By David Weingarten
In a way, this is a story about a cast iron Masonic Temple bank I didn’t buy from Donal Markey (despite my determined efforts) nearly a quarter century ago. In other, broader ways, the focus is that elusive, perplexing intersection of objects and those who prize them, which is to say collectors. Principally, though, this is an account of someone I did not know well, whose acquaintance I valued, and like a thousand others, (or was it more than this?) thought a friend.
Were this tale told chronologically, it might begin, surprisingly enough, in th elater 19th century, in Philadelphia, with a man named James Comly. Across the 1800s, Philadelphia was awash with James Comlys. All of these, it appears, descended from another, much earlier James Comly, who accompanied William Penn to the New World, and was present when he founded the city of Philadelphia in 1682.