Royal Reels: Gambling


A series of 22 covers were sent to Francis William Howard Aaron at several addresses in California dated from 1852 to 1877, and the first I consider to be a local Californian cover. This opinion is at variance with that of the vendor who states that the first cover “almost certainly originated in New South Wales.” Most of the other covers were posted by members of his Braidwood N.S.W. family, for the addressee documented on the covers that they came from his father and sisters. Unfortunately, none of the covers contained letters.

Francis (Frank)William Howard Aaron was born in Wales on June 5, 1829 and he died in Marysville California on April 27, 1897. He arrived in California on December 29 1849 and as attested to by the covers he received from Australia, he spent much of the 1850s on or around the California gold fields. He became a prominent businessman who founded and owned the Marysville Water Company. He was also the bookkeeper for the Marysville Gas and Electric and a trustee for the Marysville Library Association. He married Mary Musgrove Bobo (1850-1930s), the daughter of a Marysville physician, Charles Duncan Bobo on September 2, 1874 and they had one son, Charles Francis Aaron (December 1, 1875- September 6, 1953). A picture of Frank is seen in Figure 1.

Frank and his son Charles founded the Northern California Savings and Loan. Mary belonged to many societies and clubs in town and was a prominent lady and pioneer of Marysville. Charles was a well respected real estate and insurance pioneer, who married Bertha Cornforth in 1903, and they had no children. The family lived at 704 D Street in an 1851 two-story house built by architect Warren Miller and the Aaron family bought the house in January 1875. Charles deeded the home to the City of Marysville in 1955, turning the house into a Museum honouring his mother. It is one of the oldest and finest brick structures in the city, and it is seen in Figure 2.

 These facts were found in a book by Tammy L. Hopkins and Henry Delamere ‘Images of America: Marysville’ (Arcadia Publishing, 2007). References as to the year of his arrival in Marysville are confusing, but 1868 is the most likely. Additional information on Frank, an obituary in the local Marysville newspaper was provided by the librarian at the Marysville Library. By profession Francis Aaron was a gold assayer, and in his last 15 years his principal business was a loaner of money. He was Secretary of the Marysville Savings Bank during its entire existence. He was a prominent member of the Masonic fraternity, belonging to 3 lodges. He had epileptic fits for 20 years, and suffered an attack on April 27, 1897 at noon, from which he died, and he was buried the next day in the City cemetery.

This cover is the one in contention as to its place of origin, and it has a manuscript ‘Paid p(er) Adams Express 5′ and there is a blue boxed ‘PAID’ handstamp. There is a large blue oval handstamp ‘ADAMS & CO’S/ EXPRESS/ SAN FRANCISCO’ as well as a smaller blue oval ‘FORWARDED BY / BROWN/ EXPRESS’ handstamp. It is addressed to Mr. F.W.H. Aaron, Green Springs, Columbia, (California). In the lower left corner, there is a manuscript ‘Obliged by Geo. Campbell Esq., Woods Diggings (—–), Sep 2/ 52 (Figure 3).

The reverse has a manuscript ‘Recd and forwarded by (—-) (—-)/ Geo. Campbell/ Dickson De Wolf & Co.’ (Figure 4).

This early period of Francis Aaron’s life in California has been resistant to extensive research by an experienced San Francisco librarian. However, Dickson, De Wolf & Co. has been listed in the San Francisco City Directory of 1850 as a commission merchant, in the Exchange Building, corner of Montgomery and Washington, and in the same directory of 1852 as commission merchants at 67 Sacramento Street, San Francisco. Wood’s Digging’s is mentioned on the front of the first cover shown, and this probably applies Daniel B. Woods who prospected both northern and southern Californian gold mines. There was a post office at Woods Diggings, Columbia, California in 1851-53.

 The next six covers were sent from N.S.W. probably from members of the Aaron’s family members between August 1854 and June18 1857, addressed to Frank Aaron, to F.W. and to F.W.H. Aaron all at the same address of Gold Spring(or Gold Springs), near Columbia (or near Sonora), California with or without Tuolumne County in the address. Three have a manuscript with ‘Sister Helen’, one with ‘My Father’, and they originated from Sydney, Newcastle and Singleton, N.S.W. A representative cover for this decade was sent per ‘Lucas’, has a large SHIP 5 handstamp, and a reception SAN FRANCISCO/ NOV/ 3/ 1857/ CAL.; the strip of three imperforateblue TWO PENCE stamps of N.S.W. are canceled with the barred numeral ‘66′ of Singleton N.S.W. (Figure 5).

The reverse has a poor unframed oval of SINGLETON/ [crown]/ NEW S. WALES and a transit unframed SYDNEY/ A/ JU 13/ 1857/ NEW SOUTH WALES (Figure 6).

