Coinage of the Americas Conference at The American Numismatic Society, New York City
© The American Numismatic Society, 1988
American colonial records suggest that until the middle of the eighteenth century, peace treaties and land sale agreements between European colonists and American Indian groups were symbolized by the exchange of traditional Indian beaded belts (wampums), or animal skins.1 The awarding of medals to American Indians was therefore never a standard practice in Britain’s bid to retain possession of its American colonies or in her colonial rivalry with France. Greatly valued as official symbols of recognition by Indians, however, medals soon became inextricable from English dealings with Indians. Because of their ideological importance, the U.S. government also early adopted medal distribution as an aspect of its Indian policy. American scholars recognize the value of medals as important documents of U.S. history, yet far more research has been done on the presidential medal series than on its colonial antecedents. The standard treatments by Belden and Prucha systematically exclude these colonial medals.2
This essay focuses on the numismatic problems of an early English medal series believed to have been awarded to American Indian Chiefs by King George I. The earliest reference to this medal appears in a book by Charles Miner titled The History of Wyoming (a small town in Pennsylvania) in which he states:"Fortune was unexpectedly propitious to our search, for we found a medal bearing on one side the impress of King George the First, dated 1714 (the year he commenced his reign) on the other an Indian chief."3
The first in a series of colonial medals, this"peace medal" is not only the earliest of its kind that bears direct iconographic references (on the reverse) to the native American, it is also the most problematic. This series is probably the only bronze medal distributed before the Admiral Vernon medals of 1740, and unlike later medals we know nothing about its origins, the authority behind its issue, its authorship, date, and context of its distrbution. My paper uses archaeological, documentary and numismatic evidence to address these issues.
The corpus of George I medals comprises pieces made from bronze or copper with an undetermined alloy. A catalogue of all known examples is appended. Some examples have traces of silvering on them.4 They average about 17 g in weight, 39 mm in diameter, and 1.5 to 2.2 mm in thickness. Some had loop attachments and, where a loop has broken off, a hole was made for a suspension ring. Extremely rare in American and Canadian collections, only 19 pieces were available for analysis during my research at the ANS in summer 1985. Most of these, plus the nine pieces that were in the Bowers and Merena 26-28 March 1987 sale appear to have been recovered from burials, as they all show signs of corrosion and pitting on their surfaces.5
My study has identified three obverse and six reverse types. Obverse Type I has a laureate bust of George I portrayed in low relief (fig. 1). The legend GEORGE KING OF GREAT BRITAIN is spread out with the G of GEORGE starting from beneath the right shoulder. This obverse is combined with two reverses, A and B, and they are exclusive to it. Reverse A shows a figure presumed to be that of an American Indian in frontal view and leaning on a bow in his left hand while holding an arrow with his right. On top of a hill to the far left is a tree and to the right of the tree, a deer. Although similar to A, reverse B depicts the Indian in profile and in motion. This type is the smallest in size of the whole group, measuring about 37 mm in diameter, and no more than 1.3 mm thick.
Type II medals follow a similar design format as Type I, but they are larger, approximately 39 mm in diameter (fig. 2). The bust of George I on the obverse is executed in much higher relief, the transitions in facial features are smoother, and the armor and hair more detailed. The legend is close together with the G of GEORGE and N of BRITAIN starting and ending at the tips of the monarch’s shoulders. Two reverses, C and D, appear on medals of this group. In both cases the Indian is shown in the act of shooting an arrow at the stag. Reverse C has 5 branches in the tree, and a high slope to the hill, while reverse D has six branches and a low slope.
Type III closely resembles Type II on the obverse, but the bust is larger, and the relief higher (fig. 3). The shoulders are broader and the floral motif on the chest appears to be the reversal of that which appears on Type II. Two distinct reverses, E and F, are associated with this type. Similar to C and D, E and F can be differentiated by the fact that there are only four branches on the tree, and that the gradient of the slopes is higher. The only apparent difference between E and F is that the second branch at 1 o’clock appears at the node between the first and third branches in E, and on the first branch in F.
This analysis has identified two broad style groups. Type I represents a distinct group not only because of its crude obverse bust, but also because of its two reverses, A and B, which are iconographically different from those of Types II and III. A chronological sequence based on style is not possible, but this evidence suggests that the two sets of medals may be the work of two workshops or artists.
The Type I medals are unsigned, but those of Types II and III are distinguished by the artist’s initials, T.C., on the truncation of the obverse bust.
This leads to the question of attribution, which has aroused considerable speculation. None of the well known English medalists or engravers of the early eighteenth century bears the initials T.C., but the initials I.C., by contrast, are well known as those used by Johann Croker, whose medals and coins rank among the finest in English history.6 Many American numismatists have attributed the medals to Johann Croker, following Betts’s erroneous identification of the initials as I.C.7 Close examination under magnification, however, proves the initials to be T.C. American numismatists have obviously been frustrated by this apparent contradiction as the entry in the Sotheby (Toronto) 1968 sale catalogue illustrates:"George I, copper medal by John Crocker, laureate bust to right, in armour, signed TC on truncation, GEORGE KING OF GREAT BRITIAN"8
Johann Croker was the Chief Engraver of the English Royal Mint from 1705 to 1741. One of the most prominent medalists of the early eighteenth century, he executed almost all the medals of Queen Anne and George I, and also remained influential in the Royal Mint through much of the reign of George II.
It would be, then, quite reasonable to speculate that the"official" medal of George I for Indian Chiefs would have been designed by him. And such attribution seems even more convincing considering intriguing stylistic connections that exist between the bronze medals that bear the initials TC and Croker’s bust for the George I coronation medal of 1714. Yet, this evidence raises more questions than answers: Are the obverses on the bronze medals copies from an original by Croker? If so, is TC a misspelling of Croker’s initials? The busts may have been copied from an original of Croker, but the initials TC are definitely not his. Published illustrations of Croker’s medals indicate that he was consistent in placing his IC beneath the bust, rather than on the truncation of the neck.9
The authorship of Type I medals is equally speculative. Of the three types, only medals in Type I are distinguished by a six-pointed star or mullet located directly beneath the obverse bust. This seems to confirm the separate status of the Type I medals. A mullet is a common heraldic device and tells us nothing concrete about the medal. It thus poses some questions: Who owns the star, is it an artist’s personal symbol and if so, who is he? Is it a mint mark or simply a control mark to distinguish this issue from earlier or later issues?
Two names in English numismatic sources may be our only clue to the identity of the artist; George Hautsch and George Vestner who both worked at the English Royal Mint in the early eighteenth century as engravers and medalists used the mullet as personal emblems.10 Hautsch was the first to use the six-pointed star on his medals from the 1690s until his death in 1712, two years before the accession of George I. Attribution of the piece to Vestner is also doubtful on stylistic grounds, since both he and Hautsch are credited with much finer and more professionally executed medals than this mediocre design. And even when both used the star, neither pierced his star at the center as in these examples.
The search for the origins of the medals seems as problematic as finding their author or authors. Records of English colonies in North America—New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Virginia—do not mention any royal presents of an Indian Peace Medal during the reign of George I.The most comprehensive source on British medals Medallic Illustrations, describes only a medalet, listed as a"Scottish Archery Ticket" from the same period with similar iconographic features, but that identification seems tentative.11 Neither Betts nor Whiting cite primary sources to support their claims that George I issued this medal series for American Indian Chiefs at his accession to the throne.12
The paucity of written data compels us to turn to the numismatic evidence for further clues. The use of an English rather than a Latin legend, for instance, represents a significent departure from the accepted practice of the English Royal Mint. Graham Dyer, Librarian and Curator of Medals at the Royal Mint, notes that Croker also favored Latin inscriptions. He thus endorses my speculation that this feature may be"an indication that the medals are probably unofficial issues with no connection to the Royal Mint."13
That these bronze medals were private issues seems convincing on close analysis of the pieces themselves. As the medals average 1. 5 mm in thickness, it would have been difficult to strike up such high relief busts using any simple minting devices available during the early 1720s. Even with the more advanced screw press, multiple blows may have had to be used since most of the medals (particularly Types II and III) reveal signs of modeling, unevenness, and in one case cracking, on their surfaces. It appears that the pieces were struck in a screw presss without benefit of a collar. Some letters of the legend have indentations (fish-tailing) beneath the lower serifs which is the sign of the outward flow of displaced metal as the flan comes under the pressure of the dies.
Although significant, the fact that a screw press was used for the operation does not locate the manufacturing site of the pieces. Screw presses were widely used in Britain during the early eighteenth century. In London, Bristol and Birmingham, they were used for the private manufacture of buttons, toys, and allegedly, for counterfeiting coins.14 By contrast, we have no definite record of a screw press in any of the American Colonies. Massachusetts apparently owned a mechanical device that was used for the minting of its own coins about 1652. However, by 1684 the operation of the Massachusetts mint had been halted by the Crown. A decade later, Massachusetts officials appealed for a lift of the royal ban, an indication that the device was probably still operational.15
Comparison of these bronze medals with some contemporary American Colonial coins and medals, including the Pine Tree shilling of Massachusetts (1652-1684), the Rosa Americana two pence (1723), the Higley three pence (1737) and the Admiral Vernon medals (1739-41), however, reveals no stylistic connections. Official medals of the Royal Mint either before or during George I’s reign also exhibit no affinities. The letter punches used for the legends on these bronze medals are significantly different from the official British and American coins or medals. For example, not only do we find a characteristic E punch on Types II and III, but also the G punches of these types have peculiar humps on their horizontal bars. The numismatic evidence thus suggests an origin other than an American colony for these two issues. If they originated in Great Britain, they were probably produced in a private mint.
Private mint records are in general not readily available and the lack of published contemporary sources from Birmingham, for instance, makes a full reconstruction of this medal’s history difficult. However, a letter from James Logan, Secretary of the Province of Pennsylvania, to John Askew of London, dated 26 June 1726, may hold the key to unravelling the history of these bronze medals,"... I shall observe here that being out of medals it will be necessary to bespeak of Jos. Harmer of Birmingham 4 or 5 gross of the same I had of him at 36 sh. p. Gr. or perhaps Samuel Wilson in Crooked Lane will supply them at the same price but they must be of the best sort with an impression on both sides...."16
The size of the George I medal is almost equivalent to the English crown, a silver coin. Since the crown was worth five shillings, no more than four silver medals could have been obtained for each English pound. If Logan paid as little as 36 shillings for each gross (144 pieces), then his medals could only have been made of an inferior metal such as copper, which was far less expensive than silver, but more difficult to work.17 It can also be inferred from Logan’s letter that his medals may have been produced in more than one workshop, located in Birmingham and London.18 This point is particularly significant given the marked stylistic differences that exist between medals of Type I and those of Types II and III. However, the consistencies in the iconography of their reverses suggest some historical link between the pieces, possibly the same patron for all the types.
Questions regarding the authority behind the medals, when and why they were issued, can be answered by examining their specific historical context. Even though we do not have absolute dates for these medals, it is safe to assume that those that bear the effigy of George I were issued during his reign. Later issues are designated by the name George II in the legend. Thus the issue and distribution of the bronze medals seems to have begun sometime during the reign of George I and continued through much of that of George II.
The archaeological finds have mostly come from western and central Pennsylvania and western New York. Outside of this nucleus, the distribution of the medals is sporadic.19 This geographical area roughly coincides with the lands occupied by the Iroquois and Tuscarora Indians in the eighteenth century.
The American historian Herbert Osgood observed that"the wars of the seventeenth century were sporadic and mainly between European settlers and Indians. The wars of the eighteenth century in contrast were intercolonial, that is, between the British and the French. The Indians were only drawn into these wars because of alliances they had with the individual colonies."20 The crucial role played by the Iroquois and Tuscarora Indians in this respect emerges in New York City and Pennsylvania colonial records.21 By the end of the seventeenth century autonomous Iroquois groups—Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga and Maquase—had formed a federation known as the"Five Nations." They were later joined by the Tuscarora bringing their number to six. For many years they were considered the most powerful Indian alliance in the eastern United States, and the"Six Nations" were most valuable military allies to European colonists in North America.
Logan asserted that military alliances with these Indian nations provided the buffer and their"only security against the French in case of a rupture."22 Perhaps of equal value was the ability of the Indian communities to mobilize large numbers of warriors on short notice to defend allied colonies. The geographical and political importance of the Six Nations would thus explain why the English colonies made consistent efforts to protect and reaffirm their old treaties with the tribal chiefs.
From 1693 through 1735, however, the French made significant inroads into these alliances by offering presents to various Indian chiefs from the king of France. Fears of French attempts to lure Indians of the Six Nations were echoed in a letter of 11 June 1715 from Capt. John Riggs to Capt. Nicholson which was later transmitted to Secretary William Popple."Last week an express came down from our frontiers, that the Govr. of Canada is very busy, tempting our 5 nations to come over to them, there being great presents sent them from the King of France..."23 At least three silver medals dated to 1693, 1706 and 1710 were included in the presents to Indian chiefs.24 Many more were distributed on subsequent occasions.25
Comparable presents were not forthcoming from the British despite persistent requests from the colonial authorities to the Home Government. The desperation of the colonists was quite evident in several letters sent from New York City and Pennsylvania to the Lords of Trade in Britain. These letters repeatedly emphasized the need to counter growing French influence with royal presents to the Indians.26 New York City Governor Hunter wrote on 29 September 1715,"I must also intreat your lordships to intercede with his majesty that the Ordinary presents to the Indians upon the accession of the several Princes to the throne may be speedily transmitted. They are wanted and will be of great service at this time...."27
Although the precise nature of the royal presents was never revealed, it is on record that both King Charles II and Queen Anne distributed medals to some Indian chiefs at their accession. George I did not follow this precedent. Indeed, throughout the reign of George I and the greater part of his successor’s, no official English medals were awarded to Indians.
At the conference between Pensylvania officials and representatives of the Six Nations at Albany, 7 September 1721, Governor William Keith offered one gold medal (probably an example of George I’s coronation medal) and other presents to Indian chiefs.28 It seems that between 1714 and 1752, belts and gorgets were used extensively as symbols of alliance with Britain rather than medals.29 The only official British medal on record that was distributed to Indian chiefs was a silver medal of George II which was awarded by Governor Sir Denvers Osborne of New York to Iroquois chiefs who attended a conference at Albany in 1752.30 That the 36 year period between 1714 and 1750 represented a period of great intercolonial conflict would seem to be sufficient justification for a private medal. Thus it is not surprising that in 1757,1764, and 1766, the Quakers of Pennsylvania commissioned a series of private medals for distribution to Indian chiefs.
The historical significance of the bronze medals under study, however, lies not so much in the interaction between the Iroquois and the European colonies as a whole, but rather in the precise role played by James Logan.
Mr. Logan was a well-known scholar and Pennsylvania statesman. He had come to the colony in the company of William Penn in 1699 at the age of 25. When Penn returned to England in 1701, Logan became Chief of the Proprietary Representatives of the Penns. From 1701 on, he was agent for all land sales, a position held until 1732 when William Penn’s son Thomas arrived in Pennsylvania. Even though Logan is said to have relinquished all his public offices, including that of Secretary of the Province, in 1714 at the accession of George I, he remained liason for Indian relations for at least two more decades and also served a term as mayor of Philadelphia in 1723.31
Of all these diverse roles, Logan’s involvement in the fur trade of Pennsylvania offers the most insight into the meaning and significance of the medals.32 After surviving a political filibuster in 1705, Logan returned from England"armed with documents" to transact business for the proprietary on a scale hitherto unheard of.
But in 1708, management of the province of Pennsylvania passed from William Penn to a trusteeship representing Penn’s creditors. Logan’s political influence took a downward turn. He left public office in 1714 for private business, specializing in the fur trade. In partnership with London merchant John Askew, he bought a stock of goods to run a wholesale business suited for the Indian trade.33 By 1720 Logan owned one of the largest wholesale establishments on the east coast. He maintained two warehouses in Philadelphia, on Fishbome’s Wharf and on Second Street, from which he supplied smaller traders with sundry foreign goods imported through Askew.34 The most prominent and probably richest of the fur traders, Logan extended credit to both Indians and small traders. A description of a consignment of goods taken by one Henry Smith, a fur trader, that appeared in his journal, included medals intended for Indians.35 How many of these medals were already in circulation by 1726, which Indians received them, and on what occasions, may never be known. But Logan states quite explicity that"the Indian Goods must goe only to the traders to receive skin"36 and thus his motives for distributing the medals cannot be misinterperted. Further, since we have no official requests for medals in Pennsylvania records, or from any of the other English Colonies between 1714 and 1750, it seems almost certain that the medals were acquired for Logan’s own personal benefit.
