STEAMSHIP GREAT EASTERN TOKENS
These tokens seem to be another case of George H. Lovett
capitalizing on an historic occasion to produce pieces he could
sell to the public. The obverse die seems hastily cut with rather
blurred details as if he was in a hurry to produce it. The legend
on the first reverse die indicates these were sold on board the
ship; were these commissioned by a vendor on board or did
George H. contract to sell them on the ship? The second reverse
celebrates the arrival of the ship into New York on June 28, 1860.
Each combination is found in white metal, copper, and brass. The obverse die is found muled with the Antiquary die that was used on the storecards of John K Curtis; these are also found in white metal, copper, and brass. The reverse dies are not found muled with any other dies.
Purchased on Board Token
NY 2054, white metal, 32mm
NY 2054A, copper, 32mm
NY 2054B, brass, 32mm
Arrived At New York Token
NY 2053, white metal, 32mm
NY 2053A, copper, 32mm
NY 2053B, brass, 32mm
The S.S. Great Eastern when launched on January 31, 1858 was the largest ship the world had ever seen. Originally christened Leviathan on November 3,1857 she took 3 months to actually launch because of constant problems and by the time she was afloat she was known as the Great Eastern. More problems plagued
the ship as she sailed the waters around England but finally on June 17, 1860 (the original date was the June 16 but the crew was drunk!) she set sail for America. The voyage took 10 days, 19 hours.
"On her maiden voyage from England to New York, the Great Eastern was sighted off Sandy Hook on June 27th 1860. After waiting for the high tide at noon, she sailed into the harbor on June 28th and moored at the Hammond Street quay, with every vantage point along the route thronged with spectators. At 9am on July 3rd visitors were allowed on board at a dollar a head. Thousands came to look at the great ship, but only 1,700 paid the charge on the first day. After a week, admission was reduced to fifty cents for the remaining three weeks of the ship's stay in New York; a total of 143,764 visitors toured the ship.New York's vendors and showmen took full advantage of the crowds. On land, there were shooting galleries, menageries, refreshment booths offering Great Eastern beer, Great Eastern lozenges and even iced lemonade at one cent per glass "made from lemons grown on board the big ship", along with souvenirs of every description. On board, the ship's directors, always looking for revenue to defray the huge cost of running the Great Eastern, opened a large bar, an artist sold seashells engraved with the ship's picture and detailed statistics, and there were no doubt other vendors.
Somewhere in the middle of this was George Lovett, who must have hastened into action as soon as the Great Eastern's arrival was announced; his "Arrived at New York" tokens bear the June 28th date. Sadly, there are no documented records of token sales, and we do not know if the "Purchased on Board" tokens were sold directly by Lovett under concession from the Great Eastern's directors, or were perhaps supplied by him to the company or to on-board vendors."
Commentary provided by Bill Burns, "History of the Atlantic Cable and Submarine Technology" website author.
The S.S. Great Eastern
For more information on the S.S. Great Eastern, and its part
in the laying of the Atlantic Cable, see the website "History
Great Eastern / Antiquary mules
NY 187, white metal - silvered?, 31.3mm
NY 188, brass, 31.25mm
NY 189, copper, 31.2mm