Being one of the earliest tokens on record for the State of South Carolina, during the 1850’s Bernard S. Baruc of Charleston had two varieties of store card tokens struck for his short-lived fancy goods business.
Both the man and his tokens have for many years been an enigma. The availability of his tokens is quite limited. Indeed, over the last several years less than a dozen have surfaced in the numismatic marketplace.
For the few numismatists who have pursued researching Baruc, until now very little has been discovered about the man himself. Tony Chibbaro, considered the foremost expert in South Carolina tokens, published an article about Baruc in his Token of the Month series. Yet aside from the research Chibbaro undertook, not much else has been documented or otherwise discovered about the man. That is, until now.
Born in Giessen, Germany on 4 December 1829, Bernard Sigismund Baruc emigrated to the United States in September 1849. Between 1849-1853 Baruc partnered with another Charleston merchant, Frederick Van Santen, and the two succeeded the fancy goods store of S. Wille.
On 10 October 1855, Bernard S. Baruc married Matilda Rebecca Oppenheim. According to census records the couple had 5 girls: Emmie, Rachel, Kate, Matilda Rebecca, and Nannie.
Van Santen & Baruc owned and operated the business, located at 208 King Street, until sometime around December 1855.
Shortly thereafter, in February 1856, newspaper advertisements in The Charleston Mercury no longer included Van Santen’s name; only Baruc’s name was headlined.
Despite the split, Van Santen did continue to pursue his own business ventures. Later Charleston Directories list him as operating a Bazaar and a Fancy Goods store at 263 King and 285 King respectively.
It was only one year thereafter in February 1857 that the last advertisement for Bernard S. Baruc’s Variety Store appeared in The Charleston Mercury:
For a time, historical records about Baruc become scant. The next record encountered pertains to the death of his eldest child. On 9 March 1861 Baruc’s daughter Nannie passed.
Bernard S. Baruc and Discovery of His Civil War Connections to the Confederacy
Until this article, it has been a mystery as to what became of Bernard S. Baruc after 1861. The clues are elusive, but when examined in their entirety, Baruc’s role becomes apparent. The first clue comes from an obscure entry made by the South Carolina Legislature. In April 1861 Baruc received reimbursement for “engrossing on parchment” the seceded South Carolina Constitution in 1861.
Barnett Elzas in his The Jews of South Carolina establishes that Baruc served in the Confederacy, and was a 4th sergeant in the Willington Rangers. Baruc enlisted at James Island, SC on 31 July 1862. He was discharged the same day by providing a substitute.
Pursuant to these clues, a search of Jefferson Davis’ papers reveal that Baruc served a rather prominent, yet subdued role in the Confederacy’s last-ditch war efforts. In fact, Baruc played an instrumental role in establishing and coordinating relations with French bankers who were interested in investing capital in a newly independent CSA. Serving as an intermediary between CSA leadership and the European Financiers, Baruc helped facilitate agreements between the two parties, up to and including traveling to Paris in late 1864 to negotiate a deal.
The whole initiative was leveraged on the Confederacy’s chief product, cotton. Late in the war, the CSA entered the export business as an enterprise, and began shipping cotton out of the Confederacy. The initiative became so profitable, that European bankers and financial executives began to believe that sufficient credit could be provided to revive the failing Confederacy, and in the long term provide a significant return on investment if the Confederacy survived.
European bankers wanted to establish a Confederate bank in Europe. By creating charters in Confederate states, they could then establish branches through southern cities. By doing so, Europeans could then begin writing loans for the south.
The deal appeared so promising to CSA leadership that in 1864 the South Carolina Legislature proposed “An Act to Establish the Franco-Carolina Bank, No. 4709.” Within the Act, the Legislature named B.S. Baruc among others as officers of this Franco-Carolina Bank.
The Act passed both houses of the South Carolina legislature on 23 December 1864. Chartered with a capital stock of 52.5 Million Francs, the bank would be located in Charleston or elsewhere. Shortly thereafter, however, the Confederacy suffered significant military losses, and the plan never proceeded further.
After the Civil War
The next historical record which alludes to Baruc’s whereabouts occurs in 1866. Baruc and partner Isaac Moses petition the Georgia Legislature for authorization to establish “The Southern Bank of America.” Though the Georgia Legislature passed an Act authorizing the bank’s formation, no such evidence exists of the bank actually launching.
