The Norweb Family

Liberty Emery Holden (1833-1913)

Born in Raymond, Maine, Liberty Emery Holden was married in 1860 to Delia Elizabeth Bulkley. The union produced nine children. Educated at the University of Michigan, Holden studied law and was admitted to the Cleveland Bar in 1863. An entrepreneur at heart, his interests soon expanded into such diverse areas as hotel building and ownership, mine manager, and mine owner. He became owner of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which grew to be one of America’s most honored and respected newspapers. He became a patron of education and the arts, and was instrumental in the founding of educational institutions and in the donation of important properties to the Cleveland Museum of Art. The field of politics was not overlooked, and in 1896 he was a Democratic delegate from Ohio to the presidential convention, where he supported William Jennings Bryan. Around the same time he was heavily involved in the silver movement. Liberty Emery Holden’s involvement in numismatics was not chronicled, but it is believed that by the 1890s he was involved in the subject, for he possessed references, and, apparently, some significant rare coins.

Albert Fairchild Holden (1866-1913)

Born in Cleveland and a Harvard graduate, Albert Fairchild Holden’s specialties were mine engineering and mineralogy. Following his education, he managed his father’s extensive mining properties in the American West, an involvement that continued through the turn of the century. By 1906 he owned or was an investor in numerous important mining properties as well as smelting and refining enterprises to such an extent that he must be numbered among the most prominent industrialists of his day. At the same time he pursued hobby interests, particularly in the fields of mineralogical specimens (his collection was subsequently donated to Harvard, along with $500,000 for maintenance) and numismatics.

Albert Fairchild Holden became a member of the American Numismatic Association in 1909. Busy with his far-flung commercial enterprises, he collected coins privately and anonymously, usually bidding through agents. He was a participant in such landmark auctions as Henry Chapman’s Matthew A. Stickney Collection Sale, June 1907; Thomas Elder’s sale of the James B. Wilson Collection, October 1908; and Henry Chapman’s sale of the Andrew Zabriskie Collection, June 1909. In addition, it is apparent that he ordered Proof coins from the Philadelphia Mint from about 1900 through about 1912, and was one of relatively few collectors who purchased Uncirculated specimens from branch mints at the time of issue. Probably half or more of the coins in the Norweb Collection trace their pedigrees to Albert Fairchild Holden and until Bowers and Merena’s sales in 1987-88, had been off the market for the best part of a century.

Emery Mae Holden Norweb (1896-1984)

Born in Salt Lake City in 1896, Emery May Holden became interested in coin collecting at a young age, and by 1908 she was recording coin pedigrees and die varieties in her father’s collection. She joined the American Numismatic Association in 1914, and by the time of her death in 1984 had been an ANA member longer than anyone in the history of that organization. A mutual attraction between her and Henry Norweb, who was to pursue a diplomatic career, led to emery May going to Europe during the First World War, where she served as a nurse in France, later marrying Henry on October 18, 1917. Stationed abroad at various diplomatic posts, Mrs. Norweb collected sporadically until the 1930s, at which time she added substantially to the family holdings through purchases from Thomas L. Elder, B. Max Mehl, J.C. Morgenthau, Wayte Raymond, and others. Beginning in 1952, a close relationship developed between Mr. and Mrs. Norweb and John J. Ford, Jr. of New Netherlands Coin Company. The Norwebs were given first chance at many numismatic treasures, including numerous pieces from the Virgil Brand estate, portions of which were being handled by New Netherlands. Later, she served as the first woman on the Council of the American Numismatic Society, 1968-1978, and was involved in 1973 when the American Numismatic Society and the Smithsonian Institution arranged the International Numismatic Congress. A true connoisseur, Mrs. Norweb patiently acquired the “finest of the fine” and “the rarest of the rare” from many properties offered over a long span of years.

Henry Norweb, Sr. (1895-1983)

Born in Nottingham, England, R. Henry Norweb entered the American diplomatic corps in 1917 in Paris. In 1936 he was the youngest State Department employee to attain Minister Plenipotentiary rank (1936, Bolivia), at 45 years of age, Later, he helped to negotiate the Azores Bases Treaty (1943-1944), which had important implications for the Allies in World War II. Sharing his wife’s interest in coin collecting, R. Henry Norweb, Sr., was a member of many organizations, including the American Numismatic Association, the Royal Numismatic Society, and the American Numismatic Society, serving on the Council of the last from 1960 to 1978.

Henry Norweb, Jr. (1918-ZZZ)

R. Henry Norweb, Jr. began his interest in numismatic circa 1930-1931, when his mother put him to work attributing die varieties of Connecticut copper coins from the Thomas Hall Collection and other sources, and cataloging a wide array of large cents. In 1940 he graduated from Harvard, and in 1944 he married Libby Gardner. Active in civic and social affairs in the Cleveland area, at one time or another he has been executive director of the Holden Arboretum, mayor of the Village of Bratenahl (site of the Norweb family home), and has been involved with numerous charities, as has been Libby. In numismatics, he is a member of the American Numismatic Association, and since 1978 has served on the council of the American Numismatic Society, New York.