Monthly Archives: February 2023


Conversations With People We Value #45

“Maurice, come join us,” they called to him as he passed. Friends with whom I sat beckoned him to our table. Clearly, he recognized them and enjoyed their respect and warm feelings. A slight man with white whiskers and genteel manner, his charming and proper English accent left no doubt as to his British roots and breeding. A youthful 88-years of age, no dodderer he. With an exchange of pleasantries he begged off claiming weariness at day’s end and with goodbyes completed his after dinner departure.

My friends explained that he possessed a wealth of knowledge concerning fine art and antiques. His business focused on the purchase and sale of both. They marveled at the stories he shared. And, oh yes, during his early years in post-WWII England he refurbished and brokered vintage Rolls-Royce automobiles. They affectionately boasted of his encyclopedic knowledge of early Rolls models. Indeed his expertise with the iconic British marquee had earned recognition on both sides of the Atlantic. So much so that by the beginning of the 1970s his renown had drawn the attention of the Rockefeller Estate. Now living in America, Maurice accepted their offer to oversee the vintage car collection of, the now departed, past New York Governor and Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller.

Shortly after our dinner time introduction, I reached out to Maurice. Indeed he had great stories to tell and this one is a doozy.

Meet Maurice de Montfalcon.

A Silver Ghost story. Real or Fake? You decide.

Portrait of the real 60553 by Stephen Salmieri

Upon entering a small but tasteful antique shop in a tony New Jersey suburb, I see owner Maurice de Montfalcon. Exhibiting a frenetic blend of determination and confusion he moves about a room strewn with rare historic documents. All will prove to address the iconic 1907 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost in general and one specific 1907 Silver Ghost in particular. More about that in a bit. The shop presents itself in a sort of discordant integration of neatly arrayed upmarket collectibles and antiques overlaid by a blizzard of pictures, magazines and papers blanketing every flat surface. The scene recalls photos of Einstein’s office.

Maurice standing in front of 60553/565, with son (Sam Stevens Jr.) of original owner according to Maurice

Exuding warmth delivered with an air of preoccupation, Maurice, after the briefest of formalities, launches into a breathless description detailing the subject of his apparent obsession. In short order I am grappling with a torrent of historic, legal, and personal detail flooding my brain courtesy of Maurice. It focuses on one 1907 Silver Ghost in particular. Very possibly the first Rolls-Royce to come to America, one once owned by the Rockefeller Estate, as well, once a car for which Maurice had personally cared.

Much the self made man, Maurice, born in 1935, lived through WWII as one of those children shipped en masse on trains departing from London for the countryside to spare them from the relentless Nazi Blitz firebombing. By his early 20s he had been employed in the repair of complex surgical instruments and then sophisticated cameras such as Rolleiflex. Maurice, with classic  British reserve recalls saying, “I had a natural ability with mechanical things.” About this time his penchant for Rolls-Royce automobiles blossomed and he began purchasing and refurbishing early 20th century models. Over the next twenty years he worked his way through the labyrinth of the British automotive agency hierarchy to the point that he had achieved a high level of success and recognition from his work associated with Vintage Rolls-Royce models. Quite the stickler for accuracy, his conversations would be sprinkled with the specific chassis numbers of vehicles he would be discussing. Letters he submitted to publications such as MotorSport, would politely school writers on nuanced inaccuracies in their stories involving vintage Rolls-Royces. Self-confident in his knowledge, Maurice prided himself on the accuracy of his professional opinions. He took strong offense at those who challenged his knowledge, honesty and motives.

As the 20th century moved on, the 1970s found Maurice in America. It was at that time that the Rockefeller Estate had reached out to contacts in Britain in search of a person qualified to oversee the classic car collection of Nelson A. Rockefeller with its pre-WWI Rolls-Royces. Maurice came back as the answer. During the period spent overseeing the Rockefeller collection he developed a special affection for a 1907 Silver Ghost, #60553/565, recognized as the first Rolls-Royce delivered to America and a special vehicle of historic importance. He respected it. He cared for it. He drove it. And when the time came in the late 1970s to liquidate the collection he oversaw its sale.

