George Washington Capron was born in Kentucky about 1805. In 1826 he moved to Natchez, Miss., where he wed Elizabeth Perry, niece of Commodore Perry. The family moved into the Republic of Texas about 1840 to Houston.
Both the 1850 and 1860 U.S. census records show him as a Houston jeweler, but the typical spoon-shank stamps appearing on coins show that he was a silversmith as well.
He applied his stamp to U.S. half cents (one piece known); Seated Liberty dimes (eight specimens reported); Seated Liberty quarters (seven pieces known), and Seated Liberty half dollars (five known pieces). All the stamps, of the relief-within-rectangular depression type typical of silversmith hallmarks, are carefully placed.
Their care in application, and the fact that 21 coins are so marked, suggest that Capron used these pieces for advertising. Probably most of Capron?s silver article output and other counterstamped coins were melted for the Confederate cause. Still, a spoon or pocket watch may turn up in the antique world.
A number of the counterstamped silver coins bear the ?O? mintmark for New Orleans. Dates on the coins range from 1809 through 1861-O. Here we get the clue that all probably were stamped in 1861.
Capron was a justice of the peace in Houston through November 1861 and he disappears from records after that. At age 56 he would have been an officer in the Confederate army or the Texas militia.
Records show he was a large landowner (3,314 acres in August 1846) and a Mason (Holland Lodge 6060 in Houston). His last judgment as a JP came in November 1861.
The Capron stamps have been known for many years, but until July 2007 they were considered mavericks (origin unknown). Army Reserve Major Michael McAllister of Maryland, an excellent researcher, dug out the Capron facts after he had acquired an 1853-O quarter on eBay. Mike then reported this to me in between active duty tours in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The stamps all read: G.W. CAPRON in relief. The few other G.W. Caprons in census data had professions not needing a stamp, for example boatman and farmer.
Gregory Brunk in 2003 published some of them as probable Southern mavericks and I did the same with more pieces in 2004.
George Fuld of Maryland, the ?father of Civil War token collecting,? is the best living authority on that question. Today the Civil War Token Society has taken over that function in their catalogs.
When I do consult with CWTS on the Capron counterstamps, they?ll take their time researching further before they reach any decision. Meanwhile, I have assigned temporary CWT # 695A-1a to the Capron half dollars. Rarity rating R-8.
Other counterstamped coins have been listed in the CWTS catalogs only after rigorous inquiry.
Most collectors think only of the copper or brass 19-20mm private issues as real circulating tokens for one cent. Dates of issue for CWTs must be 1861-1865. Capron?s last recorded JP case came in November 1861, well after Texas seceded from the Union.
The value, and the price, of these potential CWTs could jump immediately from the present $100 or so, to $2,000 or more each, based on recent auction sales of known CWT rarities.
As it happens, Capron became famous in Texas history. He was part of the Miers expedition into Mexico, and part of 1842?s ?Black Bean? incident. The entire force was captured by Mexicans, who placed both black and white beans in a sack and forced the men to draw one sight unseen. The black bean meant execution, a white one imprisonment,
Capron drew a black one. His longtime buddy who?d drawn a white exchanged with Capron as he had a wife and family and the buddy was single.
Soldiers with white beans were forced into a death march through arid lands and eventually placed in a prison, from which only a few Texans escaped and returned home. George W. Capron was one
Brunk, Gregory G., Merchant and Privately Countermarked Coins. (Rockford, IL, 2003)
McAllister, Michael R., Point of Rocks, Md., private correspondence.
Rulau, Russell, Standard Catalog of U.S. Tokens 1700-1900. (Iola, WI, 2004)
Sons of the Republic of Texas listing.
Texas Land Title Abstracts.
Texas tax list index, 1840-1849.
United States Federal Census, for years 1850 and 1860.
Worldwide Masonic Directory, 1860.