldest coin found this year occurred late in the brick street project, in early November in front of the Shell station on N. Superior St. Old photos show an entranceway here to the old Albion Hotel that once existed on the site. It was in front of that that a detectorist found several U.S. Large cents. Apparently, this was drop-off and pick-up point for hotel guests. To his amazement a detectorist unearthed a very, very worn British half-penny minted from 1720 to 1754 during the reign of King George II! (illustrated here, date worn off) What was this 18th century coin doing in Albion? During the early 19th century, foreign money could still be used as legal tender in our country, and obviously, this coin circulated its way to our town via someone who was staying at the hotel.
There were other metallic items found, such as parts to kerosene lanterns, hinges, pieces of iron bits, and lots and lots of nails. Pieces of dishware containing decorative designs were also uncovered. The construction workers themselves unearthed charred wooden beams, indicating a building fire at some point in time. There were lots of charred coal ashes, meaning merchants would throw them in the street in front of their establishment when cleaning out their furnaces. Oh, the wooden telephone conduit is still buried there in front of the Ludington Center.
Finally, yours truly found a couple of pieces of leather unearthed in front of the new Courtyard by Marriott Hotel that is being construction on the corner of S. Superior and W. Center Sts. This was once the site of Marvin and George Hannah's leather store in the "Hannah's Block"as it was called, 1840s to 1860s. From our Historical Notebook this week we illustrate the worn-out leather shoe sole I found there in a pile of unearthed dirt. This just goes to show folks, that Albion's "got sole."Special thanks to Kerry Schaller, Rob Knolle, and Ron Jenner for their input and cooperation this year in documenting this year's historical "dig."
1) Detected 1843 Large Cent Nov. 6
2) Detected Comstock Brother stoken
3) Detected Prussian Button OBVERSE
4) Detected Prussian Button REVERSE
5) Detected 1828 Counterfeit Half dollar
6) Detected 1804 Half Cent
7) Detected British Half-Penny
8) Detected Sole
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