Part II -- A Surprising Location
On a Sunday evening I drove from New York to Lawrence, Massachusetts, a trip that took about six hours. I stayed in a motel overnight and the following morning went to the address where the collection was housed. When I got to the area I saw an immense group of buildings, surrounded by a fence, with a main entrance off a service street. I saw that the building was an abandoned factory called Davis Knitting Machinery and ran several large city blocks in each direction. I found the entrance to the enclosure, which had a caretaker house as the gatekeeper’s home. I identified myself and was escorted to a large courtyard.
The caretaker told me the history of the place. Up until World War II it was one of the primary knitting machine factories in New England. They build all types of knitting machinery for the trade, from looms down to needles. As it was all now abandoned, I asked what had happened. The caretaker told me how after World War II, the major knitting mills moved out of New England and went to southern states such as Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia where labor was abundant and lower salaries could be paid. The whole industry abandoned the New England area. The Davis factory was a relic and it was unbelievable to see such an immense factory left idle.
As my history lesson ended, we went through large empty rooms, ending in an office at the end of the building, larger than a tennis court, set with a desk for the president at one end, various bookshelves, a huge conference table, and a large cabinet with beautifully carved doors. It was a splendid room, still furnished and maintained, yet not used for several years since the company had moved away. The caretaker led me to the cabinet, unlocked the doors, and inside were 70 or 80 flat drawers, each about ¾ of an inch high. I opened one and there before me were half dollars from 1794 on, mostly in Mint State. Each of the drawers housed various series of United States coins, from the first year of issue to the early 20th century, laid out on tissue lining. Some had tags with special notes on them -- reference numbers, pedigrees, etc.