Testimony from an “unattributed recollection” from type set preserved in the A. B. Deming papers and reprinted in the 1988 “Naked Truths about Mormonism” newsletter:
“The original Sherman wagon shop and its smithy were built in the 1820s by Rhodes Sherman, Sr. Sherman’s son Alson was a contemporary of Joseph Smith, Jr. and Oliver Cowdery and it seems that he was privy to some details about various secret activities carried on by those two in his father’s shop in about 1828. Oliver Cowdery was then apart-time coppermith who possessed considerable skill in preparing copper engraving plates for the old-fashoned hand printing presses of that period. He had most recently found some employment in this line of work and related tasks in Canadiagua, but,following the untimely death of his employer, young Cowdery lodged firstwith his brother and then with his cousins (the Joe Smith family of Manchester) and there became a sometime participant in the infamous”Gold Bible Company.” After Joseph Smith, Jr. had his dream about the angel, it was decided in private midnight consultations that the contrived appearance of real metallic plates would be of especial use to the Bible Company.
Oliver was dispatched to the Sherman smithy with orders to fabricate a book of plates, held together with rings. Making use of various bits of scrap copper, Cowdery first attempted to forge the necessary production out behind the wagon shop. When that process proved too tedious for his taste, the coppersmith instead beat some worn-out engraving plates into serviceable “ancient sheets,” nearly as thin as paper. According to onlooker Sherman a half-dozen such plates were manufactured, but for what purpose he was never told. Burnished to a gleaming finish with brass polish, the copper plates had the look and feel of pure gold to the credulous farmers of that region. Still, they were so few and so unlike gold in weight that the Bible Company made slight use of their wondrous treasure. Once Mr. Harris and the Whitmers had been adequately fooled Cowdery and Smith exchanged the copper “treasure” for new hats and a couple of plugs of tobacco in Macedon and all were happy with the trade.”
According to Smith, the plates “had the appearance of gold”, and were:
“…six inches wide and eight inches long and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Ancient Egyptian characters and bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters on the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction and much skill in the art of engraving.”
Smith, Joseph, Jr. (March 1, 1842), “Church History [Wentworth Letter”], Times and Seasons 3 (9): 706–10.