1724-M French Louis D'Or ex. Ford / Le Chameau

BoosibriBoosibri Posts: 7,478 ✭✭✭✭✭

As some may know, I worked with PCGS earlier this year to build a registry set of World Coins in Early America. The set was intended to be a representative set of core issues which had strong connection to the early American commerce system.

In the recent @CoinRaritiesOnline Early Bird, I had the chance to acquire the finest example of one of the iconic issues for the set, ex Le Chameau & John J Ford.


Within the set there are type coin, Pillar Dollars, Escudos, etc and there are specific issues which hold a special connection to the Colonies. The 1749 British 1/2P and Farthing as an example. While farthings and halfpennies of various dates would have circulated in Colonial times, the 1749 date is special. In 1749 a large shipment of farthings and halfpennies, equal to roughly 1/3rd of the mintage, arrived in Boston on the ship the Mermaid in payment to colonists for the Lewisburg expedition of Cape Breton Island. They are the only dated issues officially authorized by the crown to circulate in America.

The other such example of unique issues tied to the colonies are the coins from the Le Chameau (The Camel) shipwreck off the coast of Cape Breton Island in 1725. Le Chameau (The Camel) was a 44-gun, 600-ton, French man-of-war, the pride of the French navy, "one of the fastest and best equipped line-of-battle ships in the royal navy of France". On the night of August 27, 1725, the future of Colonial French Canada was dashed to pieces on the rocks off Cape Lorembec, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Le Chameau was lost with all of her 316 passengers and what amounted to several years’ worth of funds for the French colonies in North America. Not only was this specific disaster devastating in terms of souls and monies lost, but the Chameau’s passenger manifest was a virtual “Who’s Who” of the French colonial aristocracy – people who had and were to have been the elite of their nation’s colonies in North America. A generation of leaders went down with that ship.

Le Chameau was loaded with supplies, money and dispatches. In addition to new recruits for the garrisons - some as young as fourteen years of age – Le Chameau had aboard a number of French civic and ecclesiastical dignitaries, including: the new Intendant of Canada, Me. de Chazel; the Governor-Elect of Three Rivers, De Louvigny.

While trying to make the mouth of Louisbourg harbour, Le Chameau was swept in upon the hard rocky shore. Much of the wreck was washed ashore and was picked up by those sent from Louisbourg. Cast up from the sea were 180 bodies. A burial, en masse, was carried out with the missionary priest at Baleine officiating. There was no sign of the aft part of the ship having come ashore, so it was hoped that some salvage might be made of her guns and treasure, particularly as the rock on which she broke up was covered at low tide by only a few feet of water. The next season some soldiers who were skilled divers were sent from Quebec and were employed at the wreck. The treasure, however, was not located. The criticism, as may be found in the official correspondence, was that the local authorities waited too long to get proper people and recovery equipment in place, as was apparently available at Quebec.

In 1961, a discovery of cannons scattered on the sea bottom alerted Alex Storm, a diver working part-time on a fishing trawler from Louisbourg. Braving the dangerous tides and freezing waters at Kelpy Cove, Storm carefully mapped the wreckage of the Chameau to locate the treasure compartment. The recovery team enlisted the services of John Ford to attribute the coins, and compensated him by letting him keep the best of them for his own collection. Storm's discovery triggered a rising interest in the wealth of shipwrecks off Nova Scotia's waters and brought legislation to protect them. It is interesting to note that Le Chameau went down in a storm in 1725, that the first person to attempt salvage in 1726 was named Tempete, or "Storm", and that she was "raised" by Alex Storm in 1965, more than two centuries later.

In the 1970s, a large portion of the recovered artifacts and coins were placed on auction in New York. What Storm and his associates did not realize, however, was the full extent of what was onboard the Chameau at the time of her loss. The balance of her million-livre specie cargo was to go undiscovered up to the present time. Captain Robert MacKinnon subsequently filed for and received title of claim to what now is known as the CBNS-1 site. As President of Artifact Recovery and Conservation, Inc (“ARC”), a wholly owned subsidiary of SEA-I, he continues to oversee the recovery and conservation of thousands of additional coins and artifacts from the Chameau and other historic vessels located at this multi-shipwreck site.

(Credit to Midlifecrisis for the above from a previous post on the Early America's Set)

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