Bradfield, Elston G. (1906-1977)

Elston G. “Brad” Bradfield joined the Chicago Coin Club March 5, 1947 as member No. 468, giving his interests as U.S. coins. Two months later, fellow member Earl C. Brown proposed him for the ANA; he was admitted Sept. 1, 1947. After serving on the Club’s Publicity Committee, he was First Vice President 1953-55 and President 1955-56. In 1958 he was honored with the Medal of Merit. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Subsidiary Coinage Act, he presented a 40 minute playlet at the November 11, 1953 meeting, with Club members delivering verbatim excerpts of the actual Congressional debates. Members in the roles of congressmen were placed throughout the audience and spoke on cue or when recognized by the House Speaker, played by Mr. Bradfield. This fine program was reprised for the 1954 Central States Convention.

Mr. Bradfield (January 28, 1906 – August 13, 1977) enrolled in the University of Indiana, Class of 1929, but left and was hired by the Chicago Tribune in 1928, soon rising to Assistant Librarian. Let go by the Tribune because of the Depression, he returned home, but in the early 1930s attended the Northwestern University School of Journalism, and was rehired by the Tribune. He retained his Assistant Librarian title for the remainder of his 35-year career, though he was in fact co-head of the library and had an assistant himself. From 1945-55 he also served as librarian for the personal library of Col. Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Tribune, helping him with his speeches, articles, and a book on the Civil War.

Never wealthy, Mr. Bradfield was unable to devote himself to numismatics until he was over 40. But he burst on the national scene with eight wide-ranging, well-researched articles in The Numismatist and Numismatic Scrapbook within thirteen months, April 1949 – April, 1950. Active also in the Central States Numismatic Society, he founded their journal The Sentinel (renamed The Centinel in 1959) in the fall of 1953, remaining editor through 1963. In December 1953, he was asked to take over The Numismatist when the editor became critically ill; he completed the January 1954 issue, with the title of Assistant Editor, finally becoming Editor in October 1954 and serving for the next eleven years. Among his innovations were special issues on Benjamin Franklin (reprinted twice), Theodore Roosevelt, and Lafayette. He was editor and co-author of ANA’s booklet Introduction to Numismatics. Sadly, he developed Parkinson’s disease in the late 1950s, but soldiered on until forced to resign as Editor in January 1966.

Mr. Bradfield’s excellence as Editor was recognized by the ANA with Honorary Life Membership, the Medal of Merit, and finally the Farran Zerbe Award; in 1982 he was elected to the ANA Numismatic Hall of Fame. The Central States Numismatic Society awarded him their Medal of Merit in 1954 “for his many contributions to the science of numismatics” and named its literary award for him in 1966. In 1975 he was inducted as a Numismatic Ambassador.

Tall, reserved, and dignified, Mr. Bradfield formed a comprehensive numismatic library worthy of the scholar that he was. Per Ken Bressett, who knew him in the 1950s, he was greatly admired by everyone.


The article was published first in the Chicago Coin Club Hall of Fame and is re-published courtesy of the Chicago Coin Club.