In fact, the two motives were interwined. In addition to their military support role, the Six Nations were respected as important commercial partners. Because of the Indian Wars of Virginia and the Carolinas, which began in 1712 and lasted for nearly five years, Pennsylvania merchants, including Logan, made huge trade gains. With the wars over in 1717, competition increased as the fur trade in those southern regions was revived. Logan noted in a letter to Mrs. Hannah Penn"the tightening competition he was facing from Maryland and especially the price war that was being waged by New York City traders, not to mention constant French obstructions of free trade."37 In his letters to Askew, Logan emphasized that Indian trade goods must be of high quality. As he had stated in an earlier letter, the fur trade was his brainchild and only source of income, thus he would work toward maintaining his edge over other competitors. Economic necessity thus may have influenced the issue and distribution of Logan’s medals more than political expediency and, with more than 700 medals, he undoubtedly bought a lot of loyalty.38
|1||IA||10.7||37||Adams Coll., K.2. Kagin's (San Francisco), 29-30 Mar. 1985 (Western Reserve Historical Society), 999.|
|2||IA||38||Wayte Raymond, 16 Nov. 1925 (W.W. Wilson), 925.|
|3||IA||37||M.A. Jamieson, Medals Awarded to North American Indian Chiefs, 1714-1922 (London, 1936), p. 5, fig. 3|
|4||IB||12.3||37.5||Bowers and Merena, 26-28 Mar. 1987, 1138 (looped).|
|5||IB||11.4||37||Bowers and Merena, 26-28 Mar. 1987, 1139 (looped).|
|6||IB||11.5||37||ANS, purchased 1918 ("Presented to the great-grandfather of Dark Cloud of the Abenaki Tribe, St. Francis Reservation, Quebec") Jamieson, p. 6, fig. 4.|
|7||IIA||18.4||40||Bowers and Merena, 26-28 Mar. 1987, 1131 (looped).|
|8||IIC||14.8||40||ANS, gift of M.M. Greenwood|
|10||IID||40||Stacks, 29-31 Mar. 1973, 114.|
|11||IID||40||Jamieson, p. 4, fig. 1.|
|12||IID||14.8||39||ANS, gift of the Norweb Coll., S.H. Chapman, 9 Dec. 1920 (W. H. Hunter), 44. Jamieson, p. 5, fig. 2.|
|13||IID||39.5||Sotheby (Toronto), 30 Oct. 1968, 105.|
|14||IID||17.3||40||Bowers and Merena, 26-28 Mar. 1987, 1135 (looped).|
|16||IIb||39||Morin (see below, note 3), fig. 7|
|17||IIIE||20.0||40||ANS, gift of J. Coolidge Hills Coll.|
|18||IIIE||41.5||Bowers and Ruddy, 28 July-1 Aug. 1981, 2672.|
|19||IIIE||20.7||41.5||Bowers and Merena, 26-28 Mar. 1987, 1133 (looped).|
|20||IIIE||17.5||40||Adams Coll., 192.|
|22||IIIE||41||Presidential, 6 Dec. 1986 (Paul Patterson), 261.|
|24||IIIF||21.2||41||Adams Coll., X.|
|25||IIIF||14.9||40.5||Adams Coll., 193.|
|26||IIIF||41.5||Archive Publique Canada, 1601.|
|27||IIIF||18.3||—c||Bowers and Merena, 26-28 Mar. 1987, 1132 (looped).|
|28||IIIF||18.4||40.5||Bowers and Merena, 26-28 Mar. 1987, 1134 (looped).|
|29||IIIF||19.0||41||Bowers and Merena, 26-28 Mar. 1987, 1137 (looped).|
|30||IIIF||41||Stacks, 29-31 Mar. 1973, 113.|
|1||I would like to thank John W. Adams; John J. Ford, Jr.; Cory Gillilland, National Numismatic Collection, SI; Cornelius Vermeule, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Norman Willis, National Medal Collection, Public Archives of Canada. I am deeply indebted to Dr. Alan M. Stahl of the ANS and Dr. Richard Doty for the numerous ways in which they guided my research at the ANS during the summer of 1985.|
|2||Bauman L. Belden, Indian Peace Medals Issued in the United States (New York City, 1927); Francis P. Prucha, Indian Peace Medals in American History (Madison, 1971).|
|3||Charles Miner, The History of Wyoming (Philadelphia, 1845), p. 27.|
|4||Stacks, 29-31 Mar. 1973, 114, described as silver-plated brass. Extant examples of this medal show no date; nor do we find three stars or an Indian wearing a feather, as Miner depicts in his line drawing. In"Medals in Wisconsin Collections," The Numismatist 1923, p. 16, there is a description of a specimen in the Wisconsin State Historical Museum with stars arranged identical to those shown in Miner’s drawing— one on top of the tree and three above the Indian? The drawings in Victor Morin,"Les médailles décernées aux indiens américains," Mémoires de la Société Royale du Canada , 1915, fig. 7, and William H. Carter, Metallic Ornaments of the North American Indians (London, 1973), appear to have been based on Miner’s. The medals depicted may be classified as Types II or III. It may be that the small stars are invisible on examined specimens because of corrosion or wear.|
|5||See the Appendix for a catalogue of the known specimens. No medals seem to have been recovered or observed in a ethnographic context. Most of the archaeological finds are surface collections, and a few appear to be the result of illicit excavation.|
|6||Leonard Forrer, Biographical Dictionary of Medallists, 1 (London, 1904), pp. 472-79, which lists no Peace medals among 13 for the reign of George I.|
|7||C. Wyllys Betts, American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals (1894; reprint ed. Winnipeg, 1964), p. 83, n. 165.|
|8||Sotheby (Toronto), 30 Oct. 1968, 105.|
|9||A corpus of works signed by Croker appears in Medallic Illustrations of the History of Great Britain and Ireland , ed. Hawkins, Franks and Grueber (1904; reprint ed. London, 1977). Engravers of the Royal Mint in the eighteenth century were allowed to lend their dies out for private use. Fears that the practice facilitated counterfeiting of currency were expressed by Sir Isaac Newton, Master of the Mint from 1699-1727, in a proposal designed to curb the right of mint engravers to work on private medals: Rupert A. Hall and Laura Tilling, eds., The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, 2 (Cambridge, 1977), pp. 405, 413,422, 446. The identity of the artist with the initials T.C. is open to speculation. Several candidates may be listed: Thomas Callowhill mentioned in an Askew letter of 1704 in William Trent’s Correspondence (unpublished MS in Historical Society of Pennsylvania); or Thomas Carter, a notorious counterfeiter who is mentioned in one of Newton’s letters (Hall and Tilling, p. 405) are just two possibilities.|
|10||Forrer (above, n. 6), 2 (1904), pp. 441-42, and 6 (1916), pp. 252-57.|
|11||Medallic Illustrations (above, n. 9) 2, pl. CXLIX, 23, p. 485. The"Scottish Archery Ticket" has the effigy of King George II and is smaller that the pieces in this corpus. Neither H. A. Grueber, Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum Department of Coins and Medals (London, 1881), nor George Tancred, Historical Record of Medals and Honorary Distinctions (London, 1891), the two other major sources on British medals, list this medal at all for either George I or George II. Morin (above, n. 4), p. 293, thinks that the first George I medal for Indians may have been in commemoration of the Peace of Utrecht signed in 1713. He describes two varieties of George I medals, one with the legend"George King of Great Britain," and the other"Georgius Mag. Br. Fr. Et. Hib. Rex" The latter is obviously the coronation medal, and the first may be a reference to our bronze medals.|
|12||Betts (above, n. 7), pp. 82-83; J. R. S. Whiting, Commemorative Medals. A Medallic History of Britain from Tudor Times to the Present Day (Trowbridge and London, 1972), p. 117.|
|13||Personal communication Dyer to Quarcoopome, July 1985.|
|14||See Newton’s correspondence in Hall and Tilling (above, n. 9), letter n. 1347, pp. 413, 414 and 422.|
|15||This was implied in a copy of a Royal Proclamation of Queen Anne now in the ANS Library. It was some time between 1715 and 1717 that New York City made an appeal for a Royal Patent to mint copper coins: John R. Broadhead, ed., Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York City , 5 (Albany, 1856), 462.|
|16||Quoted in Harrold E. Gillingham, Indian Ornaments Made by Philadelphia Silversmiths (New York City, 1936), pp. 6-7. There is no citation given for the letter and the context in which the request for the medals was made by Logan is not explained.|
|17||Because of the difficulty of working copper, copper-based coinage of the early eigtheenth century was subcontracted to private mints in Bristol and elsewhere in Britain by the Royal Mint. The practice continued at least until the end of the 1720s. See Newton’s correspondence in Hall and Tilling (above, n. 9), letters 1403, 1431, and p. 433.|
|18||Crooked Lane was demolished to make way for King William Street in 1831. A detailed account of the street’s history is given in Bryant Lillywhite, London Coffee Houses (London, 1963), p. 669. The Lane, however, was probably better known for its blacksmiths quarter which is often praised in English poetry. See, for instance, Middleton’s The Witch of Edmonton (1. 173) where the clown is asked to fetch bells:"Double bells: Crooked Lane ye shall have them straight in Crooked lane."|
|19||The note"A New Discovery Group of the First American Indian Peace Medals," Kagin’s, 29 Mar. 1985 (Western Reserve Historical Society), pp. 1-3, also centers the distribution of this type in the mid-Atlantic region. According to Horace E. Hayden,"Account of the Various Silver and Copper Medals Presented to the American Indians by the Sovereigns of England, France, and Spain, from 1600 to 1800," Proceedings and Collections of the Wyoming Historical Society 2, 2 (1886), pp. 217-38, two of these medals were found at Point Pleasant, VA, on the spot where a battle was fought in 1774. The accession information on the piece in the ANS collection indicates that it came from the St. Francis Reservation. The Canadian Public Archive specimen was probably collected from Canada. These two pieces may have been transported there by Iroquois and other Indians who were enticed by the French to cross over to Canadian territory to be mobilized against English settlements: C. Hale Sipe, The Indian Chiefs of Pennsylvania (Butler, 1927). The nine medals in the Bowers & Merena sale of 26-28 Mar. 1987, were found in Natrona (about 20 miles west of Pittsburgh) in about 1915.|
|20||Herbert Osgood, The American Colonies in the Eighteenth Century, 1 (New York City, 1924), p. 60.|
|21||Acccording to W. Beauchamp,"Metallic Ornaments of the New York City Indians," Bulletin of the New York City State Museum 8,41 (1901), p. 379,"the southern Indians being of less account got no medals for a long time."|
|22||J. J. Kelly, Pennsylvania, the Colonial Years 1681-1776 (New York City, 1980), p. 186.|
|23||Broadhead (above, n. 15), 4, pp. 414-15.|
|24||Henry Nocq, Médailles offertes par Louis XIV et Louis XV," Gazette Numismatique Française 11 (1907), p. 163.|
|25||Morin, (above, n. 4), pp. 279-89; R. W. McLachland,"The Canadian ‘Indian Chiefs’ Medal," AJN 29 (1894), pp. 59-60. Several medals were given to various Indian chiefs at a council held at Quebec in 1742, between the Marquis de Beauharnois, Governor-General of New France and representatives of the Sioux and other tribes, see"Medals in Wisconsin Collections" (above, n. 4), p. 15.|
|26||Broadhead (above, n. 15), 4, 413, 456.|
|27||Broadhead (above, n. 15), 4, 436.|
|28||Broadhead (above, n. 15), 4, 677-78.|
|29||Treaties between English colonies and Indian groups published by Benjamin Franklin contain detailed descriptions of presents given to Indians at such meetings. Colonial records indicate that until probably 1750, traditional Indian wampums (beaded belts) constituted the primary symbols that were exchanged at the signing of peace treaties and negotiations for land sales between Indians and English settlers. Animal skins, particularly those of the beaver and deer were also employed, see Frank Speck, The Penn Wampum Belts, Leaflets of the American Indian Heye Foundation 4 (New York City, 1925).|
|30||E. B. O’Callaghan, Historical Magazine, Ser. 1, 9 (1865), p. 285; Gillingham (above, n. 16). William Trent’s Journal for 10-24-59 describes another conference with Indians at Pitts,"Willi [Stanwix] sent for them, made each of the chiefs a present of a silver medal, after drinking several healths the General took his leave of them."|
|31||Joseph Johnson,"The State of the Colonies, 1732: A Quaker Imperialist View of the British Colonies in America," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 60 (1936), pp. 111-130, provides an interesting biography of James Logan, summarizing his career as politician, statesman and scholar in Pennsylvania. See also Sipe (above, n. 19), pp. 84ff, and Albright G. Zimmerman,"The Indian Trade of Colonial Pennsvlvania" (Ph.D. diss., University of Delaware, 1966). Kelly (above, n. 22), p. 160, says Logan was the mayor of Philadelphia in 1723 but he does not identify his source of information, or how long Logan was in office.|
|32||Logan probably benefited from his privileged position as Chief of the proprietary representatives of the Penns and from his personal relationship with William Penn. It is also noteworthy that for some time, part of the profits from the fur trade went to the proprietary representative in London. A Pennsylvania statute of 1701 stated that"no persons are permitted to trade with those Indians but by license from Mr. Penn." Protests were lodged by various individuals with Colonel Quarey, principal agent for the Pennsylvania Company against this law, see Zimmerman (above, n. 31), pp. 2, 55, 67, 78.|
|33||John Askew apparently had business dealings with other prominent Pennsylvania merchants including Isaac Norris and Jonathan Dickinson. He was also listed among partners of William Trent, one of the richest traders of Philadelphia, see Zimmerman (above, n. 31), pp. 67, 79-80. In a letter to one Mr. Eagles, dated 31 October 1724, Logan explained that Askew lived in Ayloffe Street in Goodman’s fields, but was to be met with daily at the Pennsylvania Coffee House in London.|
|34||Zimmerman (above, n. 31), pp. 86, 116.|
|35||Shippen family papers (Historical Society of Pennsylvania XXVII, 26) cited by Zimmerman (above, n. 31).|
|36||Zimmerman (above, n. 31), p. 80.|
|37||Zimmerman (above, n. 31), pp. 90-91, 93, 104; see also Osgood (above, n. 20), p. 85.|
|38||I am still working on the iconography of these medals. I have therefore decided to omit an in-depth discussion of it. It is, however, significant that the hunting scene is given an emblematic status. The imagery not only reflects Logan’s economic interests as a fur trader, but also may be an attempt to appeal to Indian sensibilities. According to J. C. H. King, Tbunderbird and Lightning: Indian Life in Northeastern America 1600-1900 (London, 1982), pp. Iff., the deer had a central position in the Iroquois economy of the seventeenth and eighteenth century.|
|a||The reverse is too corroded to permit die identification.|
|b||Possibly type II; pencil tracing after Miner’s line drawing of a piece that has not been seen since.|
|c||Oval, 40 x 37 mm.|
© The American Numismatic Society, 1988
Of the various Indian Peace Medals issued in North America under British rule, perhaps the rarest and most intriguing are the Happy While United (HWU) medals, dated 1764, 1766, and 1780, and undated. Without exception they are exceedingly rare. Most are housed in museums and are relatively unknown to today’s collectors.1
Before considering the Happy While United medals, however, some discussion is needed of the Montreal medal, a related undated type issued in 1761, some three years before the earliest dated HWU medal. Like the Happy While United medals, the Montreal medals were commissioned by Sir William Johnson, produced by D.C. Fueter, and issued to North American Indians with allegiance to the British Crown.
Robert W. McLachlan, in his article on Canadian Indians, described the Montreal medal as follows:"Obv. MONTREAL A view of fortified town, showing five church spires, with water in front of which there is an island; to the right on a fort is a flag displaying the cross of St. George; Ex. DCF in a small oval. Edge corded. Rev. Plain (for the inscription); size 45 m. [sic] This medal appears to be cast. The specimen in my collection is inscribed: ‘TKAHONWAGHSE ONON- DAGOS.’ The ‘DCF’ is no doubt the silversmith’s stamp."2
The identity of DCF was unknown when the hallmark was first mentioned in the literature by Schoolcraft in 1851.3 C. Wyllys Bett in his 1894 work on colonial medals hypothesized that the DCF on the Montreal medal meant D.C. Fecit or D.C. made it.4 Dr. William Beauchamp did not say who DCF was in 1903,5 nor did McLachlan unravel the mystery in 1905.6 Although partial attribution of both the Montreal and HWU medals was made by Frederick W. Hodge in 1907, DCF remained unidentified.7 However, in 1909, McLachlan reported the identity of DCF to be Daniel Christian Fueter, crediting John H. Buck, then curator of the Department of Metal Work in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for the identification.8 This identification was followed by Chapman,9 Gillingham 10 and Jamieson.11
Daniel Christian Fueter was a Swiss silversmith who emigrated to New York City by way of London in 1754 and later settled in Bethlehem, PA, returning to Switzerland in 1769.12 He entered his mark at the guildhall in London on 8 December 1753. After arriving in New York City, he ran a classified ad in the New York City Gazette of 27 May 1754, which read:"Daniel Fueter, Gold and Silver-Smith. Lately arrived in the Snow Irene, Capt. Garrison from London, living back of Mr. Hendrick Van De Waters, Gun-Smith, near the Brew- House of the late Harmanus Rutgers, deceased, makes all Sorts of Gold and Silver Work, after the newest and neatest Fashion; he also gilds Silver and Metal, and refines Gold and Silver after the best Manner, and makes Essays on all sorts of Metal and Oar; all at a reasonable Rate. N. B. He buys old Gold and Silver Lace, and Gold-Smith’s Sweeps."
Fueter was an accomplished silversmith well known for the beautiful pitchers, vases and decorative items he produced. An exemplary specimen, a splendid silver basket wrought by Fueter in 1756, is illustrated in the Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), October 1954, pp. 87-88.
While it was Fueter who designed and produced the Montreal medals, the man responsible for having them commissioned was Sir William Johnson. Johnson held a number of offices in the Colonial government which put him in a position of authority with respect to government relations with the Indian nations. In 1744 Sir William was appointed commissioner of the Six Nations by New York City Governor DeWitt Clinton and in 1746 he was made commissioner for Indian affairs. In February 1748 he became commander of all forces in defense of the New York City State frontiers. In 1755 General Brad- dock made him sole superintendent of the affairs of the Six United Nations, with the rank of Major General. As such, he was the leader of the expedition of the battle of Lake George, where he soundly defeated Baron Dieskau—a major turning point of the French and Indian War.13 Sir William also played a major role in the battle of Montreal; where the defeat of the French was instrumental in bringing an end to the war.
