Charles Christopher Crespi was born in Altaville, California on September 8, 1899, the son of Italian immigrants Luigia Calcherra (1875-1955) and Angelo Crespi (1872-1926), a gold miner and timberman. At the age of 19, Charles began working as a bank clerk and teller at the Calaveras County Bank (later a Bank of America branch) in Angels Camp, California, and lived the rest of his life there. He eventually worked his way up to the position of bank manager. In 1926 his father died, and as of 1930 Charles was still living with his mother and his younger sister, Marie Frances Crespi (born December 6, 1905; died August 26, 1981), while still employed as a banker. Apparently he never married.
Because visitors to Angels Camp often asked Crespi where they could see some examples of California gold, he decided to start a collection of his own beginning around 1928. Over the years, local miners would bring gold into the bank to be converted to cash, and Crespi would buy the best specimens for himself. When he decided to retire around 1959, the Bank of America (where he worked) elected to buy 428 of his gold specimens, valued (at the time) at around $100,000 – with the agreement that they were never to be resold. The sale was completed but Crespi retained his best 200 specimens until 1978.
In total, the Crespi collectiont was probably the finest private collection of natural gold in the world. Included was an 85-ounce specimen of pale (silver-rich) gold that Crespi had used as a doorstop in his bank office. Gold nuggets, leaf gold, arborescent crystal gold, "sandwich ore," "fish-egg ore," "hard-rock diggins," gold on silver, and gold with pyrite were all included. A single mass of crystallized leaf and octahedron gold was found measuring 6 inches wide by 13 inches long, and weighing 67 troy ounces. Many specimens were acquired from miners at the Red Ledge mine between 1952 and 1967. The Crespi collection became famous but was rarely shown, until after the bank purchased their portion. They displayed all of their specimens at the Shafter branch of the Bank of America in 1963, at the Plumas County Fair in 1962, and 36 specimens at the Redwood Empire Fair in1971.
The bank had about 100 specimens encapsulated in plastic. Eventually the plastic began to turn brown, so the bank hired Wayne Leicht (Kristalle) to remove the plastic and clean the specimens for display. The specimens were then placed on permanent display in the "Lure of Gold" exhibit in the Discovery Museum in the Sacramento Museum of History, Science and Technology in 1998, where they remain today.
Charles Crespi died on October 5, 1967. The best portion of his gold collection was inherited by his brother, Frank Anthony Crespi (1903-1994), and his sister Mary Frances Crespi (1900-1981; she had only Red Ledge specimens). In 1978, California mineral dealers Wayne and Dona Leicht (Kristalle) purchased the 200 specimens held by Frank and Mary.
Charles Crespi had four siblings:
Caroline Crespi (1897-1898)
Carolina (“Lena”) Frances Crespi (1901-1983) [she married Nicholas Mathew Gianelli (1894-1972), who was also a gold collector; his collection has not been traced, but Charles may have acquired most of it.]
Frank Anthony Crespi (1903-1994); he received part of Charles' collection as a bequest, and sold it to Kristalle in 1978.
Mary (Marie) Frances Crespi [m. George H. Forbes, 1900-1981] (December 6, 1905-August 26, 1981 in Stockton; she is buried in Angels Camp). She received some of the best specimens as a bequest, primarily from the Red Ledge mine, and sold them to Kristalle in 1978.
LEICHT, W. (1982) "California gold." Mineralogical Record, 13 (6), 375-387.
US Federal Census, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930.
World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1918.
California Death Index.
Social Security Death Index.
"$100,000 worth of gold now on display at County Fair," Indian Valley Record (Greenville, California), for August 9, 1962.
"B of A gold display for fair here," Ukiah Daily Journal (Ukiah, California), April 6, 1971.
"Gold Rush expected at Shafter Bank of America;Rare pieces on display," Shafter Press (Shafter, California), May 1, 1963.
"Discovery Museum in Old Sacramento opens exhibit The Lure of Gold," California Geology, July-August.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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||Crespi collection gold specimen, 16.5 cm, from the Red Ledge mine. Wayne and Dona Leicht collection; Van Pelt photo. Nicknamed "The Corsage," it was found in 1959, and contains part of a tree root.|
||Crespi collection gold specimen, 33 cm (5.5 pounds) from the Eureka mine, Tuolumne County, California; found in 1946. Smithsonian Institution collection; Van Pelt photo.|
||Crespi collection leaf gold, 16.5 cm, from Tuolumne County, California. Smithsonian Institution collection; Van Pelt photo.|