THE ATTIC

HARD TIMES TOKEN
Edwin Parmele 1812-1852
Jeremiah, Joseph, Timothy, Joshua, John, John

 

 

This brass token with the bust of a jolly imbiber was issued by Edwin, the owner of a bowling saloon at Pearl and Dover streets in New York City between 1834 and '39. Privately made hard-times tokens such as this one were struck between 1833 and '43 as unofficial currency during the political and financial upheaval that preceded The Panic of 1837 and the seven-year recession that followed. The token is the size of the "large cent" piece of the time -- 1 1/8 inches in diameter. These coins were replaced by our present-day size pennies in 1857.

Edwin was probably born in Guilford, Conn. His father, Jeremiah, and brother Horatio -- both cabinetmakers -- also lived in New York City, and the family had strong ties on both sides of Long Island Sound. Edwin's mother, Helen, was the daughter of Jonathan and Hannah Vail. The Vails fled Long Island for Guilford in 1775 during the Revolution, and he, being a ship captain, transported other Long Island refugees across the sound throughout the war.

Edwin's first mention in New York comes in the 1823 city directory at Bowery Cottage, the storied establishment at 298 Bowery that he would later own.

A decade later he was in the Third War, at 13 Park, where the New York Man reported the city's journeymen tailors gathered June 23, 1835, to seeking a return to uniform prices that had been abandoned by their employers.

Two weeks later, on July 5, his home was the target of a gang of English thieves. The New York Spectator of July, 16, 1835, left, reports that "plate," or silver, valued at $384 -- quite a haul back in the day -- was stolen. The Aug. 21, 1835, edition of the New-York American for the Country reported that Smith, Johnson and Bailey were sentenced to 10 to 11 years in state prison and hard labor, and Showler was given time to substantiate his claim that he'd struck a deal with police and prosecutors before being sentenced.

Edwin and Catherine A. Fine were married Aug. 19, 1835, at the Second Reformed Dutch Church in Somerville, N.J., by Pastor Charles Whitehead.* Catherine sued him for divorce per this clipping from the Nov. 24, 1846, Schenectady, N.Y., Cabinet; she would later marry Peter E. Covert in Somerset County, N.Y., on New Year's Day 1851.

The 1836 and '37 New York City directories have Edwin operating the Pearl Street bowling saloon. Directories from 1839 through '42 show that he'd moved on to helming the fabled Bowery Cottage; the 1840 edition also gives their residence as 7 Bleeker St.

The Springfield (Mass.) Republican of Sept. 6, 1852, ran a death notice for Edwin Parmelee who departed Guilford "on Saturday [a] week [ago]," which would have been Aug. 28. He died sometime before the boat reached Long Island on Aug. 31 a the age of 40.

As far as I can tell, Edwin and Catherine had no children.

* Pastor Whitehead recorded Edwin's name as Edward.


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Updated June 11, 2020

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