To appreciate the manifest significance of Maurice’s story, if true, requires an appreciation for the importance of provenance, a vehicle’s history. As relates to authenticity, provenance can have a profound impact on a specific vehicle’s historic significance and, thus, its value. A perfect example illustrating the importance and often the difficulty in establishing provenance occurred with the 1952 Cunningham C4R displayed in the prestigious “Winner’s Circle” at the Simeone Museum. Identified as the winner of Sebring in 1953 and a 3rd at LeMans its accomplishments made this specific car historically significant and very valuable. For over sixty-years this car had been recognized by the cognoscenti of automotive racing history as the car that won Sebring, until. Until one day Dr. Fred Simeone, a man of unquestioned integrity and automotive knowledge, noticed that his C4R on display had one more louver on the side than the Sebring winning Cunningham in an old photograph. He recognized that his C4R no longer enjoyed the significance or the value it had before his discovery. Dr. Simeone, though the only person in the world who knew this truth, chose to changed the sign on the display to reflect the discovered truth of its lesser provenance.

If as told to me by Maurice, his story holds water, it would dwarf Dr. Simeone’s discovery and have a far greater impact on the automotive community. It could mean that a Rolls-Royce displayed as an historically important original model could indeed be a replica.

Maurice driving 60553/565 in London early 1980s according to Maurice

Maurice’s story tracks a convoluted tale of provenance. To best understand it requires an appreciation for a few 1907 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost chassis numbers. Chassis number 60553 belongs to a standard side entrance, Barker bodied Silver Ghost recognized as the first Rolls-Royce delivered to the United States. This makes it a very important and valuable car. Chassis number 60565 belongs to a Rolls-Royce body-less rolling chassis delivered to the same buyer a few months later. In the subsequent telling of Maurice’s story, the first Rolls (the one in the Rockefeller Collection) had its 60553 chassis plate removed during its ownership by the original buyer. Years later the owner affixed the chassis plate from 60565 to 60553 before the sale of 60553. In an attempt to avoid confusion in the telling of Maurice’s story, the chassis number 60553/565 will be used to describe the original 60553 vehicle which in later years would bear the 60565 identification plate from the other car.

As Maurice tells the story, he cared for 60553/565 as part of the Rockefeller Collection knowing its true provenance. In 1979 Maurice placed ads in car magazines promoting the liquidation of the collection. He says, “Then bad things started to happen.” He felt savaged by a letter published in the magazine Old Cars concerning the provenance of the Rockefeller Collection’s 60553/565 by a man, Millard Newman, who claimed that he owned the original 60553. Maurice felt his integrity, knowledge and character had been impugned by a very personal attack. Maurice says, “Newman’s letter took the shape of a personal attack. He wrote ‘”This is a deliberate lie only to enhance the value of the Rockefeller car.” “(Maurice) certainly does not know his Rolls-Royces. I doubt if he has ever seen my car and if he did he apparently did not know what he was looking at.’”

According to Maurice he responded to the letter stating in no uncertain terms that Newman’s car was a fraud. Maurice recalls saying, “That is when the attorney’s letters started coming in promising all types of hell about to rain down on me.” Maurice continues, “They sent all kinds of documents that I was directed to sign recanting my description of the Newman car as a replica.”  Actually Maurice emphasizes that he returned every letter basically having written that he would recant nothing.” All hell did not drizzle much less rain. He says, “They did nothing because I was right.” Maurice says, “I had the documentation, letters and photography to prove it.

During that turbulent period Maurice turned his attention away from vintage automobiles as a business to brokering art and antiques as a living. He would do so for the next forty years. Over decades the sting of the Silver Ghost kerfuffle subsided though never vanished. So why now?

What after all these years and at the age of 88 has brought the pain back with such intensity that he wants to write a book to defend his honor, integrity and reputation?

Pain from such events never totally disappears. It resides inside where the body keeps the score. It lurks poised and patiently waiting for a trigger to unleash its fury. Two months ago, after all those years, the discovery of an old letter tripped the trigger. The righteousness of Maurice’s fight for the integrity of the Rockefeller Silver Ghost “his Silver Ghost” returned with a hot vengeance. The letter authored in the 1990s by Samuel B. Stevens the son of the man who originally bought 60553, gave full color clarity to Maurice’s memories and brought bitter indignation to this still unresolved attack on his integrity. Maurice with a nod to inevitability says, “At this point if I die no one will ever know the truth.”

The following provides select pieces of the trail of evidence upon which Maurice stakes his claim to the true fate of 60553.


Newman car in restoration. According to Maurice, notice the incorrect distance between rear running board bracket and spring shackle. It is incorrect.
Maurice claims it is a proof of fraud.

According to Maurice a later photo of Newman car with repositioning of rear running board bracket to proper location closer to shackle.
Maurice describes it as the same fraud with new paint.


First page of Millard Newman letter to Old Cars in 1979 challenging Maurice’s opinion of Newman’ car


Page 1. Story from 1964 explaining how Willard Newman built a replica.


Page 2. Story by Millard Newman from 1964 explaining how he built a replica from a chopped down racing chassis.