McLachlan, in his article on Canadian Indian medals, was the first to mention Sir Willian Johnson’s involvement with the Montreal medal. In that article, McLachlan quotes excerpts from a private diary kept by Johnson and correctly concludes that the medal was issued as a reward for those Indians who took part in the Montreal campaign.14 In Arthur Woodward’s 1933 article on the Montreal medal, he quotes liberally from the Sir William Johnson Papers giving further evidence that the medals were awarded to England’s Indian allies at Montreal and providing a wealth of information about how the Montreal medals came into existence.15
According to a letter quoted in Woodward’s article, Sir William was ordered by General Amherst in 1760 to enlist the cooperation of as many Indians as possible to join the British in defeating the French at Montreal.16 As the fight progressed, some of the Indian ranks joined the French side, but a sufficient number remained loyal to the British to effect the fall of Montreal in September of 1760. According to Woodward,"Apparently the idea of a medal to be issued to the faithful Indian allies of the Montreal expedition, as a token of appreciation of their loyal conduct, was born on the field of battle, probably within the walls of the conquered city and was fathered no doubt by the sagacious Sir William, who knew such a gesture would tend to cement tighter the bonds of good will and friendship between the Indians and the British Crown.17 Woodward concludes that Sir William made a list of the Indians who were to be honored with the medals (a list that Amherst refers to in a letter to Johnson, see below n. 21) and that Amherst took the list to New York City with the intention of having the medals made immediately.18
In February of the next year, Amherst wrote to Sir William to report on the progress of the medals. This letter contains the first authentic, contemporary description of the medals. Amherst wrote,"As an Encouragement to Such as behaved well during the last Campaign, I have, as I mentioned to You, I would, Ordered a Number of Silver Medals to be struck, representing the City of Montreal with a blank Reverse, On Each of which is to be Engraven the Name of One of those Indians, who, by wearing the same as a badge of Distinction, will, by Virtue thereof have free Egress and Regress to any of His Majesty’s Forts, Posts & Garrisons, so long as they Continue true to his Interests: they are not quite finished Yet, when they are, I shall send them to you, to make a Distribution of them."19
Fueter had been commissioned to do the work, which he completed in April 1761. The medals were not struck but were cast in an engraved mold. The cost of the Montreal medals is mentioned in a letter written to William Pitt by General Amherst on May 4, 1761."I have sent one hundred and Eighty two medals to Sr Wm Johnson, to be delivered to as many Indians as accompanyed the Army to Montreal, it will please the Indians much, and I trust will have a good Effect, the Expense is not great, the whole amounting to 74/6/4 Sterling."20
A total of 182 silver medals were produced and according to Amherst, one gold specimen was made especially for Johnson. On 17 April 1761, Amherst wrote to Johnson:"I send you by Capt. Minnett 182 Silver medals for that Number of Indians who were under your Command On Our Arrival in Montreal. Each medal has a Name inscribed on it, taken Exactly from the List which you gave me in Canada according to the Enclosed Copy.—...I Enclose One of these medals In Gold, which I beg your Acceptance of; and that you will permit me to say, no one has so good a right to it as yourself; for I am convinced those Indians that did Accompany the Army were Induced to it from the proper Care, and good Conduct you shewed towards them.—"21 This is the only mention in the literature of a gold medal for Sir William, and although noted by Woodward, it has not been acknowledged in the numismatic literature. Very possibly this unique specimen has been destroyed or is lying in some obscure place awaiting discovery.
The Montreal medals are generally thought to be cast only in silver, but the engraved Canadian Archives specimen (M1) is in pewter. Although Woodward was of the opinion that any pewter medal was probably a forgery, he apparently did not examine the actual medal. The present writers are of the opinion that it is genuine.
M1 (Betts 433). Edward Cogan, 19-21 May 1873 (Isaac F. Wood), 1169. Pewter, 45mm. Reverse engraved at top TANKALKEL, and in center in Roman letters MOHICKANS. Described as in good condition, composition as"some white hard substance and has a ring attached to it." See Sandham, no. 75 (where the inscription in the center is MOHIGRANS.22 The same medal is illustrated in Beauchamp with the correct spelling MOHIGRANS.23 The medal is also illustrated in the Canadian Numismatic Journal with the notation “presented to the Chief of the Mohawks for assistance in the British capture of Montreal."24
In discussing this specimen, Betts 25 describes the reverse as TANK ALKEL at the top; MOHICKANS in the field. Additionally, he noted that the description was taken from McLachlan’s paper where the name of the recipient is given as TANKILKEL, and that of the tribe as MOHIGIANS. Betts goes on to note that these are errors and that the name is spelled MOHIGRANS in Sandham. He notes that this particular specimen is in pewter, which has been confirmed to us by Hillel Kaslove.
Edward Cogan, 29-30 June 1876, 631. On reselling this specimen, Cogan included the proper description of the reverse engraving and noted the composition as"type metal."
McLachlan’s original article on Canadian numismatics was first published in 1881.26 In a subsequent article published in 1884,27 McLachlan noted his recent purchase of the Bushnell specimen of the Montreal medal (M2) and noted that it was his first opportunity to handle an original. In this article he noted that the proper reverse description of the medal sold in the 1876 Cogan sale was the one in Sandham.
M2 (Betts 431) S.H. & H. Chapman, 20-24 June 1882 (Bushnell), 286. Silver, 45mm."DCF Rev. Engraved at top TAKAHON NAGHOE, in center ONONDAGOS, in lower part subsequently engraved ‘Taken from an Indian Chief in American War 1761.’ Silver with Loop." Surprisingly this medal was not plated in the catalogue.
As indicated above, McLachlan purchased this medal and described it in his 1884 article.28 He described the reverse as"Reverse plain; ‘ONONDAGOS’ is engraved in capitals across the field, and the name ‘Tekahonwaghse’ in script at the top." We agree with this reading of the name as against that given earlier by Chapman. McLachlan again described this medal in an article published in 1899, where he identified the five churches portrayed on the obverse.29 Betts correctly listed and illustrated this specimen with a line drawing. It was sold to the Antiquarian and Numismatic Society by McLachlan and is plated in that Society’s journal in 1932.30
M3 (Betts 432). Ben G. Green, 13 Sept. 1912 (Morris, pt. 2), 483 (not illus). Silver. 44mm. Reverse engraved MAD OGHK/ MOHIKANS. Then S. H. Chapman, 9-10 Dec. 1920 (W.H. Hunter), 54, pi. 4 (obv. only). Then Glendinning (London), 15-19 June 1925 (W. Phillips), 844, illus. (obv. only).
M4. Sotheby (London), 10-14 May 1926 (John Murray & A.B. Murray), 557. Composition not listed, but it brought £70. We believe it is in silver. Reverse engraved ARUNTES, MOHAWKS. This medal is illustrated by a line drawing in Beauchamp.31
We are thus able to account for four of the Montreal medals which have appeared in auctions. Beauchamp illustrates, with line drawings, two additional medals with reverse inscribed CAN EIYA in script at the top and ONONDAGOS in capitals; and SON GOSE at the top in script and MOHIGRANS in capitals.32 Victor Morin in 1915 agreed that there were only six of these medals known.33 As late as 1955, in an unpublished letter sent to J. Douglas Ferguson, Morin continued to assert that only six of the Montreal medals were known. However, we note that Jamieson lists a seventh reverse, unillustrated, inscribed KOSKHAHHO.34 John Ford, Jr., owns two Montreal medals, one in silver and one in white metal. Due to his recent move, they are not available for study at the present time.
The Montreal medals and the Happy While United medals are closely related. As with the Montreal medal, it was Johnson who commissioned the HWU medals and Fueter who made them, but the two issues served somewhat different purposes. The Montreal medals were issued to those Indian chiefs who fought loyally with the British forces against the French at the battle of Montreal. The HWU medals, on the other hand, were used to attract as allies those Indians who still remained loyal to the French after the British had won the war and to reaffirm the loyalty of the Indians who had fought with the British during the war.
Woodward writes that in the spring of 1764, Johnson issued a general treaty invitation to those tribesmen who had been French allies in an effort to win their allegiance to the British. In July of the next year, a convocation of French Indians met with Johnson at Fort Niagara.35 Johnson knew that the leaders would be wearing French medals and wrote to General Thomas Gage on June 1 to ask for English medals to have ready to replace the French ones.36 Gage found that there would be insufficient time to have a special medal made since the medals used for such official confirmations were usually ordered from England. As the need for the medals was pressing, Gage proposed to use the dies that had been recently prepared for medals for some unspecified southern tribesmen.37 Woodward quotes a letter Gage wrote to Johnson on June 10,"I am afraid the Medals can’t be got ready by the Time you desire.I have been these two Months getting a Dye made for Medals to send to the Southward. I believe it’s now finished. The Reverse is not the King’s Arms but represents an Englishman and an Indian in Friendly Conversation. I suppose these would do for you as well as the old Pattern. I imagine when the Dye is once made that it can’t take much time to run the Medals. They are larger than yours [presumably the Montreal medal], & I will see what can be done for you immediately."38 Although there is no evidence that any Happy While United medals were ever issued to southern tribes, this letter from Gage certainly allows that possibility. Furthermore, in 1875 a Happy While United medal was found in a grave in Tennessee.39
Of the delivery of the medals, Woodward writes, The medals were finished and sent to Johnson on the 26th of the month. Gage wrote at that time saying: ‘Mr. Watkins, a volunteer setting out from hence to join the army under the command of Col. Bradstreet. I profit of that occasion to send you the 60 medals I mentioned in my letter of the 24th Inst, to have had struck off agreeable to your desire. The Mould was made for the Medals for the Indians in Florida [we infer from the use of the word"Mould" that the pieces were cast from the die and not struck] &c. & tho’ not quite as large again as that you sent to me I fancy it will answer well enough. I can not say much for the workmanship of them nevertheless they are finished by the best hand that could be found here’."40 In a subsequent letter to Johnson on July 15, Gage wrote,"Mr. Watkins an Ensign of the 30th carried the Medals from hence some Time ago, and should have nearly joined you by this Time."41
As best we can determine, the first reference in the literature to the Happy While United medals was by Schoolcraft in his history of Indian tribes in 1851,42 wherein he described a HWU medal housed at the Bibliothèque Impériale in Paris. Alexandre Vattemare cited the Schoolcraft reference in an 1861 publication43 which precipitated a note by William Sumner Appleton in his review of Vattemare.44 Betts, in his 1894 history of colonial medals, listed four HWU medals, all dated 1764 (Betts 509, 510, 511 and 513).45
In general, the obverses of the HWU medals show a bust of the King of England surrounded by the inscription GEORGIUS III D.G.M. BRI. FRA. ET. HIB. REX. F.D. The reverses, allowing for individual differences, are as described by Betts, "HAPPY WHILE UNITED. In exergue, 1764. In the field N/YORK and DCF counterstamped. Landscape, representing in the foreground an officer and at the right an Indian, seated on a rustic chair on the bank of a river. On the right a house on a rocky point, at the junction of the river with ocean, and three ships, under full sail, at sea. The Indian holds in his left hand a pipe. With his right hand he grasps the hand of the officer who is seated on his left. At his right a tree, at the left a mountain range. Silver. Cast. Size 46, with loop for suspension, formed of a pipe and an eagle’s wing."46
The known HWU medals bear the dates 1764, 1766, 1780, or no date. The obverse legend is the same on all the medals while the portrait differs slightly from medal to medal. The reverses, believed to depict New York City harbor, exhibit a few slight differences. Notably, the rarer large-size medals (72-75 mm) show three ships; the small-size medals show two. All are cast and chased in silver with a loop formed from the likeness of a pipe and eagle’s wing, except for one small-size specimen which is composed of two shells joined at the rim (HWU 12). The problem of striking a medal, whether 55 or 75 mm, with the pipe and eagle wing suspension undoubtedly accounts for the lack of any fully die-struck medals of this series. Of all the medals we were able to examine photographically, three do not bear the N:/YORK and DCF hallmarks.
HWU 1 (Betts 511?). ANS, purchased 1941 from Thomas A. Hendricks. Silver, cast, 54 mm.
HWU 2 (Betts 511?). Sotheby (London), 10-14 May 1926 (Col. John Murray and Major A.B. Murray), 559."2.2 inches" (55.9 mm). Regrettably only the obverse is plated and the cataloger did not indicate that it was undated. He created that impression, however, by reference to the illustration in Tancred which is undated.47 For clarification, we note that the wrong Betts number is listed. Thus any conclusions of precisely what this medal was, must at this time remain speculative.
Betts 511 is an undated small-size medal classified as a separate type by Betts because of the missing date. His description of this piece is perplexing for two reasons. First he notes that there are no ships on the reverse, but this is undoubtedly an error since the ANS specimen considered to be the Betts 511 type (HWU1) has two ships. Secondly, Betts dates 511 as 1764 but notes that the exergue is plain and refers to the description in Tancred, p. 49, of a similar undated medal. The line drawing in Tancred shows a series of lines across the exergue indicating perhaps that the date might have been removed either from the piece itself or from the die. Probably these"no date" pieces were produced for presentation in a different year.
HWU3 (Betts 510). Massachusetts Historical Society, ex. Appleton. Silver, cast, 75 mm. Strobridge, 12-14 Dec. 1872 (Furman), 101.
We believe that Betts 509 and 510 (cast, chased in silver, 75 mm in diameter) are two examples of the same type rather than two different types. Betts 509 is the piece described by Vattemare and noted by Betts to be in the Bibliothèque Nationale.48 Betts 510 is listed in AJN 7, p.90, as belonging to the Appleton Collection, now MHS. We believe Betts’s information had to have been sketchy because of his separate classification of these two specimens and because Betts 510 is the only HWU medal that he notes to be counterstamped on the reverse with N/YORK and DCF.
HWU4 (Betts 513). S.H. Chapman, 9-10 Dec. 1920 (W.H. Hunter), 71. Silver, cast and chased, 55 mm; reverse stamped in upper field with two punchmarks: N/YORK and DCF. Found in 1864 seven miles from Berlin, Ontario. Listed by Chapman as an example of Betts 510. Then Glendining, 15-19 June 1925 (W. Phillips), 842. Jamieson (above, n. 11), p. 15, 12. This medal apparently now resides in the British Museum.49 It is illustrated here from a cast in the ANS.
HWU 5 (Betts 513). National Numismatic Collection, SI. Silver, cast, 54 mm.
HWU 6 (Betts 513). ANS. Silver, cast, 55 mm (loop broken off).
HWU 7 (Betts 513). Norweb Collection, purchased as duplicate from ANS, 1967. Silver, cast, 55 mm. Illustrated from a cast in the ANS.
HWU 8 (Betts 513). Sotheby (Toronto), 30 Oct. 1968 (Reford), 108. Silver, cast, traces of gilding on obverse (suspension loop missing), 55 mm. This medal is the only 1764 that we are aware of that does not have the reverse punchmarks N:/YORK and DCF. For clarification we note that it was incorrectly listed as Betts 511, a variety with no date on the reverse.
HWU 9 (Betts not). B. Max Mehl, 2 May 1922 (James Ten Eyck), 2439. Silver, cast and chased, 87 mm. Reverse stamped N/YORK and DCF. Not illustrated and Mehl does not identify the"great Indian chief’ who owned this medal. Identified as Betts 511 which matches the obverse description but Betts notes that this is a 1764 medal in size 34 (55 mm) and that it is illustrated in Tancred (above, n. 46), p. 49, an illustration that is not dated. Mehl noted that he knew"of only one other, of slightly different variety, having been offered at auction, but of this particular variety, I can find no record of another specimen." Presumably he meant the 1764 Hunter specimen sold by Chapman (HWU 4).
HWU 10 (Betts?).B. Max Mehl, 23 June 1936 (Morse, Faelton and Todd), 1876. Silver, 87 mm. Noted by Mehl as Betts 511, reverse stamped N:/YORK and DCF, dated 1764. Described as probably the finest known specimen. Unfortunately not illustrated so we can offer no further information.
HWU 11 (Betts not). S.H. Chapman, 9-10 Dec. 1920 (H.W. Hunter), 72. Then Glendining, 15-19 June 1925 (W. Phillips), 843. Silver, cast, 72 mm. Jamieson (above, n. 11), p. 14, 11a; Morin (above, n. 33), fig. 13. Presumably now in the BM.
HWU 12 (Betts not). ANS, ex. W.W.C. Wilson. Silver, two uniface shells joined at rim, 59 mm. Raymond, 16-18 1925 (Wilson), 929.
There are two distinct varieties of the HWU medal dated 1766, both unknown to Betts. The Hunter specimen (HWU 11) of which an unmarked cast is in the ANS, is in Very Fine condition. It is cast and chased in silver and has a suspension loop. There is no hallmark and the reverse shows three ships. It was originally the property of Chief Waubuno, hereditary Wampum Keeper of the Delaware Indians at Muncy, PA. The medal and its pouch were purchased from the chief by G.M. McClurg of Toronto and later sold to the Oronhyatekha Historical Collection, then to the Ontario Museum and later acquired by Hunter. It was then purchased from Hunter by W. Phillips of Hampstead, England, and sold by Glendining in June of 1925. Its present whereabouts are unknown unless it is in the British Museum, having been acquired along with the 1764 piece in the 1925 Phillip’s sale.
The other known 1766 specimen (HWU 12) differs markedly in construction from the other HWU medals in that it consists of two shells joined at the rim topped by a suspension loop. The medal is 59 mm in diameter, weighs 67.72 g and is in Very Fine condition. There is no hallmark and the reverse depicts two ships. The medal was found near Niagara Falls, NY, by Ezkiel Jewett, a post trader at Fort Niagara in 1840 and eventually acquired by W.W.C. Wilson of Toronto from whom it was acquired by the ANS in Wayte Raymond’s 1925 sale. A photograph of the medal as it appeared on a 1913 postcard along with a letter giving the medal’s pedigree are in the ANS collection.
We are not aware of any written record attesting the issuance of 1766 HWU medals. Neither are we aware of any references in the literature prior to 1920 when the first one to surface was sold at auction. However Betts, citing Parkman’s"History of the Conspiracy of Pontiac," chap. 31, notes that Pontiac made peace with the English in the summer of 1765 and was given numerous gifts by Sir William Johnson at Oswego, NY, on 23 July 1766.50 Although Betts felt that the gifts included the so-called Lion and Wolf medal (Betts 535), we are of the opinion that the 1766 HWU medals may also have been issued at this time.
