On 9 June 1891, Nina Maxon Culp from Morrisonville (Illinois, USA) (usually referred to as Mrs Silas W Culp as this is how she was named in The Morrisonville Times report of 11 June that forms the basis of every published account) found a small gold chain apparently embedded in a lump of coal she had just broken apart. It was said to be about ten inches (254 mm) long and weighed 8 pwt (12.4 g), while the quality of the gold was assessed as eight carats. The chain occupied a circular hollow in the coal and both ends, which were placed close together, were contained inside the lump. It was believed that the source of the coal was the Taylorville or Pana mines, also in Illinois.
It may be mere coincidence that Mrs Culp’s husband, Silas, was proprietor of The Morrisonville Times from 1887 and also the town’s jeweller from 1889. On the other hand, local newspapers in the late nineteenth-century USA were not well known for the quality of their journalism and are known to have perpetrated hoaxes (such as the hoaxed ‘mystery airship’ crash of 19 April 1897 at Aurora (Texas, USA), reported in local newspapers). Like the Aurora ‘mystery airship’ crash, there is now no physical evidence to examine, just the newspaper report.
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