Rich Wilhelm

Laurel Hill Tales #002: A.G. Heaton

In American history, cemeteries, history, Laurel Hill Cemetery, poem on March 20, 2016 at 8:36 am

I attended an excellent event at Laurel Hill Cemetery this weekend. My friend Pattye, assisted by my friend/Pattye’s husband Tom, led an entertaining and very informative tour focusing on editors, publishers and writers who are buried at Laurel Hill. Walking the grounds and hearing some stories that were new to me — no matter how often you visit Laurel Hill, you will learn something new every time — inspired me for the tour I’m giving at LHC this Friday, March 25, from 10 a.m.-noon (hint-hint). It also put me in the mood to tell another Laurel Hill Tale. This time around: Augustus Goodyear Heaton, shown above along with several photos of his intriguing gravesite.

I had never heard of A.G. Heaton when I first stumbled on his gravesite last September. Up until that day, I had passed the site in my wanderings many times, but one afternoon I was drawn to its patio-like shape, with a monument to Heaton’s parents in the center. Reading his epitaph piqued my interest and I immediately hit Google to learn more.

Before I tell Heaton’s tale, I’d just like to note that I think his gravesite is among the most photogenic sites in Laurel Hill. It invites you to view it and photograph it from a distance, placing it among other stones; but then it draws you in so that you want to study it further. When you do, you’re rewarded with a variety of micro-views on which to focus your camera. The photos included here are just a few that I’ve taken at Heaton’s site. I’ll surely be taking more.

As for Heaton: he was a polymath. He was an artist, although some of his major paintings appear to have gone missing. However, the painting in which Heaton took the most pride, The Recall of Columbus, is in the art collection of the United States Capitol.

When he wasn’t painting, Heaton was often writing. Among Heaton’s works is a book called The Heart of David, the Psalmist. Though I have yet to read it, The Heart of David, the Psalmist is a classic epic. How do I know this? Because Heaton’s epitaph credits him as the book’s author and parenthetically notes “(classic epic).” I’ll take the stone’s word for it, at least for now.

While his painting and writing surely kept A.G. Heaton busy, his most lasting contribution is probably that of a numismatist. That is, a coin collector. In fact, Heaton may the most influential coin collector ever, thanks to an 1893 book called A Treatise on Coinage of the United States Branch Mints.

I love a good treatise. Don’t you?

In his treatise, Heaton suggested in a series of metaphorical bullet points that coin collectors ought to collect coins based on the mint marks that indicate the location where each coin was made. He proposed that the mint mark was the most telling indicator of a coin’s value.

Collect coins based on their mint marks? This was a game changer. No one had ever suggested this before. But any serious, or even casual coin collector, will tell you that mint marks are one of the foundations of collecting U.S. coins.

I intend on blowing the minds of numismatists visiting Laurel Hill for years to come at A.G. Heaton’s gravesite.

Heaton wrote classic epics and influential treatises, but he was not above a little light verse now and then. It should come as no surprise that coin collecting was often the subject of his frothy poetic efforts. One such poem, “The Amorous Numismatist,” is about the arduous efforts of the titular numismatist to capture the love of a beautiful woman by impressing her with his coin collection. It was published as an amusing diversion in one of the leading numismatic journals of the day.

Approximately 80 years later, 14-year-old me, with no knowledge of A.G. Heaton or his work, wrote a poem called “Philatelic Love: Baby I’m Hinged on You.” That’s right. I wrote a poem about a philatelist — that is, a stamp collector — who is trying to capture the love of a beautiful woman by impressing her with his stamp collection. Back in 1979, I shopped “Philatelic Love” around to various stamp collecting journals, in the hopes that it would provide an amusing diversion. I received some bemused rejection letters, I can assure you.

A.G. Heaton and are not necessarily soulmates, but I think our poems make us soulgeeks.

At the risk of embarrassing both A.G. Heaton and myself, I’ll close this entry with “The Amorous Numismatist” and “Philatelic Love: Baby I’m Hinged on You” for your seriously niche-centric light reading pleasure.


The Amorous Numismatist

By A.G. Heaton

An amorous numismatist

Met a fair damsel in a grove

And when he saw he sighed and wist

To have the maid return his love

Said he, “A precious ‘99

Light olive cent I have in store

I treasure much but for thee pine

And feel I love thee almost more”

Said she, *T now am quite content,

My heart and hope are in-no-cent.”

The amorous numismatist

He wept that she could thus repel.

“There is no coin upon my list

That I could love, I think, so well.

I have a charming 1804

And both together I would give,

I’m nearly sure, to thee adore,

Accepted, and with thee to live.”

Said she, “You dwell upon the cent

But not upon the cent-I-meant.”

“If,” said the sad numismatist,

“My cents were bored and linked with wire,

To form a bracelet for thy wrist

And prove the worth of my desire,

If all the rarest of my gold

Were strung, thy tresses to bedeck,

My silver pieces most extolled

Were hung about thy snowy neck?”

“Ah,” laughed the maiden, “Tell me when

I’ll be an acquies-cent then.”

Philatelic Love: Baby, I’m Hinged On You

By Rich Wilhelm                                                                                                            

You’re my special delivery, baby.
I’m really hinged on you.
Your body is in mint condition
and I’m stuck on you like glue.

You’re a ’74 mint set.
To me, you’re worth thousands in love.
To me, you’re a rare inverted error.
You’re my airmail sweetheart, dropped from above.

I’ll postmark you with kisses.
I’ll trade my stamps for you.
Comply with all my wishes
or else I’ll be so blue.

This love can never be cancelled.
I’ll love you day and night.
You’re pretty as a commemorative
and I’m sure this love is right.

I love you dear, of that I’m sure.
I learned your zip code really fast.
I enjoy playing post office so much with you.
I hope this love will last and last.



  1. […] Source: Laurel Hill Tales […]

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Patrick F. O'Donnell

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