The latest of the HWU medal types is that known as the Virginia medal, dated 1780 (Betts 570). The obverse of this medal depicts the Great Seal of Virginia (first designed in the late 1770s) and the reverse a reproduction of the reverse of the Happy While United medals of 1764-66, with a date of 1780. The Virginia medals measure 75 mm in diameter and have a pipe and eagle’s wing suspension loop. The four known specimens of this medal are all in more-or- less Mint State condition and it seems unlikely that they were ever awarded officially or even worn.
HWU 13 (Betts 570). Described by Betts as being in the collection of W.S. Appleton, which was willed to the Massachusetts Historical Society. 75 mm.
HWU 14 (Betts 570). Raymond, 27 Oct. 1933 (Senter), 42. Copper.
HWU 15 (Betts 570). BM, since at least 1870. Pewter, cast, 75 mm. Listed by Betts as in the BM.
HWU 16 (Betts 570). Private collection, Ohio. Brass, cast, 70 mm.
Betts cited the specimen of his Betts 570, then in the Appleton collection, as made of copper as did Appleton on two published occasions.51 It seems more likely, however, that it is brass. Appleton later willed the medal to the Massachusetts Historical Society. The present whereabouts of the medal are unknown; it has not been found at the MHS and was not listed in the catalogue of the MHS sale scheduled to be held by Stack’s in 1973.52 The ANS has a plaster cast of an unidentified Virginia medal which may well be the MHS specimen.
Clearly Wayte Raymond was impressed by HWU 14, as it occupied one of only two plates in the catalogue. The whereabouts of this piece are unknown. HWU 16 was only recently discovered in Ohio and has been examined by the authors.
It seems unlikely that these Virginia pieces were issued officially. From a technical standpoint, none of the HWU medals could have been fully die struck with the eagle and pipe suspension edge with the technology available to Fueter in 1760 or even 1780. Thus, although the 1780 pewter medal in the BM is extremely sharp and detailed, it could not have been struck. The brass (or copper) cast pieces (Appleton’s misplaced piece, the Senter piece and the Ohio one), are relatively crude castings. There is little doubt that these medals were not made in or around 1780. Since the Appleton piece was known from about 1850, this may well have been when they were made. Until further data on these Virginia medals are available, they must be relegated to an apochryphal position in the Indian Peace Medal series.
Certainly the views expressed herewith on this fascinating series are not the last word, but we hope that the information available here will prompt more research by contemporary scholars.
|1||A study of this type could only have taken place with the cooperation of scholars from all over the Western Hemisphere. We wish to acknowledge the help of the following people: John W. Adams; John J. Ford, Jr.; Gordon Frost; Warren Baker; Francis D. Campbell, Jr. and Kay Brooks of the ANS library; Hillel Kaslove, Bank of Canada, Ottawa; George Kolbe; Harrington E. Manville; Charles Rand, Cory Gillilland, SI; James Welch; Mark Jones, Keeper of Medals, BM; and Eric P. Newman.|
|2||Robert W. McLachlan, Medals Awarded to Canadian Indians (Montreal, 1899), p. 14 (also serialized in CANJ 1899, with different pagination).|
|3||Henry R. Schoolcraft, History of the Indian Tribes (Philadelphia, 1851), p. 79, p1. 20.|
|4||C. Wyllys Betts, American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals (New York City, 1894), pp. 226-28.|
|5||William M. Beauchamp,"Metallic Ornaments of the New York City Indians," New York City State Museum Bulletin 305 (1903), p. 61.|
|6||Robert W. McLachlan,"The Montreal Indian Medal," AJN 40 (1905), pp. 107-9.|
|7||Frederick W. Hodge,"French Canadian Medals," Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico 30 (1907), pp. 830-37.|
|8||Robert W. McLachlan,"The Maker of the Montreal Indian Medal," AJN 43 (1909), pp. 155-56.|
|9||S.H. Chapman, 9-10 Dec. 1920 (W.H. Hunter), 54.|
|10||Harrold E. Gillingham,"Indian and Military Medals from Colonial Times to Date," address delivered before the meeting ot the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society, Philadelphia, 15 February 1926.|
|11||Melvill A. Jamieson, Medals Awarded to North American Indian Chiefs, 1714-1922 (London, 1936), p. 13.|
|12||McLachlan (above, n. 8), p. 155; see also Stephen G.C. Ensko, American Silversmiths and Their Marks (New York City, 1927), pp. 88, 180.|
|13||Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography (New York City, 1888), s.v."Sir William Johnson," pp. 451-52.|
|14||McLachlan (above, n. 2), pp. 13-14, citing Life of Sir William Johnson, 2 (Albany, 1841), p. 435.|
|15||Arthur Woodward,"A Brief History of the Montreal Medal," Bulletin of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum (1933), pp. 15-29. Certainly of all papers written on the Montreal and HWU medals, Woodward’s is the most scholarly and complete. Although written 55 years ago, it was previously neglected by numismatic scholars.|
|16||Woodward (above, n. 15), p. 17, citing the Sir William Johnson Papers, 3 (Albany, 1921), p. 272.|
|17||Woodward (above, n. 15), p. 17.|
|18||Woodward (above, n. 15), p. 17.|
|19||Woodward )above, n. 15), pp. 17, 19, citing Johnson, 3, pp. 317-18.|
|20||Woodward (above, n. 15),p. 23, citing Johnson, 3, p. 386.|
|21||Woodward (above, n. 15),pp. 22-23, citing Johnson, 3, p. 378.|
|22||Alfred Sandham, A Supplement to Coins, Tokens and Medals of the Domain of Canada (Montreal, 1872), p. 10, 75, illus.|
|23||Beauchamp (above, n. 5), pi. 26, 284.|
|24||CNJ 3 (1958), p. 47, illus. A photo of this medal has been supplied to the authors, courtesy of the Public Archives of Canada where the medal now resides, and Hillel Kaslove of the Bank of Canada Money Collection.|
|25||Betts (above, n. 4), p. 194.|
|26||Robert W. McLachlan,"A Descriptive Catalogue of Coins, Tokens, and Medals Issued In or Relating to The Dominion of Canada and Newfoundland," serialized in AJN, 1880-85. Republished as a book of the same title (Montreal, 1886).|
|27||Robert W. McLachlan,"The Montreal Indian Medal," AJN 18 (1884), pp. 84-87.|
|28||McLachlan (above, n. 27), p. 85.|
|29||McLachlan (above, n. 2), pp. 13-14.|
|30||CANJ 1932, p. 132, p1. 4, 1 and 2.|
|31||Beauchamp (above, n. 5), p1. 26, 283.|
|32||Beauchamp (above, n. 5), p1.26, 281 and p1. 33, 388.|
|33||Victor Morin,"Les médailles décernées aux Indiens d’Amérique," Mémoires de la Société Royale du Canada (1915), p. 304.|
|34||Jamieson (above, n. 11), p. 10.|
|35||Woodward (above, n. 15), p. 27.|
|36||Woodward (above, n. 15), p. 27, citing Johnson, 4, p. 437.|
|37||Woodward (above, n. 15), p. 28.|
|38||Woodward (above, n. 15), p. 28, citing Johnson, 4, p. 447.|
|39||AJN 10 (1876), p. 54.|
|40||Woodward (above, n. 15), p. 28, citing Johnson, 4, p. 453.|
|41||Woodward (above, n. 15), p. 28, citing Johnson, 4, p. 482.|
|42||Schoolcraft (above, n. 3), p. 79, pi. 20.|
|43||Alexandre Vattemare, Collection de Monnaies et Mé dailles de I’Amérique du Nord du 1652 & 1858 (Paris, 1861), p. 76.|
|44||AJN 2, (1868), p. 110.|
|45||Betts (above, n. 4), p. 226-28.|
|46||Betts (above, n. 4), p. 227.|
|47||George Tancred, Historical Record of Medals and Honorary Distinctions Conferred on the British Navy, Army, and Auxiliary Forces (London, 1891), p. 49.|
|48||Betts (above, n. 4), p. 227.|
|49||Sotheby (Toronto), 30 Oct. 1968 (Reford), 108, note describing the example in the BM illustrated in Jamieson.|
|50||Betts (above, n. 4), p. 238.|
|51||William S. Appleton in a letter in AJN 7 (1873), p. 90; see also Appleton, AJN 2 (1868), p. 110.|
|52||Stack’s, 29-31 Mar. 1973. The lots consigned by MHS were withdrawn prior to the auction.|
© The American Numismatic Society, 1988
To understand the current thinking on what we call the"Spanish medal in America," that is, the medals produced in territories under Spanish rule, we have to consider some fundamental studies from the turn of the century. We can then examine the policies behind the introduction of the earliest medal in Spanish America, whose influence extended to the medals of later periods. A consideration of the circumstances of the introduction and spread of the medal, which we intend to follow here in its general outlines, will shed light on the colonial policy as a whole.
Regarding published sources, the works of Medina on Spanish colonial medals, published between 1900 and 1919, remain fundamental;1 supplemented by Herrera’s 1882 work on Spanish proclamation medals2 and Vives’s 1916 book on medals of the House of Bourbon.3 These works all exhibit a similar point of view; they differ in that Medina focused on the American case individually, while Herrera and Vives considered it in the context of Spanish history as a whole. In more recent years, while several works have treated the development of the Academies, especially that of Mexico,4 from a variety of viewpoints, the medals themselves have only been treated in isolated works which are basically catalogues for collectors.5 In a recent study, I examined the medallic activity of the Academy of San Carlos, and placed it in the context of Spanish and American medallic activity.6
The first question to deal with must be the validity of the term Spanish in this medallic production, the extent to which it is a manifestation of Spanish intention and the role played by interests, producers, manufacturers, and recipients. To this end, we shall examine three points of reference whose influences complemented each other: the proclamation medal; the work of the mints; and the work of the academies.
The first documented medal in the new world, of which no extant specimens are known, is that of the proclamation and oath of Philip II in Lima in 1555. Medina has critically analyzed the documentation published by Herrera.7 To its difficulties of interpretation is added the uniqueness of the case, not only since, as Medina has explained, this was a medal for Lima alone, but also in that there were no analogous medals, either extant or known from documents for the next century and a half. In any event, the mention of a royal proclamation ceremony of the sort typical of Spain, including the distribution of medals with the king’s image, remains significant. The use of coins in this context on the American continent is attested indirectly for this period and explicitly for later times. We cannot therefore eliminate the possibility, if we accept the explanation of the development of American proclamations proposed by Medina, that the lack of a mint in Lima in 1555 led to the creation there of a medal to fill a role served by coins elsewhere and in Lima itself at a later date.8 In any event, we have here the earliest evidence for connecting the origin of the Spanish-American medal with the ceremonies attendant on a royal proclamation.
Apparently, the singular form in which the Renaissance medal was adopted in Spain did not lend itself to export to the new world because of the different social and political relationships.9 The notice published by Medina of a medal of Gonzalo Pizzaro stands out as an exception.10 Only the proclamations of kings, documented from the time of Philip II (that is, the official government activities), would serve as the occasion for the creation of coins or medals to disseminate the image of a new king.11 The single case documented for the Hapsburg Dynasty does not allow us to do more than speculate about this activity on the basis of what happened in the eighteenth century. This is confirmed by the fact that from the appearance of the earliest extant specimens of 1701, the proclamation medal remained for many years in Spanish-America, and, even after the introduction of other genres, continued to be the dominant form.
The geographical distribution of the cities in which medals were minted for the six proclamations up to 1808 can serve as an index of the spread of the Spanish medal on the American continent. From the data assembled by Herrera, Medina and Grove, we can discern a progressive extension and intensification of the production of the medals. Mexico served as an initial focal point and remained the area of greatest production. From there, production extended in two directions—to the Caribbean Islands and to the south—a distribution still apparent in 1808. Though the regional configuration of proclamation medals is related to the location of mints, it corresponds more closely to clearly-defined economic regions; for example, the region of el Plata, which had no mint in this period.
However, some exceptions are apparent, with some places and issuers fluctuating radically in output, not only on a local scale as was frequent in New Spain, but occasionally as an entire region. Cuba, for example, had been previously normal in its production, but produced no medals for the proclamation of Ferdinand VII in 1808. The outpouring of medals on the island in 1834 can be seen as a reaction to the independence of the continental viceroyalties. Nevertheless, the distribution is generally representative of the lines of development in Spanish America during the eighteenth century.
The earliest known examples are for the proclamation of Philip V in 1701 (fig. 1), which were limited to the two cities of New Spain, Mexico City and Veracruz, issued no doubt by municipal authorities.12 Both are of cast silver and correspond, as Medina pointed out,13 to the prototype of the medal for the proclamation of Philip V in Cadiz (fig. 2), dated 1700.14 The 1701 issues have the same obverse (except for the date) and retain the titulature of the Cadiz piece with no mention of the New World; the Mexico City piece has on the reverse the inscription IMPERATOR INDIARVM together with the arms of the city. These characteristics, together with the mediocre quality of these pieces, leads to the inference that they were the product of silversmiths’ workshops. This conclusion is supported by the documented production of proclamation medals in Spain by silversmiths trained as artisans rather than in the fine arts.15 In America, on the other hand, such documentation is common as in the case of Gonzalo Pizzaro mentioned above.16 From such examples, it can be affirmed that even if in its concept the medal was introduced as a royal proclamation, in practice its development was bound up with and influenced by the artisanal world, specifically silversmiths.
This can be seen, above all, in the clear connection between peninsular and American workshops, in spite of the existence of American mints and the documented use of coinage in connection with proclamation ceremonies.
The first models came from Cadiz. Later, for the proclamations of Louis I in 1724 and Ferdinand VI in 1747, examples can be found based more or less on pieces made in Cadiz for the proclamation of Philip V, but other prototypes can be noted, generally from Andalusian cities, which were in closest contact with America.17 Mexican proclamation medals of Louis I, for example,18 appear to correspond to models from Granada,19 though the direction of influence is not certain; they themselves served as models for medals of Ferdinand VI in San Miguel el Grande.20 In the case of Charles III, the medal of Puebla de los Angeles 21 imitates clumsily the Madrid medal of Francisco Hernandez Escudero dedicated to Ferdinand VI.22 To sum up, in the first half of the century, and even afterward, a growing dynamic of relationships existed between the old and new world, whose main sources can be seen in new Spanish models generally of Andalusian cities, imitations of these pieces, especially in Mexico, and finally totally local variations, with little fidelity to the original. The most notorious example of this last group is in the medals of Louis I from the Yucatan. Changes in the nature of the proclamation medal in Spain itself, however, would soon make themselves felt in America as well.23
The proclamation medal in eighteenth-century Spain can be placed in the context of the well-known struggle between the artisanal world of the Baroque and the academic style of classical art. The side taken by the Bourbons in this struggle is clear; placing a great deal of importance on the quality of coin and medal production, they encouraged the development of a national medallic program tied to the Academies, designed to replace the artisanal production then dominant.24
The transfer of this tendency to America led to a series of alterations imposed on the American medal, culminating in the creation of the Mexican Academy in 1785. But this event was in itself the consequence of an evolution whose first decisive step was the reorganization of the mints, the"Casas de Moneda." Although this is generally considered the work of Charles III, it can be seen clearly throughout America as the result of an earlier, gradual development.
The American mints, from the creation of the first two in Mexico and Santo Domingo in 1536, underwent a transformation that is beyond the scope of this paper.25 The introduction of the medal, whether in 1555 or 1701 was, as we have seen, independent of the mints. But, by the middle of the eighteenth century a movement parallel to the evolution in Spain brought about the appearance in 1760 of medals signed by mint engravers for the proclamation of Charles III; groundwork for this must have been laid in the reign of Ferdinand VI. Characteristic of this new approach is a document of 1757 in which the University of Lima sought to have certain medals produced in the mint in order to assure their quality.26
The most relevant examples would soon appear in Mexico, bearing the names of Francisco de Casanova (fig. 3) and Alejo Madero (fig. 4). Both men were from Spain and were, if not yet members of an organized academy, clearly products of an early version of academic culture. Casanova, a graduate of the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid, came to Mexico at an uncertain date.27 Madero appears to have been a student of Tomas Francisco Prieto in Madrid and an engraver in the mint of Seville before coming to America.28 If neither achieved a level of quality typical of later Academic work, their style shows a clear step in this direction, as does the introduction of such new elements as mythological figures.29 In the same period, another engraver trained by Prieto appeared in the mint of Sante Fe de Bogota: José Martin de Carpintero, who may have worked with Francisco Benito 30 on the proclamation medals of Charles III.31 In Santiago de Chile, an attempt to assimilate the work of engravers and silversmiths in the mint, not apparent until the time of Nazaual, would lead to the medals of Agustín Tapia, including those for the proclamation of Charles III.32 A similar style can be found on unattributed proclamation medals issued by cities with mints in or near them, such as Lima or Luján.33 Guatemala however did not conform to this development, but imitated traditional forms, despite the intervention of Mexico after 1733.34
4. Mexico, Proclamation of Charles III, 1760, by Madero
Given the current state of our knowledge, it is not possible to follow the general training of engravers in Spain before the reign of Charles III, except in specific cases such as Párraga or Hernández Escudero. These examples of American conditions in 1760 evidence the beginning of a transformation which was not yet institutionalized and a tendency to regulate the training and career of engravers, which would become systematized and well documented in a later period.35 From about 1760 on it is possible to discern a medallic activity in the American mints, with engravers coming either directly from Madrid—as would become the regular path in later years—or from the mint of Mexico, which had come to assume a position of primacy among the mints of Spanish America. The steps in the creation of the mint of Guatemala in 1733, or the relationship maintained with those of Lima and Potosi throughout the century are significant in this regard.36
It was during the reign of Charles III (1759-88) that the bases which had developed received their first formal recognition and that medallic activity in Spain as in America underwent an explosive growth. In Madrid the institutional ties between the mint and the academy reached their height in the person of Prieto and in the creation of the School of Engravers within the Mint, which would become the exclusive training ground of the profession. In 1772 monetary types were unified following patterns designed by Prieto and distributed to the mints. In this process, the American mints began to obtain their engravers from the same source as those in Spain.
