For the next few weeks, Liberty Coin Service in Lansing’s Frandor Shopping Center is exhibiting selections of an early Michigan history treasure trove. The documents on exhibit are letters signed by Michigan territorial and state governors and US Senators from 1805 up into the 20th Century.
Said LCS CEO and owner Tom Coulson, “This 60-piece collection of letters signed by Michigan’s territorial and state governors and US Senators contains nearly all of them from 1805 up into the early 20th Century. The previous owner spent decades assembling these historic documents. Many letters are on official government letterhead, including several signed as Michigan Governor or Senator. The collection begins with a letter signed by William Hull, who was Michigan’s first territorial governor from 1805 to 1813. During the War of 1812, Hull was commissioned as a Brigadier General in the US Army. He surrendered Fort Detroit to the British, for which he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death (but pardoned by President Madison in recognition of his service in the Revolutionary War). As you look at these letters, you get a much better grasp of the human side of early Michigan history than you would see in a history book.”
Coulson continued, “We have previously handled only a few documents signed by Michigan governors from the 19th Century. Most of the Michigan Governor documents we have handled over the years have been from Governor G. Mennen Williams (1949-1961) onward. Until now, we have not handled many documents of US Senators from Michigan. We are delighted to be able to share these treasures with the public.”
Among the documents on display in Liberty’s showroom are letters signed by:
- William Hull (1st Michigan territorial governor from 1805-1813, who previously served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Continental Army and as a Massachusetts State Senator),
- Lewis Cass (2ndMichigan territorial governor 1813-1831 and later US Secretary of War, Ambassador to France, US Senator, and US Secretary of State, namesake of Cass County and Cassopolis, Michigan),
- Stevens T. Mason (Michigan territorial secretary 1831-1835 often serving as acting territorial governor, Michigan territorial governor 1835-1837, first Michigan state governor 1837-1840, namesake of Mason County and Mason, Michigan),
- Epaphroditus Ransom (Michigan governor 1848-1850 after previously serving as a Vermont State Representative, as the Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice, and later as Michigan State Representative),
- Austin Blair (Michigan governor 1861-1865 who previously served in the Michigan House of Representative and State Senate, Platform Committee Chairman at the 1854 Jackson, Michigan founding convention of the Republican Party, and later as a US Congressman),
- Henry H. Crapo (Michigan governor 1865-1869 who had served in the State Senate and as mayor of Flint, grandfather of General Motors founder William Crapo Durant),
- Charles Croswell (Michigan governor 1877-1881 (during which the current Michigan State Capitol was completed and occupied) who had previously served as secretary of the 1854 Jackson, Michigan founding convention of the Republican Party, as mayor of Adrian, as State Senator, as presiding officer of the 1867 Michigan Constitutional Convention, as State Representative, and a one-time law partner with Thomas M. Cooley, namesake of Croswell, Michigan),
- Russell Alger (Michigan governor 1885-1887, who previously was a Union colonel in the Civil War, and later a US Secretary of War and US Senator, namesake of Alger County and Alger, Michigan),
- Hazen S. Pingree (Michigan governor 1897-1901, after serving as mayor of Detroit, and during the Civil War was present at Appomattox Court House when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered), and
- Woodbridge Ferris (Michigan governor 1913-1917 who previously founded Big Rapids Industrial School in 1884 (the forerunner of Ferris State University), later became a US Senator and was a 1924 Democrat presidential nominee contender).
Visitors can make an appointment to examine other letters in this collection. Teachers are welcome to contact the company about possible educational activities.
This Michigan history treasure trove surfaced in western Michigan along with a coin collection. The dealer to whom it was offered brought it to Liberty so that its staff experienced in historical documents could authenticate and evaluate the items for Liberty to make a fair offer to purchase the collection. The transaction was completed in late 2019.
After exhibiting parts of this collection in 2020, Liberty Coin Service has agreed in principle to sell it intact to a major Michigan history buff. In the meantime, the public is welcome to enjoy this opportunity to view a fascinating part of early Michigan history.
Frequently-honored Liberty Coin Service, founded in 1971, is Michigan’s largest rare coin and precious metals dealership. Liberty Coins, as it is known locally, has been located in Lansing’s Frandor Shopping Center since 1975. During its history, it has handled multiple documents signed by all of the first seven and several other US presidents, as well as British King George III, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Albert Einstein.