The token pictured above is made of copper and measures 22mm in diameter. It is part of a set of three tokens issued in 1879 by William L. Bradley at his phosphate mine on John's Island in Charleston County. The other two tokens in the set, a 50 cent denomination and a 25 cent denomination, are also made of copper and dated 1879. All three tokens have Bradley's name and the name of his store on the obverse, but neither lists the location of Bradley's business. This lack of location in the form of town and state makes these tokens "mavericks." All tokens in this set were struck without a die collar, which gives the edges of the tokens a somewhat rounded shape.
Bradley also issued a similar set of three tokens, with identical wording on the obverses. The reverses of this second set are also dated 1879, but do not carry the words "This Check." The tokens in this set seem to be of a slightly more refined character, with profuse ornamentation and well-executed designs. These tokens were struck with a die collar, resulting in a more "squared" edge. The specimens I have encountered from this set do not seem to show as much wear as the set described in the previous paragraph, so I suspect that they were made at a later time, even though they carry the date 1879.
A photo of Bradley as it appeared in Who's Who in America
William L. Bradley's interest in the chemical fertilizer business can be traced back to 1861, when he opened a fertilizer factory in Boston, Massachusetts. Little was known about chemical fertilizers at that time, and Bradley became known as an innovator in the field. The newly-formed Bradley Fertilizer Company rapidly expanded, establishing additional manufacturing works in Carteret, N.J., Cleveland, O., Baltimore, Md., and Charleston, S.C. Business offices were also established in Rochester, N.Y. and Augusta, Ga.
Bradley's main interest in the Charleston area was connected to the vast amounts of phosphate rock that were discovered in the river beds and surrounding areas. He acted quickly after the initial discoveries, becoming a partner in the Marine and River Phosphate Mining and Manufacturing Company. This corporation, formed in 1870, was granted the exclusive right by the state of South Carolina to mine all the phosphate rock from its navigable rivers and streams. Bradley was also heavily involved in the mining of phosphates from land deposits. In the 1870s he bought the old Bulow Plantation and some adjacent land on Rantowle's Creek, near the town of Stono on John's Island. By 1884 Bulow Mines had recovered 30,000 tons of phosphate rock and was employing 350 workers. The rock was not processed on site, but was shipped by rail or by barge to Bradley's fertilizer factories.
Mine workers loading phosphate rock into railcars.
The tokens were utilized at the store operated on the premises of the former plantation. They were issued to the mine employees as pay and were redeemed at the store for merchandise or cash. Most denominations of both sets described above are scarce, with some being downright rare.
In December of 1894, at the age of 68, Bradley died in Massachusetts. His two sons, Peter B. Bradley and Robert S. Bradley, continued to oversee the family business interests after his death. Tokens were also issued circa 1920 by the Bradley Lumber and Manufacturing Company at Ashepoo, another one of the family businesses.
Copyright 1990, 1999 by Tony Chibbaro. Part of the text above was excerpted from South Carolina Tokens, by Tony Chibbaro, published by the Token and Medal Society in 1990. If you are interested in purchasing the reference work from which the above was excerpted, please click on the following link: Books.
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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