Within this context there developed the third of the major determinant elements of the Spanish American medal with the foundation in 1785 of the Academy of San Carlos of New Spain, whose characteristics have been the object of repeated studies.37 In the area under discussion here, it is possible to discern a revision of the schema set up by Prieto even before the apparent development of American needs. It must be recalled that one of the principal activities of the Academies of Spain, as later in America, was engraving in all media, including medals.38 The transfer to Mexico of Jerónimo Antonio Gil to replace Casanova in 1778 was accompanied by the specific charge to establish a School for Engravers within the mint, a school which was to serve as the nucleus for the future academy.39 The ties between activities and institutions as well as a clear preoccupation with production of official art are readily apparent, and it is significant that the Academy was housed in the same building as the mint until 1789, when they were separated upon the arrival of Tolsá, Ximeno and González Velazques.40
The foundation of the Mexican Academy led to the fulfillment of the needs of the American mints for the training of medalists and engravers along the model of Madrid, which Gil had known well.41 But this did not exclude the possibility of the continued flow of engravers from Spain. Thus we see Spanish engravers such as Gordillo42 appear at the Potosí and Lima mints at the same time as a sizable group of Mexicans, presumably trained at the local Academy.43 However, though the Academy appears to have been able to meet the needs for which it was established, in 1804 the training of engravers was conferred on the department of engraving of the mint in Madrid.44
The results of the introduction of the Academy are well known and had a great impact on the Mexican medal. Along with the production of medals of high quality, we can note the assimilation of the proclamation medal within a varied production, the introduction of neo-classical style alongside certain realistic tendencies which appear to derive from the school of Prieto, and the creation of a corpus of medals other than for proclamations.
If Gil is known above all for his series of proclamation medals for Charles IV, his greatest contribution is the creation of a medallic tradition outside of the proclamation pieces. The content of this new production was oriented to the academic institutions of Enlightenment Spain and the society introduced in the Bourbon era into New Spain.45 The themes of royal events,46 of learned societies and official institutions,47 and of the academy itself, were perfectly appropriate for such treatment.48 The successors of Gil, especially Suria, Gordillo, Guerrero and Rodriquez, had to reconcile the medal of the early nineteenth century to a Mexican neo-classical medallic tradition bound to these same themes, although we can note some sense of conflict in the way they treated warfare (fig. 5).49 In general, the proclamation medals of Charles IV and Ferdinand VII bear the sponsorship of clearly-defined institutions: certain clerical establishments50 and entities involved with mining51 joined the learned and academic bodies in sponsoring such medals (fig. 6). The production of artisanal proclamation medals would ultimately die out in areas with no mints or other contact with such activity; the case of Cuba at the proclamation of Charles IV serves as a good example.
5. Mexico, Ferdinand VII, Victories over the French, 1809, by Gordillo
With the rise of the academic medal, Mexico appears to have moved away from the medals of the southern regions, where the scheme of medallic production based on the mints was maintained, though even there some signs of influence by the new tendencies were apparent. It is significant that the ordinances of the mint of Santiago de Chile recommended to engravers the creation of at least one medal a year in order to preserve their skills.52 But such development was distant from and not on the scale of that in Mexico. Pedro Garcia Aguirre in Guatemala (fig. 7), Soto in Lima, Nazaul (fig. 8) and later Arrabal in Santiago de Chile, created mainly proclamation medals. Occasionally however they addressed other themes, such as on the medals commemorating the defense of Buenos Aires in 1806, done by Arrabal, which best show an appreciation of the principles of the nineteenth-century medal.53
What we have considered as the Spanish medal in America is then the result of three main factors—royal proclamations, the mints, and the academies—which were coordinated with the governmental structures and interacted upon each other. The height of this development came in 1808 with the proclamation of Ferdinand VII, but the wars which followed brusquely interrupted this activity, which was strongly identified with pro-Spanish sentiment. It remains for us to describe the influence of this medallic tradition on later production, which was to become increasingly localized and to respond to external influences, with various results, throughout the nineteenth century.
Three fundamental directions can be noted. First, a certain retention of basics can be seen in the case of Mexico. From about 1820 on, a restoration of the Academy, although along different lines, brought with it the reappearance of medalists such as Trasgallo and Medina (apparently Mexicans) who followed tradition with their medals commemorating the"proclamation" of Augustin I in 1822.54 Later, the"Europeanizing" reorganization of the Academy in 1843 led to the arrival of Bagally as director of medallic production; his students Ocampo, Navalón, and Spiritu stood out in the period of Maximilian.55
To the south, medallic production became increasingly sporadic and linked to the activity of the mints. A certain rise in medallic activity at the time of independence gave way to a steady decline in production. The medal for the dedication of the railroad in Potosí in 1912 constitutes a curious example of late Spanish involvement. However, Argentina was an exceptional case. Though without a mint in the colonial period, it had shown enthusiasm for the proclamation medal—especially for Charles IV (fig. 9) and Ferdinand VII— minted locally as well as in Santiago de Chile and in Potosí. It was probably this activity in the absence of a mint that led to the nineteenth-century production, which originally followed common trends but led in the middle of the century to medals of high quality, produced by artists of basically Italian origin. The pieces of Cataldi, Orzali, Podestá, Zuccotti, Bellagamba and Cottuzzo are indicative of this well-established tradition which owed little to Spanish influences.56
Finally, in Cuba and the Philippines (Spanish colonies until 1898), the proclamation of Isabella II in 1834 was marked by medals in which the Department of Engraving of Madrid added a uniform element to local tradition.57 Similarly, certain pieces such as the anonymous medal for the Havana aqueduct of 1858 follow the tradition of the nineteenth-century Spanish medal exhibiting unmistakably high quality (fig. 10). The same cannot be said for the case of Manila, which had previously been served with medals by Gil minted in Mexico,58 where a mint was opened following the independence of the American colonies, and whose medals were the work of Estruch.59 The proclamation medals of Amadeo I, which followed the Madrid model of J. García 60 and of Alfonso XII, done in a more independent style,61 were the last manifestations of the Spanish medallic presence in the American world.
|1||J.T. Medina, Medallas coloniales bispano-americanas (Santiago de Chile, 1900); J.T. Medina, Medallas de proclamaciones y juras de los reyes de España en América (Santiago de Chile, 1917); J.T. Medina, Medallas coloniales bispano-americanas. Nuevos materiales para su estudio (Santiago de Chile, 1919). This article has been translated by Alan M. Stahl.|
|2||A. Herrara, Medallas de proclamaciones y juras de los reyes de España (Madrid, 1882).|
|3||A. Vives, Medallas de la Casa de Barbón (Madrid, 1916).|
|4||A. Carrillo y Gariel, Datos sobre la Academia de San Carlos de Nueva España (Mexico City, 1939); M. Romero de Terreros, Grabados y grabadores en la Nueva España (Mexico City, 1948); R. Tibol, Historia general de Arte Mexicano. Epoca moderna y contemporánea (Mexico City, 1964); C. Bédat, L’Académie des Beaux- Arts de Madrid, 1744-1808 (Toulouse, 1974), pp. 365-68.|
|5||C. Pérez Maldonado, Medallas de México (Monterrey, 1945); F.W. Grove, Medals of Mexico, 1 (Guadalajara, 1970).|
|6||J. Gimeno,"Nacimiento de la Medalla de Arte Española en el siglo XVIII," in La medaglia neoclassica in Italia e in Europa, Atti IV Convegno Int. St. Medaglia, Udine 1981 (Udine, 1984), pp. 247-78.|
|7||Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), pp. 1-8.|
|8||Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), p. 2 and pp. 11-13.|
|9||F. Gimeno,"Los artistas italianos y los comienzos de la Medalla en España," L’influenza della medaglia italiana nell’ Europa dei sec. XV e XVI, Atti II Conv. Int. St. Medaglia, Udine 1973 (Udine, 1976), pp. 59-86.|
|10||Medina, 1900 (above, n. 1), pp. 11-13.|
|11||For a discussion of the characteristics of the proclamation medal, see Herrera (above, n. 2), pp. 9-13.|
|12||Herrera (above, n. 2), p. 35; Medina 1917 (above, n. 1), nos. 2-3.|
|13||Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), p. 10.|
|14||Herrera (above, n. 2), p. 33.|
|15||For example, the proclamation of Charles III in Barcelona: S. Alcolea,"Aportaciones a la historia medallistica en Cataluña durante el siglo XVIII y primeros años del XIX," Numario Hispánico 3 (1954), pp. 5ff.|
|16||Medina, 1900 (above, n. 1), pp. 12-13.|
|17||Louis I in Mexico City and San Felipe el Real; Ferdinand VI in Havana, Guadalajara or Mexico City: Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), nos. 6, 7, 10, 20, 29, 32. Grove (above, n. 5), pp. 10-11.|
|18||Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), no. 8; Grove (above, n. 5), p. 5, no. LI-4.|
|19||Granada, Loja, Motril: Herrera (above, n. 2), pp. 46-48.|
|20||Grove (above, n. 5), p. 18, no. F6-32.|
|21||Grove (above, n. 5), p. 34, no. K-44.|
|22||Herrera (above, n. 2), p. 59, no. 17. J. Gimeno (above, n. 6), pp. 253-54.|
|23||Grove (above, n. 5), p. 8, nos. LI-16, LI-17.|
|24||J. Gimeno (above, n. 6), p. 261. See also the case of the proclamation medals by Araujo: A. Herrera, El Duro (Madrid, 1914), p. 466.|
|25||J.T. Medina, Las monedas coloniales bispano-americanas (Santiago de Chile, 1919), pp. 54-57.|
|26||Medina, 1900 (above, n. 1), pp. 13-14.|
|27||Medina, 1919 (above, n. 1), p. 51; Vives (above, n. 3), p. 508; L. Forrer, Biographical Dictionary of Medalists (London, 1904-30), Suppl., s.v."Casanova."|
|28||Medina, 1919 (above, n. 1), p. 51; Vives (above, n. 3), p. 515; Forrer (above, n. 27), Suppl., s.v."Madero;" Herrera, 1914 (above, n. 2), p. 484.|
|29||Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), nos. 65-67, 85-96, 98, 108, 119 and examples with local characteristics, nos. 59, 61, 72 (Havana), 78, 82 (Matanzas).|
|30||Medina, 1919 (above, n. 1), p. 256.|
|31||Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), nos. 109-10, with only the signature BENTO F.|
|32||Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), no. 62; Medina, 1919 (above, n. 1), p. 333.|
|33||Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), nos. 79-80.|
|34||Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), nos. 68-71; Medina, 1919 (above, n. 1), pp. 281-89.|
|35||R. Durán,"Historia de la Casa de la Moneda y Timbre," Numisma 25 (1975), pp. 97-193.|
|36||Medina, 1919 (above, n. 1), pp. 147-68, 211-21, 281-89.|
|37||Cf. Carillo (above, n. 4), passim; Tibol (above, n. 4), chapter 1; Bédat (above, n. 9), pp. 365-68.|
|38||Bédat (above, n. 4), pp. 235-40.|
|39||Bédat (above, n. 4), p. 365.|
|40||Tibol (above, n. 4), chapter 1.|
|41||Gimeno (above, n. 6), pp. 256-60.|
|42||Medina, 1919 (above, n. 1), pp. 53-54.|
|43||Medina, 1919 (above, n. 1), pp. 166-68, 211-21.|
|44||Durán (above, n. 35), pp. 97-98.|
|45||Tibol (above, n. 4), chapter 1.|
|46||E.g. the medals for events in the life of Charles III: Grove (above, n. 5), pp. 41-43, nos. K-78, K-80, K-82, or for the commemoration of his death: Grove, p. 44, no. K-84.|
|47||E.g. the medal of the Real Academia de Derecho Español y Público (Grove (above, n. 5), p.40, nos. K-75, K-76), or the Real Orden de Damas Nobles (Grove, p. 127, no. C-265.|
|48||Grove (above, n. 5), p. 58, no. C-36, p. 128, no. C-267.|
|49||Grove (above, n. 5) pp. 133, 136, 138, 139, 142, etc.|
|50||Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), no. 143.|
|51||Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), nos. 166, 167, 196, 230, etc.|
|52||Medina, 1900 (above, n. 1), pp. 44-45.|
|53||Medina, 1900 (above, n. 1), nos. 40-45.|
|54||Tibol (above, n. 4), chapter 1.|
|55||Forrer (above, n. 27), s.v."Medina,""Navalón,""Ocampo,""Spiritu,""Trasgallo."|
|56||See the relevant entries in Forrer (above, n. 27).|
|57||Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), nos. 409-31.|
|58||Vives (above, n. 3), nos. 56-59.|
|59||For Estruch, see J. Gimeno,"La medalla española del siglo XIX: propuesta para una revisión," 10th International Numismatic Congress, London -1986 (London, forthcoming). For Figueroa, see Vives (above, n. 3), p. 511.|
|60||Vives (above, n. 3), no. 832.|
|61||Medina, 1917 (above, n. 1), no. 433.|
© The American Numismatic Society, 1988
How to interpret the new American liberty in visual terms? That was the task that Benjamin Franklin set for the French artist Augustin Dupré, in 1782, on the eve of American victory in the Revolution. As always, Franklin had suggestions of his own. The solution, in the head of Liberty on the obverse of Dupré’s medal, Libertas Americana, is one of the most effective and moving works of art of the Revolutionary era; the reverse also conveys topical and significant ideas with iconographic subtlety (fig. 1).1
On the reverse an armed Minerva, her shield blazoned with the fleur de lys of France, combats the English lion, as the infant Hercules strangles the two snakes sent by the jealous Juno. The legend, NON SINE DIIS ANIMOSUS INFANS, a quotation from Horace (Book 3, Ode 4, 20), expresses the idea that although Hercules is powerful and courageous, qualities Dupré conveys in his rendering, nonetheless the newly-born child requires divine protection.
The sentiment and heavily literary, allegorical approach in the reverse of the medal is similar to the tenor of the proposals made for the seal of the United States of America by the first committee to work on the project. The Continental Congress established the committee on 4 July 1776, before the close of business on the day on which they adopted the Declaration of Independence, and appointed Benjamin Franklin to the committee along with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.2 Franklin proposed as a subject for the seal Moses liberating the Israelites from the Egyptians, and Adams suggested a classical theme, the choice of Hercules.3
Of the two sources for allegory represented in these initial ideas for the United States seal, the biblical and the classical, the latter was more at home in the burgeoning neoclassical artistic environment of France in 1782 when Franklin, anticipating the successful conclusion of the War of Independence, proposed to Dupré the striking of a commemorative medal of American Liberty.
The potential of Hercules to represent America had been recognized, in Adams’s seal proposal, for example, where the mythic choice of Hercules symbolized the climate of crisis and decision for revolutionary action in 1776. By 1782, the choices had been made, and with victory at hand, Hercules, newly born, was the pertinent conception to symbolize the new nation: courageous, strong, and warding off danger.
Further specific connection between the mythic image and history can be identified. The two snakes of the Hercules myth, that he is shown strangling on the reverse of the medal, refer to the two major battles of the Revolutionary War that have their dates of victory cited in the exergue: the surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga (17 October 1777) and that of General Cornwallis at Yorktown (19 October 1781). The artist’s signature, Dupré F.[ecit], is in the lower right.
In ancient art, Hercules is sometimes shown seated while strangling the serpents,4 and he is sometimes represented struggling in a half-standing position, similar to that on Dupre’s medal, as in a wall painting from Pompeii (fig. 2). Dupré based his Hercules in part on models such as these, but he does not copy them: the ways in which his Hercules differs from the types from which it is derived are instructive. Dupré has taken care to show that while Hercules’s arms are occupied with the snakes, he is still partly enmeshed in swaddling cloth—indeed he is in the process of disentangling his right foot. This motif conveys the idea of change of status and of growth. Thus, through it, the artist suggests symbolically the revolutionary process as well as the revolutionary accomplishment.
2. Hercules Strangling the Serpents, wall-painting, Pompeii, House of the Vettii, first century A.D. Photo: Alinaria
Dupré’s image can be compared with another classical work of a different theme, the sculpture of Laocoon in the Vatican in Rome, which depicts the hubristic priest and his two sons attacked by two monsters of snake-like form (fig. 3). Like Laocoon, the child is shown struggling with two snakes. However, the closest correlation in pose between the two works of art is not that between Hercules and Laocoon. The posture of Hercules is nearly identical (although reversed) to that of the older of Laocoon’s two sons, seen on the right of the sculpture. While the father and the other boy are about to die, this son is shown making his escape, liberating himself from the coils of the snake by pushing them down from his legs and freeing his feet.5 Dupré, by depicting in connection with Hercules a similar action of disentangling the feet, dramatizes through visual means the struggle between bondage and freedom. Thus he suggests symbolically, with a subtlety that does not disturb the fundamentally triumphant mode of the image, the historical context of struggle against constraint that lies behind the achievement of American independence. Although Laocoon is one of the best known works of classical sculpture, to my knowledge Dupré is the only artist to have recognized in the figure of the son freeing himself from the snakes the potential for the expression of heroism, as well as of political liberty.