Letter from Kirkland Gibson confirming his sale of a Rolls-Royce to Millard Newman and that it lacked any identification markings and debunks Newman’s story of finding the car in hay-filled barn. As well, Gibson states he had no doubt that the car he sold to Newman was newer than 1907.


1982 Letter from Jonathon Harley, British Vintage car expert, as explained by Maurice, seriously questioning the authenticity of the chassis sold by Gibson to Newman .


Page 1 of 1986 Letter from original owner’s family confirming early history of 60553 and debunking idea of it as a chopped up race car and suggesting 60565 was scrapped.


Page 2 of 1986 letter from original owner’s family confirming early history of 60553 and debunking idea of it as a chopped up race car and suggesting 60565 was scrapped.


1996 letter (fully legible in person) from family of original owner explaining 60565 ID tag on 60553




1990 Sotheby’s catalogue, which according to Maurice, misidentified 60553 and 60565. Maurice states that the red car is a fake and that the white car is the actual 60533 with the wrong chassis plate

Interestingly in 1990 Sotheby’s auctioned two 1907 Rolls- Royce Silver Ghosts believed to be 60553 and 60565. One identified as 60565 went for $2.8 million the most for a Rolls-Royce up to that time and the alleged 60533, depending on whether you believe Maurice or not, went for $2.05 million

So you decide. Which is the real 60553?

If you believe that Millard Newman found the real 60553 in a hay-filled barn, then the car sold at Sotheby’s in 1990 is 60553 and the first new Rolls-Royce delivered to America. Today, that Silver Ghost stands on display at the respected Peterson Museum.

But what if the case presented by Maurice is true? Then the car sitting in the Petersen would be a replica and whoever owns 60565 would actually own the first Rolls-Royce in America wearing the wrong chassis plate.

Who thought provenance could be so dramatic, suspenseful and exciting? Other than Maurice that is.

By |2023-02-16T14:44:38+00:00February 16th, 2023|6 Comments

Conversations With People We Value #44

Sometimes life taps our shoulder to remind us of the sacrifices others have made so that we have the opportunity to have so much. The recent passing of my friend James (Jimmy) Anagnost at age 98 did so for me.

In his later years Jimmy belonged to an ensemble of dedicated morning workout-aholics at a local gym. Though one of the older members, he showed up on schedule with a Cal Ripkin-like consistency for years without fail even into his 90s. An old soul imbued with values recalling a simpler time, Jimmy sported a sprightly elfin humor and laughing eyed geniality that earned him the love and affection of his gym buddies, men and women alike. Only in his later years did Jimmy honor me by breaking his good-natured smiling silence and share with me elements of his history. I found him both uniquely special as an individual and, again, representative of a generation. Jimmy’s story rightfully honors both him and his peers.

His story begins before the WWII Battle of the Bulge in 1944.

Fanfare for an uncommon man. A decorated soldier passes at 98

Jimmy Anagnost at MetLife Stadium

Born in July of 1924, little in his early years would prepare Jimmy Anagnost for the future that awaited him and millions of others like him. While that cataclysmic future bringing WWII awaited all, some, when finding themselves in fate’s crosshairs, forced to face cruel choices chose to respond to a higher calling. Such was young Jimmy of Nashua, New Hampshire.

“As a high school senior seeing the war in full swing, I figured knowing a little German might come in handy,” Jimmy said with a “did not need to be a rocket scientist” gesture. Jimmy would find his intuition about the benefit of speaking some German to be oh so true.

Jimmy in uniform

The following year after completing his freshman year at Springfield College on a Friday in June of 1943 Jimmy received his draft notice the next Monday. By November Jimmy found himself aboard Britain’s original HMS Queen Elizabeth. No pleasure cruise this. Being berthed five hammocks high in tight quarters together with wicked rough seas reduced the crossing to a six-day barf fest. A further wrenching of the ship’s collective stomach came with rumors that the QE1 had a Nazi U-boat in pursuit. The only stress relief resided in the belief that no U-boat had the speed to catch Britain’s queen of the sea.

Jimmy recalled, “Our destination would be Belgium. The Battle of the Bulge had broken out.”

For those unfamiliar with the “WWII Battle of the Bulge” It stands as the Nazi’s last major offensive of WWII and an all out effort in the dead of winter to split allied forces along the Western Front. It got its name from the large sag or “bulge” in the Allied line resulting from the German surprise attack.

