The 36mm token pictured above was issued by the Planter's Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina sometime in the 1860s or 1870s. Manufactured of black hard rubber, the token is quite different in composition from other South Carolina tokens. Besides being the only token known from the Planter's Hotel, it is also the only token from South Carolina known to have been made from this unusual substance.
The process for manufacturing vulcanized rubber was patented in 1844 by Charles Goodyear. Vulcanized rubber was utilized for making all sorts of consumer goods - from raincoats and buttons to jewelry and false teeth. But a process for making vulcanized rubber hard enough to be made into tokens was not perfected until later, being patented in 1851 by Charles Goodyear's brother Nelson. The first tokens made with this material, which is now called hard rubber, were probably issued in the late 1850s or early 1860s. Many were utilized during the Civil War, some even being used by Civil War sutlers - merchants that followed the Union troops, offering sundry items to the soldiers.
An 1860 directory advertisement for the Planter's Hotel.
The Planter's Hotel, located at the corner of Church and Queen (formerly Dock) Streets, was a familiar landmark to 19th century Charlestonians. The hotel was erected in 1809 on the former site of the original Dock Street Theatre, one of the first theaters in America. Operated for many years by Alexander Calder and his wife, the Planter's Hotel was known as "one of the finest hostelries in the South." The popular alcoholic libation "Planter's Punch" is believed to have originated there. Later proprietors included Orran Byrd, J.W. Gamble, and Gorman and McCord. The hotel is known to have operated during the Civil War - a newspaper ad dated 6 January 1863 offered rooms at $3 per day. Undoubtedly, it was forced to close later that same year, as Union troops began shelling Charleston in the fall of 1863 and all commerce came to a halt in that part of the city.
After the war, the hotel underwent extensive repairs to recover from the Union shelling and was reopened in 1866. Business flourished for a few years, but around 1880 listings for the Planter's Hotel disappeared from the business directories. In the early 1900s, a grocery store and a second-hand store occupied the only usable space in the deteriorating shell of the former hotel. In 1935, the building was purchased by the City of Charleston and was restored with federal funds. The fully refurbished building was ready for occupancy in 1937, and in November of that year, the revived Dock Street Theatre reopened its doors. The Charleston Stage Company presents more than 120 performances in the theater each year.
A postcard showing the Dock Street Theatre, circa 1940.
It is not known for certain when this month's token was used at the Planter's Hotel, but, as mentioned above, it was probably issued during the 1860s or 1870s. If it could be shown for certain that the token was used during the Civil War, the Planter's Hotel token would be the only known Civil War token from the state of South Carolina.
The Dock Street Theatre as it appears today.
Copyright 2000 by Tony Chibbaro.
South Carolina Tokens by Tony Chibbaro, Token and Medal Society, 1990.
Merchant Token of Hard Rubber and Similar Compositions by David Schenkman, Jade House Publications, 1991.
Charleston Stage Company, 1998-99 Season of Plays and Musicals, booklet, 1998.
If you collect or have a casual interest in South Carolina tokens or tokens issued by cotton mills, lumber companies, or other types of businesses, you may want to purchase my book, South Carolina Tokens and its two supplements. To read a description of these standard references, please click on this link: Books.
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