3. The Laocoon Group. Marble, first century B.C., Rome, Vatican Museums, H. 1.84 m. Photo: Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Rome
A dimension of the mythic meaning of Hercules that has particular pertinence to the revolutionary context is that he represents an image of vindicated illegitimacy. Hercules was born out of wedlock, the son of Jupiter and the mortal woman Alcmena. The reason for Juno’s hostility, that motivated her to send the snakes to kill the child, was her jealousy about her husband’s philandering directed toward this illegitimate birth. Nevertheless, Hercules grew to become a hero and savior, and eventually became divine. The violence and illegitimacy of his birth were vindicated through his life. Thus he may stand as a prototype of the violent and, as even many of those who were in sympathy with the revolution thought, the illegitimate origins of the United States, vindicated by history. This interpretation is parallel to one made, in connection with the French Revolution, by Jerrine Mitchell of Jacques Louis David’s painting, The Intervention of the Sabine Women (1799). In this work, the women of the Sabine tribe, who had been violently abducted by the Romans, seek to bring peace during a battle between the Romans, who are now their husbands, and the Sabines, who are their brothers. In Mitchell’s view, David expresses, through the abduction of the women and their subsequent acceptance of their fate, the post-Revolutionary need to reconcile the perception of the violent and illegitimate origins of the French Revolution with its ultimate legitimate status.6 Thus it appears that each artist found classical narrative ways to express the legitimization of revolution in the eighteenth century, Dupré the American Revolution and David the French Revolution.
If the reverse of the Libertas Americana medal is saturated with complex literary allegory of the kind that characterized the attempts to arrive at a design for the United States seal, the obverse is a penetrating artistic invention, as free in its representation of liberty as the goddess it represents.
Dupre depicts Libertas Americana as the bust of a female facing left, with her abundant loose hair blown behind her. A liberty cap surmounts the staff that crosses diagonally, as if resting on her right shoulder. Above is the legend LIBERTAS AMERICANA, and below in the exergue one reads the reference to our Declaration of Independence, 4 JUIL. 1776. Although he did not spell July in English (one wonders why, when he had Franklin right at hand), Dupre, with his youthful, far-seeing, and unconventionally flowing-haired goddess, captured the spirit of American Liberty.
The conception of a Goddess of Liberty with her attribute of the liberty cap on a staff has its roots in antiquity. In ancient Rome, the manumission of a slave was symbolized by the adoption of the pileus cap, the headgear of the working citizen, by the freed slave. The manumission ceremony, in which slaves took on the cap as a symbol of freedom, and were touched by a rod, was called capere pileum, after the cap.7 From this ceremonial use,8 the cap developed its generalized meaning of liberty. The pileus became an attribute of Libertas, the Goddess of Liberty, who was shown holding the cap, often on the top of the staff, and Roman emperors used the propaganda power of the circulating coins and medals impressed with the image of Libertas to associate themselves with the goddess, and to advertise thus their claims to being good, or legitimate, emperors (fig. 4).9 During the Saturnalia, a licentious, orgiastic, mardi gras-like festival marked by sanctioned role-reversals, masters served their servants—and everyone wore the pileus.
The potentially revolutionary character of the symbol of manumission, that the eighteenth century recognized so clearly, was realized on one notable occasion in Rome, on a coin struck by Brutus following the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. On the obverse is a portrait of Brutus, and on the reverse, the cap of liberty is placed between two daggers, with an abbreviated inscription of the Ides of March. Thus, through the symbol of the cap, Brutus proudly identified himself with the restoration of republican liberties.10
This coin type carries the liberty cap through the centuries, for in 1552, Henry II of France employed it for a medal after his victory over Charles V of Germany, to promote the idea of himself as a liberator, the cap between the daggers transformed into a tall-crowned, narrow-brimmed Renaissance model.11 In another allegorical representation, Liberty, unusual in being represented nearly nude, holds the cap, here again the tall-crowned Renaissance model, on a medal commemorating the Treaty of Brussels of 1577 between don Juan of Austria and the Estates General of the Netherlands (fig. 5).12
From the Renaissance, the symbolization of liberty in terms of a cap, and the explanation of the source of the symbol in Roman manumission, is standard in iconographical dictionaries. It is amusing to see that in some editions of Ripa’s famous Iconologia, for example, antiquity is visually distant, as in an Italian edition of 1766 where, reflecting yet another fashion, the"ancient" cap appears in a low-crowned, broad-brimmed contemporary mode.13 In an earlier, French edition of Ripa, the conical form of the cap held by Liberty is more in touch with Roman models.14
6. Incendie des coiffures au café royal d’Alexandre, engraving, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale. Photo: Bulloz
The earliest use of the liberty cap that I have found to refer to the eighteenth-century struggles for political liberty is attributable to Hogarth, and is characteristically satirical. In an engraving of 1763, Hogarth placed a cap on the head of the outspoken English libertarian John Wilkes; through an ironic reversal, the rakish Wilkes is transformed into a Liberty Goddess by the attributes of cap and staff. This image of Wilkes was disseminated widely, not only through the engraving, but by being reproduced on a porcelain punch bowl that was a favored item in libertarian circles on both sides of the Atlantic. To summarize, through Hogarth the cap with its symbolic meaning came to the colonies, and largely through its frequent use in several media by the prolific revolutionary artist Paul Revere, as on his masthead for the Boston Gazette newspaper, it became identified with the American Revolution.15 In the course of the Revolution, French artists regularly portrayed American Revolutionary heroes, such as George Washingon, and the subject of the Revolution itself in terms of the ancient iconography of the liberty cap.16 Thus, the cap traveled from antiquity, to Hogarth in England, to the colonies, to France—hence its use by Dupré as an attribute of Libertas Americana.
Dupré’s talent for giving visual expression to contemporary ideas of freedom is nowhere better demonstrated than in the obverse of this medal, above all through the motif of the hair of Liberty freely flowing in the wind. This visual idea, too, can be traced to antiquity; the sources for the unloosed hair are Greek, rather than Roman. However, the motif underwent an imaginative transformation in the hands of Dupré far greater and more innovative than in the case of his dutiful and straightforward adoption of the attributes of cap and staff.
The waving locks of Dupré’s natural seeming goddess, unconstrained by any hat or diadem, need to be seen in the context of the complicated, stilted, and powdered artificiality of contemporary, aristocratic,"real" hair styles in this late eighteenth-century period (fig. 6). As the caricature conveys, these could bring elaboration to the point of incendiary danger! In striking contrast, on the medal, the hair unbound and moving with the wind, is a visual metaphor of liberty.
Dupré’s invention is based upon the reinterpretation of a motif derived from classical art where unloosed hair was used to express Dionysiac spiritual liberation. This motif can be seen on two ancient coin types from which Dupré seems to have derived inspiration. One is a hellenistic tetradrachm of Mithradates VI of Pontus (120-63 B.C.), whose surname, Dionysus, inspired the exceptionally- free treatment of his hair (fig. 7). A further reference to the name Dionysus is the ivy wreath of the reverse, a symbol of the god.17 A specific detail of the Mithradatic coiffure, the short wayward lock at the top, appears to be incorporated in Libertas Americana. Another coin with Dionysiac associations is a gold stater of the city of Lampsacus, of the fourth century B.C., with a representation of a flowing-haired maenad, a female follower of Dionysus, wreathed with ivy (fig. 8).18 The rich sculptural treatment of the hair recalls that of Libertas, and the feminine gender of the maenad may have helped Dupré in finding a bridge from the hellenic Dionysiac models to his medal.
Thus to the artistic question implied in the commission of Libertas Americana—how to interpret the new American liberty in visual terms?—Dupré devised an original and effective answer. Drawing upon the hellenic motif of Dionysiac liberation expressed through abundant and unloosed hair, he transformed it to express a new meaning for his own time: eighteenth century political liberation.
Thus it can be seen that the artist drew upon two strains of liberating iconography from the antique, that of the spiritually liberating god Dionysus, and that of Roman manumission with its cap and staff, in creating the image of Libertas Americana.
The idea of the liberty as"blowing in the wind," to borrow a pertinent phrase from songwriter Bob Dylan, appears a few years later in the work of Dupré’s friend, the painter Jacques Louis David. In his important drawing for a monumental painting (never completed), that commemorates the early revolutionary event, the sworn unity of the three estates in the"Tennis Court Oath," the fresh breezes of liberty enter through the open windows, stirring the curtains like celebratory pennants.19
Dupré’s artistic conception of Libertas does not conclude with his striking of the medal, for Libertas Americana was the model for the first coins struck by the United States Mint upon its establishment in 1792,20 such as the cent illustrated in fig. 9. There was strong sentiment in Congress to place a portrait of George Washington on the first coins, which he resisted on the grounds that it was a monarchical practice and, with his characteristic political acumen and consistency of purpose, urged the substitution of a more appropriate concept: an emblem of Liberty.21 Given his interest and involvement in the development of the first coin types, it is likely he also suggested Dupré’s Libertas Americana as a model since it is known he owned one of the medals, Martha Washington having showed it to a guest at Mount Vernon.22 The medal was well known at the time, Franklin having sprinkled examples of it liberally among Americans in government. It is unmistakable that Dupré’s medal is the source for the cent, but the subtlety of the French artist’s rendering has been lost in the translation: the goddess on the coin is coarsely rendered, and unfortunately her hair, rather than seeming to flow freely in the winds of liberty, merely looks unkempt. Something more signifying than the elegance of Dupré’s artistry has been lost: the cap and staff, that had accompanied Liberty since antiquity, are omitted.
The cap and staff are excluded on other contemporary coins inspired by the Dupré model, such as the 1792 pattern dime. The reason for the elimination of the motif of cap and staff in these first federal coins is the sensitivity in the period to the major issue threatening union, that of slavery versus emancipation.
The nation had just emerged from the constitutional battles and compromises of 1787, in which the major threat to union had been the conflict between North and South over the slavery issue. Against that background, it is not surprising that the new federal mint reinterpreted the Dupré model along more generalized lines, maintaining—or trying to maintain—the inspirational effectiveness of the flowing hair, but eliminating the cap and staff with their specific and concrete references to the inflammatory issue of freeing slaves. Earlier, when the colonies were united in the cause of independence, and the issue of slavery was not a focal point of conflict, the liberty cap took a significant place on currency, on the 26 July 1775 notes issued by the Provincial Convention of Maryland (fig. 10). As Eric Newman has described, the allegorical personification of America, standing at the head of American troops, holds the liberty cap and staff as she walks over a scroll marked SLAVERY; on the left of the group, flanking the central figure of Brittania, George III is shown"trampling the M(agna) CHART A and applying a fire brand to an American city under attack by a British fleet."23
It is clear that in the period of the first issuance of federal coins, such as the cent, the ideational link between the Liberty Goddess, with her Roman symbols that represented the freeing of slaves, and the cause of emancipation of American slaves was well known. In the first abolitionist painting made by an American, The Genius of America Encouraging the Emancipation of the Blacks (1790-92), by Samuel Jennings, a Philadelphia abolitionist, the American Genius is the Liberty Goddess, and her cap and staff are prominently displayed. She leans toward the slaves who pay her homage, resting the weight of her upper body on books, on learning, indeed on the catalogues of the Philadelphia Free Library Company that commissioned the painting.24 The library had been founded by the ubiquitous Benjamin Franklin and in this period was largely supported by Quakers.
The visual vocabulary of Roman manumission, with liberty cap and staff, expresses in Jennings’s painting abolitionist support for the emancipation of American slaves. In the context of the tension in the period between North and South, and the recent and tenuous Constitutional compromises, the generalized and inspirational goddess of the flowing hair—deprived on federal coins of the attributes that specifically referred to freeing of slaves—avoided abolitionist controversy.
The story of Dupré’s image is quite different in France, a nation which, for all of its revolutionary conflicts, was not divided on an abolitionist issue. Largely although not exclusively through the influence of Dupré, the liberty cap became a central symbol of the French Revolution. One of the first uses of the cap to symbolize liberty in the early days of the Revolution in France is on a medal designed by Dupré to commemorate the establishment of the Mayoralty of Paris in June of 1789.25 Once the French Revolution was fully underway, the imagery of the cap was seen everywhere, on top of trees of liberty, on the Declaration of the Rights of Man, on commemorative plaques, medals, coins, as well as on decorative works of furniture and porcelain.
Just as, in 1792, the United States adapted Dupré’s Libertas Americana for the first federal coins, in the same year the French utilized Dupré’s design for a revolutionary medal (fig. 11), but with a significant difference.
11. Liberté Francoise, 1792, Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale, Cabinet des médailles. After A.L. Millin, Histoire métallique de la Révolution française (Paris, 1806), pl. 17, 66
While the American coins eliminated the symbols of manumission, in the French version, the cap as well as the staff are included. Nor did the French ever abandon the image of the female goddess with her cap; rather, she was transformed in meaning from Liberty into the Republic, and has lasted as the vigorous, familiar symbol of the French Republic to this day.
While wariness with regard to abolitionist significance of the liberty cap led to its omission from the earliest federal coins, some subsequent coins reinstated the cap along the lines of Dupré’s medal, the staff topped by the cap slanted behind the shoulder of the flowinghaired goddess, and in the course of the nineteenth century, the image of the liberty goddess with cap remained a common image although there was competition from diademed Liberties and other types. However, the persistence of the cap in the nineteenth century is attributable to the inherent conventionalism of coin images, which owe their acceptability to their traditionalism, particularly in commerce over large geographic areas. In major works of art of large scale, such as Thomas Crawford’s Liberty for the dome of the United States Capitol, the goddess with the cap was specifically rejected as an image of American Liberty,26 and gradually awareness of the cap’s true meaning was lost.
By 1879, Robert Morris writing on"The Liberty Cap on American Coins" felt an explanation was in order:"Yet, in reply to the query what is this ‘stick with a nightcap on it’ which the French lady holds on our trade dollar...." He went on to cite the Roman sources in answer.27
As Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Augustus Saint-Gaudens while they were developing ideas for a new coinage,"If we get down to bedrock facts, would the [Indian] feather head-dress be any more out of keeping with the rest of Liberty than the canonical cap which never is worn and never has been worn by any free people in the world?"28
With Roosevelt’s and Saint-Gaudens’s irritation with a worn-out symbol, and sentiments for “our Liberty—not what the ancient Greeks and Romans miscalled by that title" the end of the liberty cap as a signifying image in America was reached. The new full length Liberty designed by Saint-Gaudens for the twenty dollar gold piece (fig. 12), seen from the front and pressing forward victoriously, does not even wear the Indian headdress as originally conceived: her hair flows freely in the wind. Since Saint-Gaudens’s image of Liberty is frontal, hair flowing behind would be lost to view; for this reason he has swung the loosed hair around to the side so that the inspirational image cannot be missed. Thus Saint-Gaudens finally arrived at a new transmutation of Dupré’s inspired metaphor of liberty.