It resulted in a frozen six-week blood bath in the dense Ardennes Forest of Belgium. Winston Churchill called it “the greatest American battle of the war with a deployment of over 500,000 troops. Adding to the frozen horror, a deep snow, freezing rain and record breaking cold temperatures brutally assaulted the troops with over 15,000 injuries resulting from the severe cold alone. Many of the soldiers were young men barely out of high school, just like Jimmy. In the end, the American forces prevailed and threw back the Nazi offensive though paying a terrible price in the process. According to the National WWII Museum, in what would be the costliest battle ever fought by the U.S. Army, American troops suffered over 80,000 dead and wounded.

All units in the frozen Ardennes meat grinder needed replacements, young Jimmy with the rank of corporal would be a replacement with a battered infantry division. His first exposure to death came with witnessing dead American soldiers being loaded like uncut cord wood into a truck. Jimmy said, “To this day, every time I see a truck loaded with cord wood it brings that sight back to life for me.”

Battle of the Bulge,  Ardennes Forest

Life came at Jimmy with increasing speed. A following morning  found Jimmy and his fellow replacements being stocked with supplies, ammunition and fed a breakfast of pancakes with chocolate syrup. Jimmy said, “A veteran from D-Day informed me that that breakfast was tradition before heading into battle.” He remembered the day being bitter cold and snow depths made it difficult to walk. Jimmy said, “Marching to battle I was scared. No conversations filled the air. A deathly quiet seemed to choke life itself. Not knowing what to expect fed my fear. In all my time in combat that was the most fear I ever had.” Once action started, Jimmy said, “I fired my gun. Yelled for my men to move forward and basically acted like a leader.” It helped eliminate his fear. It did not free him of experiences that would haunt his memories for the rest of his life.

Jimmy recalled coming under intense German fire. His friend Sergeant Joe Vosek hugged the ground next to him firing in the direction of the German attack. Jimmy heard a gulping sound. Jimmy said, “I turned and blood was flying everywhere. Joe had been machine gunned in the throat. Joe died. I was ordered to advance which I did but I will never forget Joe Vosek.”

One especially bitter day in this frozen hell Jimmy faced decisions that would forever impact the lives of his men and lives of those who depended upon them.

The following comes directly from Jimmy’s Commanding Officer’s recommendation of Jimmy for the Silver Star.

On 2 March 1945 as Company K 23rd Infantry (Jimmy’s unit) crossed the Urft River the enemy opened fire from 18 pillboxes trapping the company in a small open pocket. Strongly prepared enemy positions poured a hail of fire from three sides. The company found itself unable to withdraw because of enemy mortar and machine gun fire.

When 2nd platoon was ordered to withdraw Corporal James Anagnost volunteered to remain in position to keep in radio contact while the platoon leader reconnoitered a favorable withdrawal route to safety. Although it meant being dangerously exposed to enemy fire, Cpl. Anagnost with high devotion to duty took up the exposed position.

Upon receiving word to withdraw the 2nd Platoon he utterly disregarded his own safety to crawl from position to position to contact each man to order him to pull back. All the while Cpl. Anagnost was dangerously exposed to the hail of enemy small arms fire, automatic fire and mortar fire as he moved over the open and fire swept field. Only when he was sure that every man was withdrawn from the area did Cpl. Anagnost dash through enemy fire to reach the cover of a brick wall. There, with a handful of riflemen Cpl. Anagnost directed a rear-guard fight to cover the withdrawal of 3rd Platoon and other elements of Company K in the area.

Just as Cpl. Anagnost received a radio message to withdraw from his position, he heard a wounded man calling for aid from the open field in front of the wall. Aware that the platoon aid man was busy treating and evacuating several wounded men under cover of the brick wall, Cpl. Anagnost called for a volunteer to try to reach the wounded man. When no one responded he declared that he would make the perilous journey himself. Despite the advice and arguments of the other men that it was suicidal to leave the cover of the wall Cpl. Anagnost moved into the enemy fire crawling some thirty-five yards over the fire swept ground to reach the wounded man. Discovering that the man was wounded in the leg and arm and unable to help himself in withdrawing, Cpl. Anagnost dragged the man through the snow to the cover of the wall where he treated the leg wound and applied a tourniquet to the arm. Cpl. Anagnost then directed the men to withdraw to the rear and cross the river. He was the last man to leave the area and withdraw across the river.

By his high devotion to duty, courage and utter disregard for his own safety, Cpl. Anagnost was highly responsible for the successful withdrawal of Company K from its perilous position without staggering casualties and for the rescue of a wounded man who otherwise would have been killed or captured.

