Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was distantly related to Rembrandt Peale and Charles Willson Peale. Member of the Sons of the Revolution.
In November 1863 he went to Europe to study art. He studied at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. In November 1865 he returned to the United States. He taught at the School of Design for Women 1866 to 1870. Married Ada W. Griswold December 24, 1974. They had three sons. He took his family to Paris in 1878 and returned home in 1884.
He was a succesful painter. His painting "The Recall of Columbus" for the Senate wing of the Capitol was reproduced on the 50 cent Columbian World's Fair stamp and exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. His painting "Hardships of Emigration" was reproduced on a 10 cent stamp in the Omaha Exposition series. He exhibited 75 of his works in New York City in 1913.
He was ANA member number 88. He was elected as the 3rd president of the ANA August 21, 1894, and served until 1898. There was no election held in 1896 and an anticipated convention failed to be held. The ANA became stagnant partly because the country was involved in the Spanish American War.
Some of his poems were published in The Numismatist. Heaton was author of A Treatise on the Coinage of the United States Branch Mints in 1893. The book changed the collecting habits of American numismatists. The California Coin Club struck a medal in 1930 to honor Heath for the book. Heaton appears on a medal honoring his service as President of the New York Numismatic Club in 1912 and 1913. The design was by J. M. Swanson. There were 75 medals struck. It is believed that 3 were struck in silver with the remainder in bronze.
Heaton coins were included in two Elder sales in 1926. He died in a hospital in Washington, D.C.
bio: NUM 8 Jul 1895 p 168; photo facing p 157; NUM 64 Mar 1951 p 267; NUM 74 Mar 1961 pages 295-297; Fielding; NCAB 5; TCBDA; WWWA-1 (*NCAB and TCBDA give his middle name as George) obit: NUM 43 Nov 1930 page 760; ANAHist 456
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Although auction cataloguers sometimes recorded mintmarks prior to Heaton (Woodward's 46th sale in 1882, for example, mentions a prooflike 1870-CC dollar), Heaton was the first to formally investigate the issue and publish his findings. To be sure, the book is full of inaccuracies, such as his discussion of 1873-CC dimes, but to quibble over such points ignores the game changing nature of Heaton?s tome, for this book marks the genesis of branch mint rarity, a concept previously only considered on a date-by-date basis. Now the 1870-S dollar (unmentioned in Heaton, by the way) could be compared with delicacies such as 1827 quarters and 1822 half eagles. A hundred years would elapse before late twentieth century collectors further expanded the definition in order to radically embrace condition rarity. Still, although revolutionary in 1893, this volume has been superceded by many references, and remains a book more significant for being the first of its kind, than for its actual content. Voted #30 of the top one hundred items of numismatic literature by the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.