|1||J.F. Loubat, The Medallic History of the United States of America , 1776-1876, 1(New York City, 1878), pp. 86-94, p1. 14; James Ross Snowden, The Medallic Memorials of Washington in the Mint of the United States (Philadelphia, 1861), p. 105; W.T. Marvin,"Engravers of Revolutionary Medals," AJN 29 (1893), pp. 1-5.|
|2||Richard S. Patterson and Richardson Dougall, The Eagle and the Shield: A History of the Great Seal of the United States (Washington, 1976), pp. 13-27 and fig. 4.|
|3||The work of this committee is discussed and illustrated in Patterson and Dougall (above, n. 2), pp. 13-27; Jefferson proposed as a subject the children of Israel in the wilderness. None of the proposals made by this committee was adopted by Congress, and the decision on the final design of the seal was delayed for several years.|
|4||For example, the sculpture of Hercules seated and strangling the two snakes in the Capitoline Museum, Rome, illustrated in Michael Grant and John Hazel, Gods and Mortals in Classical Mythology (Springfield, MA, 1973), p. 212.|
|5||Margaret Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, rev. ed. (New York City, 1967), pp. 134f.|
|6||Jerrine E. Mitchell,"Jacques-Louis David’s Intervention of the Sabine Women: A Reconsideration of its Subject Matter and Meaning" Abstracts, 71st Annual Meeting College Art Association of America (Philadelphia, 1983), p. 48. The painting, in the Louvre Museum, is illustrated in Antoine Schnapper, David, trans. Helga Harrison (New York City, 1980), p. 11,109-10. For contacts between David and Dupré, see Charles Saunier, Augustin Dupré (Paris, 1894), pp. 5, 7, 43, 48 and passim.|
|7||Salvatore Tondo, Aspetti symbolici e magici nella struttura giuridica della manumissio vindicata (Milan, 1967); Thomas Wiedemann, Greek and Roman Slavery (Baltimore and London, 1981).|
|8||For a Roman relief sculpture, in the Museum of Mariemont, Belgium, that appears to depict the ceremony, see B. Van de Walle et al., Les antiquités égyptiennes, grècques, étruscques, romains et gallo-romains du Musée du Mariemont (Brussels, 1952), p. 138; for illustration and additional bibliography, see Yvonne Korshak,"The Liberty Cap as a Revolutionary Symbol in America and France," Smithsonian Studies in American Art 1 (Fall 1987), fig. 1 and n. 3.|
|9||M. Myers, Jr.,"Libertas in the Roman Imperial Coinage," Numismatic Review 1977, pp. 2-6.|
|10||Andrew Alfoldi,"The Main Aspects of Political Propaganda on the Coinage of the Roman Republic," in Roman Coinage: Essays Presented to Harold Mattingly, ed. R.A.G. Carson and C.H.V. Sutherland (Oxford, 1956), pp. 63-95; William B. Ober and Ralph N. Wharton,"On the Phrygian Cap," New England Journal of Medicine 255 (1956), pp. 571f.; Harry Stein,"Brutus and the Background of His Coinage," Numismatist 52 (1940), pp. 157-64.|
|11||Jean Babelon and Josèphe Jacquiot, Histoire de Paris d’après les médailles de la Renaissance au XX siècle (Paris, 1952), p. 74, 10 and pl. 2. Korshak (above, n. 8), fig. 3.|
|12||Gerand van Loon, Histoire métallique des XVII Provinces des Pays-Bas, 1 (The Hague, 1732), p. 230.1 am grateful to Robert Ernst for knowledge of this medal. The nudity suggests a conflation with the allegorical idea of Truth, often shown nude in this period; the palm branch and sword she holds, in place of her customary staff, relate the figure to the idea of Victory.|
|13||Iconologia del Cavaliere Cesare Ripa, ed. C. Orlandi, 4 (Perugia, 1766), pp. 30f.|
|14||Iconologie ou Explication Nouvelle de Plusieurs Images, Emblèmes, et autres Figures, Tirées des Recherches et des Figures de Cesar Ripa, Moralisées par I. Baudoin (Paris, 1644), pl. 86.|
|15||The introduction of the liberty cap into the context of the eighteenth century struggles for independence and freedom is traced in Korshak (above, n. 8), with illustrations of the Wilkes engraving (fig. 6), the punch bowl (fig. 7), and the masthead of the Boston Gazette (fig. 8), and other examples.|
|16||Thus the cap, which is often thought of as a French emblem, was a signifying image of the American struggle for independence and liberty well before it became a symbol of the French Revolution. For N. Pruneau’s engraving of George Washington with the liberty cap placed on the pictorial frame above his head, dated to the late 1770s, see Korshak (above, n. 8), fig. 10, and fig. 11 for a French map of the theatre of the American Revolution, with the Indian maiden, symbolizing America, holding a staff topped by the liberty cap.|
|17||For a discussion of the type, and additional bibliography, see Colin M. Kraay and Max Hirmer, Greek Coins (New York City, 1966), pp. 376f, figs. 773-75.|
|18||Anges Balwdin,"The Gold Staters of Lampsacus," AJN 53, pt. 3 (1924), p. 23, 17; J.P. Six, in NC 1888, p. 112, suggests the maenad may represent Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, said to have been a follower of an orgiastic Dionysiac cult (Plutarch, Alexander 2-3).|
|19||For the liberty cap in David’s painting Paris and Helen , Salon of 1789, see Yvonne Korshak,"Paris and Helen by Jacques Louis David: Choice and Judgment on the Eve of the French Revolution," The Art Bulletin 69 (1987), pp. 102-16. The Oath of the Tennis Court (1791), in the collection of the Louvre Museum (on loan to the National Museum of the Palace of Versailles), is illustrated in Schnapper (above, n. 6), pi. 50.|
|20||Cornelius Vermeule, Numismatic Art in America (Cambridge, MA, 1971) pp. 9f; Don Taxay, The U. S. Mint and Coinage (New York City, 1966), pp. 65-78; J. Hewitt Judd and A. Kosoff, United States Pattern, Experimental and Trial Pieces, 7th ed. (Racine, WI, 1982).|
|21||Snowden, (above, n. 1), pp. 13ff.|
|22||For mention of the medal by a visitor of 1797, see Julian Ursyn Miemcewicz,"A Visit to Mount Vernon," trans. Metchie J.E. Budka, American Heritage 16 (1965), pp. 68f.|
|23||Eric P. Newman, The Early Paper Money of America (Racine, WI, 1976), p. 134.|
|24||Library Company Minutes, vol. 3, pp. 195ff., 206f., 225, 293, 299, 310, 313f.; From Colony to Nation (Chicago, 1949), pp. 51 and 58, no. 71; Robert C. Smith,"Liberty Displaying the Arts by Samuel Jennings," Winterthur Portfolio 2 (1965) pp. 84-104; Edwin Wolf and Marie Kerey, eds., Quarter of a Millennium (Philadelphia, 1981), no. 64; for Jennings’s liberty goddess as an inventive synthesis of Christian and classical iconography, see Korshak (above, n. 8), p. 63, fig. 21.|
|25||Illustrated in Korshak (above, n. 8), fig. 22. Maurice Agulhon, Marianne into Battle: Republican Imagery and Symbolism in France, 1789-1880, trans. Janet Lloyd (Cambridge, England, 1981), describes the development of the liberty cap in the course of the Revolution, although he does not trace its introduction into the revolutionary context.|
|26||Crawford originally planned, in 1854, to include the classical symbol of the cap of liberty but, responding to pressure from the anti-abolitionist Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, Crawford replaced the cap with a helmet, and also made a parallel alteration of his figure of History for the bronze doors of the Capitol. Robert L. Gale, Thomas Crawford: American Sculptor (Pittsburgh, 1964), pp. 124, 150, 155, and passim. For a parallel"taming" of images of liberty and the elimination of the cap in the development of Hiram Powers’s plans for a statue of Liberty, see Jean Fagan Yellin,"Caps and Chains: Hiram Powers’ Statue of ‘Liberty’," American Quarterly 39 (1986), pp. 792-826.|
|27||Robert Morris,"The Liberty Cap on American Coins," AJN 12 (1879), pp. 52ff.|
|28||For the correspondence between Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens, see Taxay (above, n. 20), pp. 308-20 (quotations are from letters from Roosevelt, 14 November 1905 [Taxay, p. 309] and 14 March 1906 [Taxay, p. 313]. See also discussion and bibliography in John H. Dryfhout, The Work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens (Hanover, NH, 1981), pp. 280-87; Barbara A. Baxter, na The Beaux-Arts Medal in America (New York City, 1987), pp. 51-54.|
© The American Numismatic Society, 1988
The art of the medal in the United States from ca. 1830 to the First World War begins in the pictorialism of John Trumbull and the federalist era, moves past the neo-classicism of Napoleon’s world, has a long involvement in the narrative symbolism of the decades before and after the Civil War, and, after the Centennial, turns to a new idiom. This new vocabulary belongs to the age of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and his pupils. Beside it, and influenced by its innovations, stands the work of the engravers at the U.S. Mint, a sculptural school perhaps more conservative than the independents but receptive to many of their ideas. The artists of the U.S. Mint became involved with a Grecian classicism of the fourth and, later, the fifth centuries B.C.1 They paved the way for the Greek and Etruscan archaic and transitional style in American medals after World War I, an art identified with such sculptors as Paul Manship.2
If the medallic beginnings are grounded in the heroic narrative art of American painters in London—Benjamin West and John Singleton Copley—and the later phases depend on French trends in the 1880s and 1890s or the revival of a high classical and earlier hellenism, the intermediate decades belong to an art that is both expressively Victorian and peculiarly American. The neo-classicism which gave way to sentiment in the Victorian cemetery also gave way to an art of the sentimental heroic in the medals which commemorated the triumphs and disasters of the growing Republic from the Mexican War to the after-glow of the Civil War. The American sculptors in Italy who sent back the great and popular statues and reliefs for the public monuments of the states united, soon to be divided, also trained and inspired several generations of funerary carvers for the mortuary gardens of America.3 Their iconography and its vocabulary were very much that of their contemporaries among the medalists of the United States.
The French medalists, Duvivier, Dupré and Gatteaux, who designed the Congressional medals for George Washington and his Revolutionary War generals and colonels, leaned toward the pictorialism of the grand French painting from the age of Louis XIV. Thus, the reverse of Washington on Dorchester Heights on March 17, 1776, is accurate enough according to the engravings of the time, but the composition could be almost a painting by Adam Franz van der Meulen of Louis XIV, the grand monarch, on a campaign in the Low Countries. The obverse of the famous Diplomatic Medal, commissioned by Thomas Jefferson when he was Minister in Paris, is right out of the fantasy engravings of symbolic life in the colonies or New France before its capture in the French and Indian War. America as an Indian princess in feathered bonnet and feathered skirt or kilt is enthroned amid the produce of the New World, while the Roman god of commerce, Mercury, with all his traditional attributes, runs up to her. With an ample cloak on her left shoulder and over her left leg, a quiver on her back and a strap across her bare upper body, this rustic personification of America (or later, Columbia) is a form of native Diana, with the cornucopiae of Fortuna cradled in her left arm. The identical goddess-personification stands amid captured flags and cannon to place a crown on the head of Daniel Morgans for his victory over Colonel Tarleton at Cowpens in South Carolina in the closing months of the Revolution.
Augustin Dupré (1748-1833), the creator of these two medals with Indian princesses as personifications, put a complex view of the rout of the British at Cowpens on the reverse of the Congressional medal for General Daniel Morgan. There were paintings and engravings of the retreating British, the charging Continentals and their Indian allies.4 When Dupré turned to the medal for General Nathaniel Green (or Greene) and the battle of Eutaw Springs, September 8, 1871, the last major engagement between the British and the Americans in South Carolina, a new trend was started. The pictorialism of Dorchester Heights and the uplands around Cowpens was replaced by an image of Victoria with wreath and palm alighting on a shield amid the captured standards one of which was given to the victorious General.
The Germanic medalists who came to Philadelphia to take over the United States Congressional commemorations from the French imports continued the tradition of symbolic reverses. Thus, John Reich (born 1768) used the clasped hands of an American officer and a loyal Indian chief, peace pipe and hatchet crossed above, as the reverse of a Presidential medal for Thomas Jefferson. Major General Andrew Jackson defeated the British at New Orleans on January 8, 1815, the last action of the War of 1812. The reverse of the Congressional medal by Moritz Fürst (born 1782) also takes refuge in the symbolism of victory rather than in a view of the battlefield. A dramatic, rather rococo figure of Victoria has put down her wreath and palm to inscribe a record of the triumph at the dictation of Pax. The motif of Victoria writing up the successes on the battlefield goes back to the triumphal sculpture and numismatic reverses of imperial Rome.
It was medalists of the time of Charles Cushing Wright (1796-1857), James B. Longacre (1794-1869), and Anthony C. Paquet (1814-82) who brought the world of historical pictorialism back into United States medallic art. The first grand example was the Congressional award of March 9, 1848, to Lieutenant General Winfield Scott for his string of victories in the campaign in Mexico. Six crowns of laurel and oak enframe vistas of six battles and culminate in the central scene of General Scott on horseback observing the capture of Mexico City on September 14, 1847 (fig. 1). The fall of Mexico City had been brought about by the great victory at Chapultepec on September 13. All this is fitted in balanced fashion on the reverse of a medal which, naturally, has a (Roman) bust of the General on the obverse.
Pure pictorialism by the painter Seth Eastman (1808-75) and James B. Longacre moves to the obverse of the Congressional and Presidential medal presented to Commander Duncan N. Ingraham in a resolution of August 4, 1854. The American sloop St. Louis is shown facing (down) the Austrian brig Hussar in the roads of Smyrna Gulf, with the city and its acropolis on Mount Pagus in the background (fig. 2). The reverse is given over to the complex wreath, the eagle, and the glory of stars which were the signatures of work by Longacre.
It remained for Anthony C. Paquet to produce, in 1859, the most Roman of all medals so far considered—Roman in the uncompromising naturalism of the obverse portrait and the verism of the building on the reverse. The honorand was James Ross Snowden, Director of the U.S. Mint, and the building was the Greek revival, neo-classic building in Philadelphia, built in 1832 and rendered fireproof in 1856. Director Snowden looks directly out at us, wearing his narrow, counting-house glasses and with the wart on his left cheek rendered prominently. The Mint building is as detailed, from the frames of the windows to the flagpole and the tall chimney, doubtless the focus of the fireproofing. Roman medallions could not show a Hadrian or a Septimius Severus and a temple or a triumphal arch with more depth of detail.
In 1866 and 1871, Paquet produced two large Congressional medals for acts of heroism and bravery which, as works of art, were splendid statements of Victorian romance, sentiment, and, of course, heroism, the second medal, designed by C.Y. Coffin, had its parallels in the funerary art of the middle of the nineteenth century in the United States, the monument to William F. Hamden (founder of the railway express service) in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Watertown, being an excellent example (fig. 3).
The first medal was awarded in connection with the wreck of the steamship San Francisco in 1853 . A man and a woman are shown through a starry porthole on a flimsy raft, a ship approaching from the horizon at the rear. This is no"Raft of the Medusa," the pyramidal composition being dominated by much pseudo-classical drapery and the sentimental pathos of the occasion. On the reverse, a truly Victorian"America" crowns a sailor kneeling before her, while the eagle guards her throne (fig.4). A foretaste of later props, extending down to medals for Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, is evident, for the full-rigged ship sailing in the left background is balanced by the United States Capitol at the right rear.
The second medal, giant in scale, was for a very bizarre neartragedy, which ruined the lives of those close to the scene. George F. Robinson saved the life of Secretary of State William H. Seward on April 14, 1865. The obverse has Robinson’s bust with twin crowns above, and the reverse gives us the interior scene, Mr. Robinson grappling with the dagger-wielding assailant, while the Secretary of State lies in bed, behind a partly-opened curtain (fig. 5). One Lewis Powell, alias Payne, attacked Seward at the same time that John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln. Secretary Seward’s wife and daughter died of shock. The Roman proportions and spacing of the figures in this indoor assault also have their narrative parallels in the reliefs on the memorials being commissioned in this decade, the relief showing Queen Victoria at home with the Prince Consort and their children on the Albert Memorial in Edinburgh being a useful example.
One of the last examples of Victorian neo-classicism in the United States medallic art came in Paquet’s medal of 1865 for President Andrew Johnson. The reverse is conceived of as a stele and a statue group in a landscape symbolizing the prosperity of the United States from sea to shining sea (fig. 6).
The very Grecian figure of Columbia, the flag in her left hand, extends her right hand in a firm clasp to a very Roman Indian standing at the left. Between them, on a stepped base, is a Roman altar surmounted by a bust of George Washington. On the front of the altar is the inscription PEACE (in typical Victorian tombstone letters) framed by a wreath. The stark neutrality of the surrounding surface of the flan adds to the GraecoRoman feeling for the composition.
The so-called Egyptian revival in American arts can be said to begin with the opening of the Egyptian portals (flanked by their obelisks and lotus-capital iron fencing) of Mount Auburn Cemetery, Watertown, MA, in 1831 and close with Daniel Chester French’s memorial to Martin and Joseph Milmore in Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain, MA, set in place in August 1893 (fig. 7).5 The most common manifestation of this fascination with the funerary cults of the pharaonic Nile were the obelisks to be seen amid Graeco-Roman, Gothic, and Renaissance or Palladian tombstones or tomb chambers in virtually every older cemetery in the United States.6 Affluent Americans, like Caius Cestius, the official in Rome at the beginning of the Roman Empire, even opted to be buried in or under small versions of the great pyramids at Gizeh near Cairo.
One such pyramid was constructed at West Point as a memorial to an army engineer who had worked, inter alia, on the very Egyptian project of the Croton Reservoir.7
The Egyptian sphinx, large and small, was also part of the landscape, the grandest such sculpture being the great creature carved by Martin and Joseph Milmore to commemorate the abolition of slavery, the preservation of the Union, and the Union dead in the Civil War (fig. 8).8 This impressive granite memorial was set at the top of the hill in front of the larger, Gothic chapel in Mount Auburn Cemetery in the early 1870s, not far from the cenotaph of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who fell leading his regiment of black troops against Fort Wagner, in Charleston Harbor, SC.9
A useful exercise would be to search for the Egyptian influences on the medallic art of the United States in the sixty-odd years when the cemeteries of America were being enriched with Egyptian quotations. The most prominent example has the connotations of tragic death so cherished in the mortuary inscriptions of Civil War America. This is George T. Morgan’s Presidential medal for Abraham Lincoln. The Victorian wreath of oak and laurel dominates the reverse, where just below the inscription ASSASSINATED APRIL 14, 1865, we find"(Within the wreath,) a spray of pine and cedar, circled by (a) serpent with tail in its mouth, the Egyptian symbol of eternity and immortality" (fig. 9).10
Antonio Canova and his followers in Italy and Austria or Germany had employed Egyptian elements, notably the pyramid, in their grand funerary monuments, and these pyramids were transcribed on the neo-classic medals which honored the Popes, royalty, and other personages buried in these tombs. Such medals came to North America in the decades around and after the Napoleonic wars, and they were one more important source for the Egyptian Revival in the commemorative and funerary sculpture of the United States.
Graeco-Roman is the operative phrase for the President Andrew Johnson medal described earlier, for very shortly the United States official medals will be influenced by the art of the Attic funerary monument as interpreted in such monumental mystic figures as the Adams Memorial by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C., or various funerary and commemorative statues by Daniel Chester French.11 Then would come the influences of late archaic and transitional Greek sculpture in the medallic art of the United States. In the midst of all this, as mentioned earlier, Saint-Gaudens and certain of his followers, such as James E. Fraser, would try an Italian Renaissance revival (the format and lettering of Antonio Pisano, called Pisanello) in America of the decades from 1889 to the First World War. Even the Congressional medal for the British Captain who rescued the survivors of the Titanic in 1912 would be carried out partly in this Renaissance taste. The realism of relief sculpture and statuary as a result of the Civil War had some echoes in U.S. medallic art, more in private medals than in anything produced at the U.S. Mint. Such realism reached its apogee in Europe in medals leading up to and including World War I. One excellent example is the medal struck for the victorious conclusion of the World War in Belgium. On one side a soldier charging over the trenches with fixed bayonet symbolizes the final offensive in Flanders, September 28 to November 11,1918.
On the second side, the victorious entry of the King and Queen of the Belgians into Brussels on November 22, 1918, is shown in dramatic detail.