Two months later, Jimmy, now Staff Sergeant Anagnost and his men, after clearing two villages of snipers, moved on to neutralize several heavy gun placements targeting Allied troops at point blank range. After calling in a punishing heavy artillery barrage on the enemy position, Jimmy, surveying the scene from a location on high ground, realized that the enemy was surrounded. Clearly it would be in the Germans best interests to surrender and prevent the terrible loss of life assured by the impending withering fire awaiting to pound their inescapable position. Jimmy armed with his high school German, amazing chutzpa and basic decency volunteered to go forward alone into a clearing and facing the enemy line attempt to talk the Germans into surrendering. As described in the Army account:

S/Sgt Anagnost went forward to the enemy position and was met by a German with a bazooka pointed at him. At that time S/Sgt Anagnost was joined by Sgt Ray Legg, Albany, NY who whispered to Anagnost to hit the ground while Legg would shoot the German.

Jimmy in recalling the incident said, “My German was not that great. I was not getting through to the Germans that they were surrounded and basically faced annihilation. Ray kept whispering, almost imploring me, saying Jimmmmyyyy. I told Ray just one more chance.” According to the Army report, on this final effort “Another German soldier jumped out of a gun emplacement and yelled, ‘I’m from New Jersey we can make this work.’” Apparently the German soldier’s father, before the war, had come with the family to work for a German company in Edison New Jersey. Returning to Germany before the war, the son, still a German citizen, was conscripted. Jimmy said, “If you saw this in a movie you would say what a load of B.S. I guess what they say is true in war you see things that you just couldn’t make up.”

Jimmy as Shulton Rep judging for Miss Nebraska 1958

Jimmy’s actions resulted in the capture of over 50 flak guns that would no longer jeopardize allied planes, many 88mm heavy guns that would no longer kill allied troops and 250 prisoners who could no longer take allied lives and had been given the opportunity to live out their lives after the war.

In returning home after the war Jimmy finished his degree at Springfield College and set about building a good life after surviving a terrible war. Jimmy began a career with the Shulton Company best known for its Old Spice products. Jimmy represented Shulton products to military bases around the world. Interesting Jimmy once acknowledged to me that the most fear he ever experienced in his life occurred when going to Vietnam for Shulton in the mid 1960’s. Jimmy said, “You never knew who was the enemy nor how close they were. There was no enemy line. It scared me.”

In 1953 Jimmy married the love of his life Katharine (Kitty) Anagnost and raised a family with 3 sons and a daughter. Jimmy and Kitty’s marriage lasted 68 loving years. Kitty passed in 2021.

Jimmy’s later years had found him spending summers in Maine and when at his home in River Vale NJ attending a health club in Westwood, New Jersey. It was at that gym where Jimmy established himself as a beloved member of the health club family. Into his 90s Jimmy would work out diligently. He amazed his fellow gym rats with his vigor and by his sheer genuine joie de vivre and decency charmed

Happy 90th Birthday Kiss

the women and was beloved by “the guys.” That said, one friendship in particular stands out for both its apparent incompatibility and depth.

Over the years a deep, strong almost familial bond developed between Jimmy and fellow gym member New York Giants Pro Football Hall of Fame Linebacker Harry Carson. This friendship defied a phalanx of possible divisions from age, physical stature, regional roots, race, profession, celebrity and more. And in so doing, made a profound and universal statement about the deep transcendent nature of true friendship.

Jimmy roughly five feet seven inches tall and 150 pounds and Harry at six feet two inches and 255 pounds (He retired in 1988 and still maintains his playing weight) were so different yet so comfortable together. Harry deferred to Jimmy like a respected and beloved favorite uncle. Harry remained in constant contact with Jimmy right through Covid and during Jimmy’s time in assisted living right till his passing. Simply a joy to see them together. Watching Harry a bright, famous, revered, giving and personable man defer to Jimmy seemed a moving expression of a hero’s joy when focusing the spotlight on another.

Jimmy and Harry Carson celebrating Jimmy’s 90th Birthday

Harry’s deep affection and respect for Jimmy evidenced itself in 2015 when at Harry’s urging, the New York Giants honored 91-year old Jimmy during the NFL’s salute to veterans before a packed Metlife Stadium.

Announced to the full house by Harry, Jimmy walked on the field with a deliberate stride (all his gym friends told him to confidently stride out on the field and snap off a salute). Mission accomplished. Rising with a thundering roar from a single voice shared by the 83,000 fans, all in attendance celebrated the life of an uncommon man.

At 98 Jimmy has passed. Our lives are better because of the life he and his peers lived. Long live Jimmy.

Jimmy Anagnost will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

By |2023-02-16T14:33:21+00:00February 2nd, 2023|20 Comments