There were eight covers sent from N.S.W. in the 1960s, seven of which had manuscript names of family members: ‘Sister Marian’, ‘Sister Polly’ (2), ‘Sister Nellie’, ‘Father’, and ‘Alice’ (2). The first of these was different from all others in that it was the only one addressed to Francis in San Francisco and was the first cover that mentioned assay or assayist. There was no identifier as to the sender, but it was sent to F.W. H. Aaron, S. Molitor & Co., Assay Office, 418 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, California.. There was a ms. per All Serene a handstamp SHIP 4 and the SIX PENCE ‘Diadem’ N.S.W. stamp was canceled with a duplex 63/ AP 29/ B/ SYDNEY. There was a double circle SAN FRANCISCO/ AUG/ 1/ 1863/ CAL. The relevance of the pencilled ‘1815′ is not apparent, and the reverse was not seen (Figure 7).

The S. Molitor & Co. Assay Office may well have been significant in Francis Aaron’s career as an assayist. Stephen Molitor was the son of a famous partner in a San Francisco gold company. The partners, two Hungarians who fled to California when Tsar Nicholas I of Russia intervened on the side of Austria against Hungarian forces in 1849, were Samuel C. Wass who combined with Augustus P. Molitor to form Wass, Molitor & Co. to set up an assay office in San Francisco in 1851. They started by assaying and stamping gold ingots and became more proficient in their service than the U.S. Assay Office, and their legacy was that they produced the 1855 50 Dollars gold coin (Figure 8).

The next seven covers in the 1860s were all addressed to Frank at Marysville, Yuba County, California and two of them were sent by family members ‘Sister Marian’ and ‘Sister Polly’. Both of these had an originating postmark of Braidwood, a small gold producing town in N.S.W One example had mss.‘Via Southamton (sic)’ and ‘Sister Marian’ and the blue TWO PENCE and the rose-carmine ONE SHILLING ‘Diadem’ N.S.W. stamps were cancelled with the Rays ‘36′ of Braidwood. There was a red crayon ‘8′, a black ‘5‘ handstamp, a LONDON/ A/ MY 17/ 64 transit, a 16/ CENTS tax handstamp as well as a double circle SAN FRANCISCO/ JUN 23/ 1864/ CAL postmark (Figure 9).

The reverse has an unframed BRAIDWOOD/ MR 19/ 1864/ N.S.W originating postmark as well as a transit SYDNEY/ MR 21/ NEW SOUTH WALES (Figure 10).

There were three 1860s covers also addressed to Frank at Marysville, dated 1866-67-68 that included a ‘care of address’. The following cover with mss. ‘Father’ and ‘Per Mail Steamer, Aakaia, via Panama’ was sent to F.W.H. Aaron, Mess. Knight & Co., Assayer, Marysville, Yuba Co., California in August 1866. It had a 10 handstamp and the ‘SIX PENCE’ ‘Diadem’ stamp of N.S.W. was cancelled by a duplex 66/ AU 31/ D/ SYDNEY postmark, as well as the double circle SAN FRANCISCO/ OCT/ 26/ (66)/ CAL postmark, but the reverse was not seen (Figure 11).

The last of the 1860s covers was a surprise for it was a mourning cover and I am unaware that Francis had any family other than his wife and son in America. It had a mss. ‘Alice’, as well as Sydney , N.S.W., April 31/68, and it was addressed to Frank, Assayer, Marysville, Yuba Co., California. There was a ‘10‘ handstamp, a duplex B/ AP 30/ 1868/ SYDNEY/ postmark on the SIX PENCE ‘Diadem’ N.S.W. stamp and a SAN FRANCISCO/ JUN/24/ CAL postmark The reverse was not seen (Figure 12).

There were six covers in the 1870s with a range of 1870 – 78 and one had ms. ‘Father’ and five had a ms. ‘Polly’. The first of this series was chosen mainly because it was addressed to Frank, Assayer, No. 32 D Street, Marysville, Yuba Co, California (the home address of the Aaron family). The SIX PENCE ‘Diadem’ N.S.W. stamp was cancelled with a duplex D/ OC 31/ 1870/ SYDNEY postmark, there was a handstamp‘10‘ as well as a SAN FRANCISCO/ DEC/ 10/ CAL postmark. The reverse was not seen (Figure 13).

The five remaining ms. ‘Polly’ 1870s covers were all sent to F.W.H. Aaron, Marysville Savings Bank, Marysville, Calefornia (all misspelt with the ‘e’) and all were canceled with the originating Braidwood N.S.W. postmark. A second mourning cover was included in the series, and again no reason for it was found. The single SIX PENCE stamp of N.S.W. was canceled with the unframed BRAIDWOOD/ SP 20/ 1877/ N.S.W and there was a faint purple oval ‘PAID ALL’ as well as a faint red SAN FRANCISCO/ CAL postmark. The reverse was not seen (Figure 14).

A strip of three blue TWO PENCE stamps were canceled with the unframed BRAIDWOOD/ JY 17/ 1877/ N.S.W and there was a red SAN FRANCISCO/ AUG/ 14/ PAID ALL reception, as well as a purple oval ‘PAID ALL’, but the reverse was not seen (Figure 15).

The covers shown were a good representation of the entire series for they showed the many family members in New South Wales who sent the covers to Frank Aaron at his multiple addresses over 25 years. The information included in this paper is supplemented by additional research on this pioneer gold miner, gold assayist and prominent business man in Marysville California.