BNR's First Editor Carling Gresham Dies|
May 01, 2008
Carling Gresham, the first editor of the Bank Note Reporter, died in January in Palatka, Fla., after a short illness. He was 81.
Of course this is a sad milestone for the paper. It is also personal for me. Carling was also my first editor. Carling himself in his final editorial at the paper stated that helping to "give birth" to a newspaper can be frightfully frustrating and also, very rewarding.
Within a few months of the founding of Bank Note Reporter, I was recruited by Grover Criswell to write for the paper and here I am 35 years and quite a few editors later.
Grover recruited me, but then I worked with Carling for the July 1973 issue, my first with a byline and his last as editor. I only met him face to face a few times. I think that the meetings were all at American Numismatic Association conventions. In spite of working with him on the paper, I never got to know him very well - a fact that I now regret.
The early months (and years) in the history of the Bank Note Reporter were chaotic at best. It was an idea whose time had come, but its survival was far from assured and much of the credit for getting the early issues out surely belongs to Carling. Without him I am sure that the paper would have failed, and it is hard to imagine what we would have today as a regular commercial paper money publication.
My recollection is that Carling was a bit cantankerous and eccentric in at least some ways. I think that he liked that image. He made comments to provoke discussion and to test the knowledge and convictions of the other party. I think that he was a bit (or more) eccentric in several ways, too.
Carling had a military career. He started out as an Air Force officer and pilot. After he got out of the Air Force he decided that he missed the military and joined the Army, from which he retired in 1970. It is amazing to me that I do not ever recall discussing military money with Carling since that is my specialty and he must certainly have used Military Payment Certificates and probably some other issues as well. There is another regret for me.
Carling had a longstanding love of everything numismatic. That is my recollection and a comment provided by his daughter Tanya. I do not know if his pursuits started as a child, but his interests were broad, including coins and medals in addition to paper money, checks, stocks and bonds. He also was very interested in antique books.
Tanya also does not know if Carling's interest started in his childhood, but it impacted her childhood and that of her siblings. She attended many coin shows following behind her father. If you are of the correct age, you can identify with Tanya (and me) on this one. She reports that she watched the first steps of Neil Armstrong on the moon on a television set in the corner of some local coin show in Germany where Carling was stationed at the time.
Carling wrote books and videos on several subjects most notably history of medals and tokens, including Gen. Gregor MacGregor and the 1817 Amelia Island medal.
Two items by Gresham are in the ANA Library catalog: Territorial Florida Banks and Bonds, 1821-1845, and Computers in Numismatics (video recording).
In addition to editing BNR, he was editor of FUN-Topics the Florida United Numismatists' journal. He was a member of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society and briefly served as its editor. This service came at a critical time when the NBS journal had fallen behind and the future of the society was in doubt. Carling's unique style is described in a history of the society by Joel Orosz (see http://www.coinbooks.org/club_nbs_asylum_history.html). There Orosz describes Gresham as "a Florida dealer in numismatic ephemera, and an early enthusiast for the use of the personal computer, went to work with a will, and the first issue of The Asylum under his editorship was dated Summer, 1984. A colorful character, Gresham transformed the journal by adopting a chatty and informal style." I think that Orosz's "colorful character" and my "cantankerous" probably are parallel descriptions.
The July 1973 BNR was the last under Carling's leadership. His editorial describes some of the victories, failures, and difficulties of the birth of our paper.
That same issue had a small but enlightening story about Carling. According to the the article, he and three others planned to embark on a sail around the world in "the PegLing (a combination of Peggy and Carling), a Newporter 40-foot ketch, built in 1958 [that[ has a 13-foot beam and a six-foot draft." The story indicated that reports from the seafaring former editor would appear from time to time in BNR – but to my knowledge they never did. I tried to confirm if he ever made or even started the journey, but I also think that it does not matter because the dream itself tells us much about Carling. I remember that he lived on a sailboat while he was editor, so it sounds to me like he got closer to his dream than many of us do.
I was pleased to find that I had an article in that final issue. My story was on the history of Military Payment Certificate use in Vietnam, which had only recently ended. Peter Huntoon had an article in that issue and some names familiar today also appear in editorial content and advertising.
Carling Gresham joined the ANA in 1967 and was a life member. Marilyn Reback from the ANA staff and The Numismatist provided crucial information and help for this piece.
Carling Gresham will be missed, but his legacy remains.
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