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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (08/2013) AMP (06/2013) AMP (10/2013)   Vol. 47 August 2013 
Ask Mark Parker!
As seen in the August 2013 edition of W&ET Magazine


Question This fob or tag found in the Montgomery, Alabama area is marked "MONTY OM CO 206 EX. HOTELH." Just beneath the slot at the top is "E. HOOLE N. Y." Can you identify it?

Jerry DeLancey
Central Alabama Artifact Soc.
Montgomery, AL

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Answer This one literally has history written all over it! MONTY OM CO is an abbreviation of Montgomery Omnibus Company; so, what you've got is a baggage tag. EX. HOTEL is, of course, the city's famed Exchange Hotel, which also housed government offices when Montgomery was the capital of the Confederacy. The maker's mark is that of Edmund Hoole, New York. (For more information about this 19th century tag manufacturer, check out Scott Czaja's excellent website, At least as early as 1852, and likely before that, the Montgomery Omnibus Company conveyed passengers and baggage to and from trains, steamboats, hotels, businesses, and residences at a flat rate of 25¢ per seat or item. A period ad states, "They have on each train a baggage agent... who in exchange for railroad checks [tags] will give passengers an omnibus check, securing the prompt delivery of baggage." The last listing that I could find for the company is in Hill & Swayze's Confederate States Rail-Road & Steam-Boat Guide (1861). Rail and river traffic suffered a major blow when Union troops captured Montgomery in April 1865, burning five steamboats and all the railroad cars. Obviously, that would have effectively shut down the omnibus service, even if it had been allowed to continue operating, and the name Montgomery Omnibus Company does not appear in any postwar city directories. So, it seems safe to assume that the tag was supplied by Hoole sometime prior to 1861, and could therefore have seen Civil War usage. It's not unusual for Confederate states railroad and steamboat tags to bring hundreds of dollars, and I would certainly expect your omnibus tag to do the same.

Sincere thanks to James Fuller and the Montgomery County Historical Society.


Question I was relic hunting near Mobile, AL when I dug this 3" brass tag reading "STEAMER SOUTHERN REPUBLIC No 29." The back is blank. I have searched the internet, but found very little about this steamer. Can you tell me what the tag might have been used for, and a possible value? Also, any info on the steamer itself would be appreciated.

Steve Fuller
Mobile, AL

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Answer Stop the presses! This month's column was ready to roll when your e-mail came in, but the story of your find's interwoven with that of the one from Montgomery; and price-wise, it's right up there in the same triple-digit territory. So, there's no way we're waiting another issue to feature it as well. It's evidently a cabin key tag from the riverboat Southern Republic, listed in Woolridge's Names of Steamboats as a side-wheeler dating from 1861. Sources describe her as a double-decker, one of seven first-class steamboats operated by Cox, Brainard & Co., providing daily service between Mobile and Montgomery. She's listed in the Hill & Swayze Guide cited above as, "SOUTHERN REPUBLIC... Captain MAYER"; however, other publications, histories, and contemporary correspondence refer instead to a Captain Meagher, Meaher, Meers, or Lieutenant Commanding Julian Myers, P.N.C.S. [Provisional Navy of the Confederate States]. Given the similarity of surnames, it seems probable that some, if not all, of these were in fact the same individual. During the war, the Southern Republic served not only as a civilian vessel but also transported military supplies, troops, and in some cases prisoners. In 1864, she was chosen to tow the CSS Tennessee 150 miles down the Alabama River from Selma, where the new ironclad ram had been built, to Mobile for final outfitting. During the week-long journey, the Southern Republic's calliope proudly piped "Dixie" to cheering crowds at towns along the way. Dark waters lay ahead, however, and the following year she was captured, commandeered for Union use, and eventually auctioned off, the Southern in her name thereafter only a memory.


Question This hand-engraved gold medal is about the size of a silver dollar. It has been tested and is at least 18K. The reverse is much the same, with the exception of some small marks, possibly hallmarks, on the bow. Anything that you can tell me about it would be greatly appreciated.