Death of Wife, New York City Presence Discovered
On 16 April 1877 Baruc’s wife Matilda Rebecca died¹. Shortly thereafter, in the same year, a scant but definitive listing for Bernard S. Baruc appeared in Goulding’s 1877 New York City Directory:
Baruc’s New York City presence is further confirmed after examining the 1880 United States Federal Census. Despite the typographical error on the record for Baruc’s middle initial, he is listed as an “Importer of Hosiery.” This matches the above abbreviation listed in Goulding’s.
Furthermore, his residence in New York City is validated because all of his dependant children are also listed on the census record, with the exception of Nannie who passed in 1861.
It appears that the widower Baruc shared a household inhabited by his extended family, including his mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law.
Sometime after the 1880 Federal Census it appears that Baruc remarried. Pursuant to that marriage, Baruc and his second wife, Gertrude Hartog, had a daughter named Marita Baruc.
Baruc died 20 October 1904 in Manhattan New York. He was approximately 75 years old.
Following Baruc’s death in 1904, it appears that his widow, Gertrude, continued his business until at least 1920. She is listed as a proprietor in The Commercial Register of New York, 1919-1920.
It is unknown how long thereafter that Gertrude continued Baruc’s business.
As Per Baruc’s tokens, it is theorized that his emissions may have served one or two purposes. First, they were most definitely issued as a store card advertisement, given the prominence of his name and address on the tokens’ obverse. Second, they may have been counting tokens that accompanied the various games that Baruc sold.
Nevertheless, there exist two known varieties of the Baruc token.
The first variety, struck in copper, is pictured below. Listed as Miller SC-2, Russell Rulau approximates that about 7 are known extant. Tony Chibarro, however, approximates about 8 remain in existence.
This particular variety is NGC slabbed and grades at AU-55. The Chibbaro number for the token is SC-1305-E. Its provenance includes John J. Ford, Jr.
The second variety, struck in brass, is also pictured below. Listed as Miller SC-2A, Rulau likewise approximates that only 7 are extant. However, like with the SC-2, Chibbaro confirms that about 8 specimens of the SC-2A exist. Of the eight, Chibbaro estimates that most all exhibit damage like the one pictured below.
The specimen pictured approximates at Very Fine Details. The Chibbaro number for the token is SC-1305-F.
The final specimen pictured below is also a SC-2A variety. Unlike the specimen pictured above, it does not exhibit any damage. It is approximately Extra Fine in grade, with a bit of luster remaining. The author acquired the specimen from Tony Chibbaro in November 2013.
Notes and Sources
- Our Family Genealogy Pages
- The Charleston Mercury, various publication dates, 1840s and 1850s
- Directories for the City of Charleston, SC: For the Years 1849, 1852, 1855, James W. Hagy, Clearfield, ©2008, pg.114, 171
- Guide to Charleston Illustrated: Being a Sketch of the History of Charleston, Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1875
- Journal of the Convention of the People of South Carolina, Held in 1860, 1861 and 1862, pg.279
- The Jews of South Carolina From the Earliest Times to the Present Day, Barnett A. Elzas, ©1983, pg.223
- The Papers of Jefferson Davis: Sep 1864 – May 1865, Jefferson Davis, L. Crist, B. Rozek, K. Williams, LSU, ©2004, pg. 271
- Confederate Purchasing Operations Abroad, Samuel Bernard Thompson, UNC Press, ©1935, pgs.98-102
- The Statutes at Large of South Carolina Volume 13, 1875, pg. 222
- Acts Passed by the General Assembly of Georgia, J. Johnston, 1866, pg.100
- Jewish Marriage Notices From the Newspaper Press of Charleston, SC 1775-1906, Barnett Elzas, 1917, pg. 28
- The Old Jewish Cemeteries at Charleston, SC 1762-1903, Dr. Barnett A. Elzas, 1903
- Goulding’s New York City Directory, Lawrence G. Goulding, 1877, pg.74
- Family Search: United States Federal Census for the Year 1880 – New York, NY
- A Guide Book of United States Tokens and Medals, Jaeger, Whitman Books, ©2008
- Correspondence with Tony Chibbaro, Charleston South Carolina Numismatist and Historian, 2011
- 5th SC Cavalry Regiment 1861-1865, Regimental Roll and Officer Registers, Lewis F. Knudsen, Jr.
- South Carolina Tokens, Tony Chibbaro, TAMS, ©1990, pg.55
- Token of the Month #14, ‘The Bernard Baruc Token of Charleston’