Photo Credit: Andre Zandona, The Chronicle

On the Passing of Dr. Robert Chandler 2019

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One of my best friends in life, Bob Chandler, died last night. I felt it in my sleep.

Dr. Robert Chandler, “Bob” to everybody, was a historian for the Wells Fargo Bank History Department for decades. I met Bob about 1980 through Doug McDonald, and we were best friends forever more.

Bob was a unique historian – one with a tremendous sense of humor, wit and an uncanny ability to tell stories. His specialties were certainly the Express business, but also Gold Rush monetary systems and California in the Civil War.

Our first mutual project was going to be a Wells Fargo display in Reno in 1983. We built cases, got everything ready, then the economy tanked, and we shelved the project.

My own passion for collecting rare western documents led to many discussions, as we learned things together about the western financial systems during and just after the Gold Rush and the Comstock rush. We wrote a number of short papers together on these matters, perhaps best summarized in one of our sales catalogs where we typed and listed western exchanges, and more. We got on a big roll with the Totheroh catalog, where Bob wrote several papers, including an important one that got left out  for no reason by the company owner at the time.

Meanwhile, Bob had papers published in nearly every western historical journal, and gave well over 100 talks to various groups -maybe even 200!

At Wells Fargo, he shined. He constantly worked on advertising campaigns to be sure the information was well written (he wrote much of it himself), and properly well illustrated. He was a consummate historian, helping any of us who needed quality research that only he had access to. He was also a die-hard supporter of Bank President Anderson’s “NO TRADE” policy of items within the Collection, of which some collectors were always after.

At home, I have a rubber cockroach named “Archie”. I don’t remember how in the heck it started, but Bob started talking about his pet cockroach Archie, and I adopted him ever since.

Bob and I shared a tremendous passion for western history. He, and he alone, was unarguably my biggest supporter through time, always pushing me, always encouraging me to make moves never done before. He was one of several people that were on my permanent “Peer Review” committee for my papers, and I on his.

When I ran mines, we often compared the historical systems of gold and money flow in antiquaria to today’s systems. This led to a rather unique experience for me that in turn led Bob to recommend me for work on the SS Central America Project, for which I am forever grateful.

Just a month ago, he encouraged me to continue his work on GT Brown and write a paper on the competition between Brown and Britton & Rey, which I will do. Back in the early 1980’s, it was Chandler who introduced me to Brown and I proceeded to find more Brown stuff for him and other collectors than is known today.

In later years, I visited Bob every chance I got in San Francisco. As I worked for various banks there and law firms on important historical projects, we’d share secrets, and of course lunch. Bob walked the streets of the financial district in his black top hat and bright red vest, a true “E Clampus Vitus” outfit!. He was so well known that local comic strip writers often included his persona in the comics of the Examiner.

In my world of western history, no other person had a greater impact on my life than Bob Chandler. God Bless Him!

We all – all of us – owe a great debt of gratitude to Bob. Never forget his humor. Never forget his depth of knowledge. Never forget his wit and charm. Never forget his love and charity.

RIP friend Bob!
Fred N. Holabird