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Answer When it comes to Oriental items, it's rarely a good idea to come to me! Fortunately, in this instance we're able to rely on the expertise of Bruce Smith, a specialist in Chinese history and numismatics. His research, complemented by contributions from (a database on Oriental coins), reveals this to be a medal commemorating the return to Seremban, in southwest Malaysia, of one Pastor Jones (Thomas R. Jones, Wilmington, North Carolina). The first American missionary there, and the first head of a school attached to the Methodist Episcopal Church in Seremban, Jones served in 1916-17, and again in 1921-23. The medal may date from his return in 1921, or from some subsequent visit, perhaps after his retirement. While undeniably rare, if not unique, it would appeal to a rather narrow range of collectors; nevertheless, given today's astronomical gold prices, it has plenty of intrinsic value. Recently, 18K gold has sold for over $1,050/oz.


Question This object, now in three parts, was found in a fire pit, along with two horseshoes, at an old stagecoach stop in New Mexico. On the back of one piece are straps that would fit on a belt. There are no markings that I can see. What is it?

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Answer Your relic's the remains of a Civil War period Kittredge cartridge box. Here's an intact example for comparison:

Privately purchased, these were used to hold .44 ammo for Henry rifles, as an alternative to often-cumbersome leather cartridge boxes with wooden blocks inside. One of their unique features was a self-closing lid, attached to a spring on the back. Actually, they were originally designed by Augustus Bennett as accessories for a Henry competitor, the Wesson .44 rifle, but quickly caught on with Henry users, too. Wesson's main agent was B. Kittredge & Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio, and thus many of the boxes' lids are marked with that company's name and "Patented Jan. 27. 1863. Reissued Apl. 14. 63." Now for the usual good news / bad news. Nondug and problem-free, a Kittredge box can bring $1,500-2,000. As is, this one's probably closer to $150-200, but it's still a rare find that deserves proud display.


Question This 1" aluminum token says, "W. E. Cathey & Co. Burns, Tenn." on one side, and "Good for 25¢ in Merchandise" on the other. What's the history behind it, and what's worth?

Gino Giordano
Burns, TN

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Answer W. E. Cathey & Co. of Burns, Tennessee operated a barrel stave mill in the early 1900s. Cathey's partner in the venture was J. J. Burns. The earliest reference that I can find for the company is dated 1904, when they purchased a large tract of timber land, planning to erect a sawmill and axe handle factory.. In November 1909, the Lumber Trade Journal reported that, "W. E. Cathey, Burns, Tenn., will establish [a] handle and heading factory and sawmill." ("Heading" refers to the manufacture of barrel heads.) The company went bankrupt in 1911, and in 1912 the mill property was purchased by J. E. Gibbs of White Bluffs, Tennessee. So, your token is a little over 100 years old and would have been issued for use by mill workers at a company store. It doesn't seem to be listed anywhere, although a 5¢ token from the same company has been reported. As for value, it all depends on the dealer or collector. One told W&ET that he'd tag it at no more than $5-10, due to condition. Another replied that he'd consider $50-100 conservative, despite its defects, simply because it's a previously unknown lumber token. Take your pick... as if I had to guess which!


Question I found this 4-1/2" pewter (?) flask by a pile of rocks on my property in midcoast Maine. On the front the word 'ONLY' is engraved above a soaring bird; and on the back, the initials F. H. L." The screw cap has a chain attached. Any idea on the age and value?

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Answer It's a late 19th century pocket flask. The distinctive pinions and plumage of the bird identify it as a swallow, and the combined embossing and engraving offer a reminder that to lift his spirits, owner F. H. L. need "only swallow." Of course, it can also be read as a message of moderation: "Only one swallow." There are similar flasks displaying three or four birds, with the words "Just a few" or "Several" [swallows]. In pewter or silverplate, most are under $100; in solid silver, often $300-400+.


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