Title: Numismatist, magazine publisher, author, coin dealer
Birthdate: March 21, 1826
Death Date: September 14, 1901
Plot Location: Section 214, Lot 28
Ebenezer never liked his name. He shortened it to Eben but as an author he used Edward or Ned. He was born in Portland, Maine but eight years later his father moved his wife and family of eight children to Philadelphia.
It was here that the senior Mason opened a saddlery business and taught the trade to his son. But Eben was too difficult to harness into one career. He had too many other things he was interested in, so he left for Baltimore when he was 18.
From Counting Coins to Selling Coins
After a decade of various pursuits he moved to Troy, New York as an accounting clerk. The chief bookkeeper for another firm in the building, Joseph Levick, became a close friend as they both discovered an interest in old coins.
A numismatist is one who collects and studies the history of coins, which was Joseph’s hobby. A numismatist also speculates in trading coins, which became Eben’s passion. By 1856 Eben was actively collecting old coppers and other curious coins and selling them as a dealer for profit.
That same year he married a girl from Philadelphia, Lavinia Reybold. They had five children before she died in 1883. But for the rest of his life he always looked carefully at the change in his pocket. It might contain a valuable coin that was worth more than its face value.
Magic and Balloons
Eben got a job assisting an Albany magician and ventriloquist until 1860. From that experience he wrote a book (under the name Edward Mason, Jr.) on the history of magic and ventriloquism. He had it published in Philadelphia after they moved there in 1860.
Although he wasn’t in the service during the Civil War, Eben worked as a civilian with the Union Army Balloon Corps. He was an “aeronaut” who piloted one of seven specially built, gas-filled balloons to perform aerial reconnaissance on the Confederate States Army. When he wasn’t doing that he was writing and publishing music while still buying and selling coins.
Magazines and Marriages
In April of 1867 he began publishing Mason’s Coin and Stamp Collector’s Magazine on a monthly and then quarterly basis for the next 24 years. Still, it wasn’t his only occupation. Eben connected with a showman named Edward Zane Carroll Judson who shared his highly industrious and intellectually active personality. They met while piloting balloons in the war.
This friend named Edward used the name Ned Buntline to write over 300 novels and published a magazine, Ned Buntline’s Own. He hired Eben to help write and produce it using the same pseudonym.
It’s believed Eben also had something to do with a theatrical tour written and produced by Edward Judson. “The Scouts of the Prairie,” helped make a star out of Buffalo Bill Cody. Whatever income Eben derived from it helped him stay afloat during the “Long Depression” of the 1870s when his magazine subscriptions dipped.
Lavinia developed uterine cancer in 1881 and died two years later. Eben married Emilie Atkins in 1885 but she died in January of 1888. Six months later he married Anna Judson, Edward’s widow, while they were both living in Boston. It was said that he married her because he thought she had money, but she thought he had money. They went to Europe on their honeymoon and found that between them they had barely enough money for the return trip.
Financial concerns may have motivated her to keep her first husband’s house north of New York City in the Catskills. The December 1890 issue of Mason’s Coin Collector’s Magazine shows the address of Mason & Company, Coin Dealers, 111 Juniper Street, Philadelphia with Anna Fuller Mason cited as the publisher. If she ever actually lived in Philly, it wasn’t for long.
In August of 1891 Anna gave birth to their only child, John Raymond. On November 20th, this sad account was published after Eben’s emotional state hit bottom, but he survived. Apparently they kept separate addresses after that. In the 1900 census she and their son were at her New York address while Eben was living in a boarding house in Philly, and listed as a coin dealer.
The magazines stopped in 1891, as did his heart in 1901. This obituary says his funeral was at a daughter’s house. Ebenezer joined three members of his first marriage: his first wife, Lavinia; a daughter, Genevieve; and a son, Clarence.
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