One of the first of the Grecian stele compositions on an official United States medal is Charles E. Barber’s creation late in 1901 to commemorate the martyred President William McKinley. On the reverse, Columbia stands with gestures and symbols of mourning, a V-shaped shield with Presidential eagle and a palm with wreath. Columbia is a veiled and heavily-draped statue on a pedestal. In 1907, George T. Morgan teamed with Barber, his chief engraver at the mint, to produce a hybrid medal commemorating President Theodore Roosevelt’s dispatch of the Atlantic Squadron of the United States Navy on a cruise around the world. The obverse with the presidential bust has the epigraphic format of a Renaissance medal, while the reverse combines allegory of the Greek fourth century B.C. or the early hellenistic age with the naturalism of a Roman triumphal relief, or here in terms of iconography, a contemporary photograph. A chubby putto (Amorino) hoists the flag, while Columbia waves farewell to the departing fleet. Three of the sixteen battleships in the"Great White Fleet" are shown steaming on a parallel course, beyond a Roman or Renaissance balustrade on which appears the eagle and the shield of the U.S., as well as an inscription which could have been on the architectural enclosure of a commemorative ensemble by Saint-Gaudens and Stanford White. Finally, the rectangular rather than circular shape of the medal, with its curved top edge, is all designed to suggest a relief in miniature rather than a creation related to numismatic art.12
The high points of the new medallic art at the end of the Victorian era were embodied in the official medals for the two great fairs held in the French capital in 1889 and 1900. The first medal was the work of Jean-Baptiste Daniel Dupuis (1849-99), and the second was the creation of Jules-Clément Chaplain, his older contemporary (1839-1909) and perhaps the greatest French medalist of the new, romantic imagery. These and similar French medals certainly influenced the styles and compositions of the followers of Augustus Saint-Gaudens in America, but the United States government engravers at the Philadelphia Mint were relatively undisturbed by the Beaux-Arts currents of France. This may have been the reason for the turmoil in the years from the Columbian Exposition of 1892 and 1893 until Saint-Gaudens, his contemporaries, and his followers redid the coinage from 1907 to 1917. The official engravers seem to have moved from Victorian neo-classicism to a sentimental version of the Attic fifth and fourth century B.C. art practiced by Saint-Gaudens in many of his funerary monuments. The Adams Memorial noted earlier was his powerful statement of this art.
The obverses of the two medals present two very similar studies of the spirit of the French Republic, a lady of classic determination. The first bust is heavier than the second, which emphasizes fussier details of the liberty cap (rather than a coif of hair), wreath, drapery, and the tree behind. J.-C. Chaplain filled out his obverse with vistas of Paris, the palaces used for the fair, behind the bust and the figures on the obverse and reverse.
Views of the figures on the reverse seem to confirm that, while J.-C. Chaplain was more famous than J.-B. D. Dupuis, the medal for the 1889 exposition was a stronger work of art than that which commemorated the fair at the turn of the century.
The reverse of the 1889 medal presents a splendid composition of the arts or peace protecting a child with a torch and crowning a man whose tools suggest he personifies labor or industry (fig. 10). The Eiffel Tower provides a vertical exclamation point in the right background. Costumes, and the lack of them, suggest a debt to a relaxed, fluid classicism, well overlaid with the faces and poses of the new art which developed in France with popular romanticism after the middle of the nineteenth century. The setting, from the altar, cippus, or bench on which the goddess-personification sits, to the ledge on which labor rests for inspiration, is an accomplished podium for the figures to act out their roles. The front of the ledge or step is tastefully framed to encompass the locale and the date of the Exposition Universelle, so hailed in the strong yet discreet lettering around the medal’s upper edge.
The reverse of Chaplain’s medal of 1900 is a stricter classical quotation, one which does not come off well in the art dominant in France and flourishing in the United States at the hands of Daniel Chester French and his contemporaries.13 A winged, wreath bearing"goddess," the spirit of France rather than Nike-Victoria, flies upward, wreath in hand and a torch-bearing Genius in the old DeWitt Clinton pose of thought seated on her backs (fig. 11). The odd composition is based on the motif of apotheosis as seen both on Roman imperial sestertii of Sabina (A.D. 135) or the two Faustinas (A.D. 141 and 175) and on the commemorative reliefs which honored the memories of Hadrian’s wife Sabina and the elder Faustina, wife of Antoninus Pius. Somehow, the design, the composition, does not translate into a medal to be given exhibitors and prize-winning artists at a major international fair in 1900. Finally, a small point to be sure, the lettering on obverse and reverse of the second medal is too weak and too close to the edges of the flan. In the appreciations published after Chaplain’s death on July 13, 1909, his portraits were cited as the glory of his work. Perhaps the ideal qualities of this medal pointed up the weaknesses in the creativity of a sculptor termed"this severe, exact, and powerful artist."14
The French medalists of the two generations after the military disasters of 1870 were, if nothing extremely prolific, both in the varied numbers of designs and in the numbers of medals struck. Their suave products reached around the world and influenced comparable works of art in countries from Japan to Brazil to the United States and Canada.
The era of scientific sculptural revival, archaic and transitional Greek art, came to the United States medal with the work of Chief Engraver John Ray Sinnock, George T. Morgan’s successor. In 1928 he produced the medal for President Calvin Coolidge, and two years later the mint struck his medal for President Herbert Hoover. Strong profile portraits of the two men in their civilian attire dominated the obverses. The reverse of the Coolidge medal featured an enthroned personification (Liberty?), represented in the severe style of Greek sculpture, that is the years 465 to 455 B.C. (fig. 12). On the Hoover medal, America, Columbia, or Liberty-Freedom (all share similar attributes) stands facing, holding symbols of war and peace. Here, the figure has qualities of and strong influences from the art of late archaic Greece, the years 510 to 490 B.C. Specific, famous masterpieces of Greek sculpture come to mind when looking at these matronly ladies holding their great bundles of lictors’ staves or rods, with the axes of supreme power very evident. The seated figure recalls the goddess (Demeter?) from Tarentum in the Berlin Museum, and the standing personification has been influenced by the famous Lady in a Peplos, a garment with an overfold (as here on the medal), for many years in the front hall of the American Academy in Rome and now an ornament of the central court of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Museum in Boston’s Fenway area.15 Clearly, Sinnock was turning to the same font of up-to-date, academic classicism, early Greek and Etruscan sculpture, which was inspiring many American sculptors such as Paul Manship, Carl Jennewein or Walker Hancock, who had worked at the American Academy in Rome or who had visited the museums of Italy and Greece and had looked at histories of Greek sculpture illustrated with good photographs.
A later Congressional medal with a reverse in this modern form of neo-classicism was created by Frank Gasparro and Gilroy Roberts in 1958 in honor of Vice Admiral Hyman George Rickover. A Greek, late severe style"Herakles" (in the manner of the sculptor Paul Manship) kneels to the right, extended hands touching one of three elliptical lines which encircle his body. This is the medallic reduction and transformation of those bronze statues of heroes set up around the piazzas of corporate and some public buildings in the 1930s, notably Paul Manship’s conception of Prometheus set above the skating rink or sunken piazza at Rockefeller Center in New York City City.
The totally abstract and the completely conceptual hit United States medals as well as larger, three-dimensional sculpture after World War II, but forms of classicism or painterly pictorialism remain the most solid fare of medallic art. Both continue in commemorative statues and related reliefs, although national self-doubts diminished public art.
Just as there are many, varied, private monuments in the older cemeteries of America, so there are many different medals from the era of Revolutionary diplomacy and triumph to the celebration of confidence under Theodore Roosevelt.16 Medals public and private had their artistic roots in the pictorialism of painting and the classicism of sculpture. Just as French and Italian sculptors monumentalized the founding fathers and their buildings, so French and German medalists had a hand in creating the commemorative numismatics of the new nation. When medallic art became American after the war of 1812, sculptors in stone were ready to create abroad, in Italy where marble was good and skilled finishers plentiful, and to train or inspire the local carvers in the parks and cemeteries of the homeland. From this time, coincidental with Victoria’s advent on the throne of England, the arts of the medal, the marble (later bronze) relief or statue, and the grand engravings after great paintings were interwoven.
The character of classicism became more refined as the pupils of AugustusSaint-Gaudens turned to medals from the late 1880s onward. John Ruskin and Charles Eliot Norton brought the world of the Italian Quattrocento, notably Pisanello or Donatello, into American art. The peopled architectural drawings of Henry and Francis H. Bacon for the Assos excavations of the early 1880s made an influential mark in the architectural settings of F.H. Bacon’s cousin Henry Bacon, in the sculptures of Daniel Chester French and in the allegorical figures on the medals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By 1900, American sculpture, including the medal, was embarked on a sophisticated path which has extended, with variations, to modern times.17
|1||Ideas expressed here were worked out in connection with the catalogue, Medals to Masters, Drawings and Medals. The Italian Renaissance to Modern America , The Art Center in Hargate, St. Paul’s School, Concord, NH, April-May 1987 and Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery, Keene State College, Keene, NH, June-August 1987; especially the section,"Medals: France, The Thirteen Colonies, and the United States," nos. 31-58. The catalogue included all the French and Germanic medals struck for or by the young republic. Thanks are due to Lauretta Dimmick, Richard Doty, Jonathan Fairbanks, Richard Hamilton, Harvey Stack, Norman Stack, James Risk, Alan Stahl, and Florence Wolsky.|
|2||See Frederick D. Leach, Paul Howard Mansbip, an Intimate View, Sculpture and Drawings from the Permanent Collection of the Minnesota Museum of Art (Saint Paul, 1972); Jonathan L. Fairbanks,"A Century of Classical Tradition in American Sculpture, 1830-1930," in American Figurative Sculpture in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston , by Kathryn Greenthal, Paula M. Kozol, Jan Seidler Ramirez (Boston, 1986) , pp. xi-xvii. American medalists not only saw the work of their European preceptors in libraries and historical societies in the United States, they also saw the small bronze reproductions of famous Graeco-Roman and neo-classical sculptures brought home from the Grand Tour: see Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique, The Lure of Classical Sculpture, 1500-1900 (New Haven and London, 1981), p. 124.|
|3||Wayne Craven, Sculpture in America (New York City, 1968), chap. 3,"The Artistically-Inclined Stonecutter," and chap. 4,"The First Expatriates: Neo-classicism vs. Naturalism;" Edmund V. Gillon, Jr., Victorian Cemetery Art (New York City, 1972), Introduction and the plates with their captions.|
|4||See C. Vermeule, Philatelic Art in America, Aesthetics of the United States Postage and Revenue Stamps (Weston, MA, 1987), p. 69.|
|5||The Milmore Memorial, 1889-1893: Michael Richman, Daniel Chester French: An American Sculptor (New York City, 1976), pp. 71-79.|
|6||The two greatest Egyptian monuments in America are the obelisks for George Washington in the nation’s capital and at Bunker Hill in Charlestown, MA, although one could count the real"Cleopatra’s Needle" in Central Park, New York City. See G.D. Scott III, Ancient Egyptian Art at Yale (New Haven, 1986), p. 11, fig. 1 (the New York City obelisk still in place in Alexandria, 1876); Labib Habachi, The Obelisks of Egypt (New York City, 1977), pp. 176-82, pis. 48-50 (erected in New York City January 1881).In the art of United States paper money, the famous Educational Note of 1896, designed by Will H. Low and engraved by Charles Schlecht, does feature the Washington Monument as the focus for the allegorical figures and the names of great Americans in classical wreaths on the reverse: see R., A.L., and I.S. Friedberg, Paper Money of the United States (New York City, 1978), p. 50.|
|7||Strangely, save for the panorama on the reverse of the Educational Note (see above, n. 6), United States paper money almost escaped Egyptian graphics, the ocular pyramid on the reverse of the dollar since 1935 being part of the Great Seal of the United States: Friedberg (above, n. 6), pp. 160-61.|
|8||Gillon (above, n. 3), p. 129, fig. 193 (the Milmore sphinx); p. 131, fig. 197 (sphinx and obelisk in Lowell, MA); pp. 46-47, figs. 60,63 (pyramid, Egyptian portal, sphinx adoring the Virgin and Child, and St. John the Baptist, in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY). The obligatory sphinx in the"Africa" group for Cass Gilbert’s United States Custom House, New York City (1903-7), is very archaeological, depicting the battering caused by Napoleon’s artillery on the face of the great Sphinx at Gizeh. See Richman (above, n. 5), pp. 103-11, figs. 6, 11.|
|9||The famous Shaw Memorial of 1884-97, the bronze relief of the Colonel on horseback with his troops marching in columns beside him, is, of course, opposite the State House on Boston Common, see John H. Dryfhout, The Works of Augustus Saint-Gaudens (Hanover and London, 1982), pp. 222-29, no. 166; Kathryn Greenthal, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Master Sculptor (New York City, 1985), pp. 141-51.|
|10||Kenneth M. Failor and Eleanora Hayden, Medals of the United States Mint (Washington, 1972), p. 35, no. 116; Vermeule (above, n. 1), no. 44. Compare the various Lincoln inaugural medals which feature only inscriptions and wreaths, or both, since the Great Emancipator was still alive and no sepulchral connections were implied: Neil Mac Neil, The President’s Medal, 1789-1977(New York City and Washington, 1977), p. 32.|
|11||For the Adams Memorial of 1886-91, see Dryfhout (above, n. 9), pp. 189-93, no. 143; Greenthal (above, n. 9), pp. 130-35, figs. 126-32.Among the related allegorical figures, compare Richman (above, n. 5), pp. 143-50,"Manhattan and Brooklyn," 1913-16, figs. 11, 12, in place outside the Brooklyn Museum. Beyond their own archaeological studies and travels, Saint-Gaudens, French, and Sargent saw the worlds of French, Italian, Greek, and Ottoman art and antiquity in the precise yet spirited paintings and water colors of Joseph Lindon Smith (1863-1950); see Philip Hendy, European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1974), pp. 240-43; also J. Lindon Smith and C. Lindon Smith, Tombs, Temples and Ancient Art (Norman, OK, 1956), especially chaps. 1-3 on Egypt and 45-49 on the classical world.|
|12||Illustrated in Barbara A. Baxter, The Beaux-Arts Medal in America (New York City, 1987) , pp. 54-55, no. 209. Compare the reverse of this medal with the very dramatic painting Return of the Conquerors, September 29, 1899 by Edward Moran (1829-1901) in the collection of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, MD, showing the victorious fleet steaming in lines abreast and firing salutes past the Statue of Liberty: The American Renaissance, 1876-1917 (New York City, 1979), pp. 15-16, fig. 9. The two-dollar note in the second Federal Reserve issue of 1918 has a battleship steaming confidently across the reverse: Friedberg (above, n. 6), p. 119.|
|13||Compare, for example, the Dumesnil monument or the Faria monument, sculpted by Charpentier in 1912, in St. Vincent Cemetery, Paris: Judi Culbertson and Tom Randall, Permanent Parisians, An Illustrated Guide to The Cemeteries of Paris (Chelsea, VT, 1986), pp. 132-39; also the Eros seated on a block of stone at the feet of a small grave in Division 2 of the Passy cemetery near the Eiffel Tower, pp. 146-47. The Triumph of the Republic, an overlifesized bronze group by Jules Dalou (1838-1902), unveiled in the Place de la Nation, Paris, in 1899, includes figures related to the reverses of these medals: H.W. Janson, 19th-Century Sculpture (New York City, 1985), pp. 196-97, fig. 224.|
|14||Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals, The American Numismatic Society, March 1910, Rev. ed. (New York City, 1911), p. 49.|
|15||For the Berlin goddess, see German Hafher, Art of Rome, Etruria, and Magna Graecia (New York City, 1969), p. 60; E. Langlotz and M. Hirmer, Ancient Greek Sculpture of South Italy and Sicily (New York City, 1965), p. 266, pis. 50, 51; B.S. Ridgway, The Severe Style in Greek Sculpture (Princeton, 1970), pp. 93-94, fig. 125. For the Lady in a Peplos, see C.C. Vermeule III, Walter Cahn and Rollin van N. Hadley, Sculpture in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1977), frontispiece and pp. 6-7, no. 10. C.C. Vermeule, Greek and Roman Sculpture in America, Masterpieces in Public Collections in the United States and Canada (Malibu and Berkeley, 1981), p. 40, no. 14 and color pi. 3.|
|16||In painting, the confident era can be summed up in the artists working together or individually in the major centers of the United States: e.g., Trevor J. Fairbrother et al, The Bostonians, Painters of an Elegant Age, 1870-1930 (Boston, 1986). The American Impressionist Theodore Robinson (1852-96) painted a panoramic view of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1894, a vista which reminds us that the focal point of the end of the Lagoon, the central axis of the fairgrounds in this celebration of the triumph of confident America, was both classical and Egyptian, a colonnade and an obelisk: see Carol Troyen, in Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Carol Troyen, and Trevor J. Fairbrother, A New World: Masterpieces of American Painting 1760-1910 (Boston, Washington, and Paris, 1983), pp. 319-20, no. 95|
|17||The two parkland cemeteries of greater Boston, Mount Auburn and Forest Hills, faithfully proclaim the changes in American architectural and sculptural taste, especially the arts of sculptural decoration, from 1830 to 1930. The first cemetery has a grand Egyptian gate with winged solar disc on the upper facade and obelisks flanking; the second cemetery features a perfect Gothic entryway, right out of England during the Wars of the Roses or, contemporarily, the Victorian crescendo of the Albert Memorial in London. The famous sculptures of Mount Auburn, from the Milmore sphinx to Thomas Ball’s Chickering allegories (both dating in the early 1870s), belong to the classical and Egyptian phases of American creativity, while Forest Hills abounds in ideal figures and settings which go from the Gothic to the Celtic and then to the continental traditions of Saint-Gaudens and French, including the classical settings (hemicycles, exedras and benches) developed by Stanford White and his pupils. Among the latter, Henry Bacon, who worked with his cousin Francis on the reconstructions of Assos in the Troad (between 1882 and World War I), did the setting for French’s statue of Abraham Lincoln (seated in mighty Georgia marble on a Roman magistrate’s throne) in Washington, D.C. (1922) and since 1959 visible in this architectural setting on the reverse of the United States cent by Frank Gasparro (the obverse being Victor D. Brenner’s famous profile bust of 1909). See Richman (above, n. 5), pp. 171-86, figs. 1-19.|
© The American Numismatic Society, 1988
The formation and use of a medals collection for an American public institution during the Beaux-Arts era is exemplified uniquely by the theories and practices of John Cotton Dana. Pioneering librarian and innovative museum director, Dana was essentially a great educator. His ideas were perfectly suited to interest the public of a thriving industrial city and the Newark Museum was his own creation.1 The theories he introduced at Newark in the early years of the twentieth century influenced the direction of libraries and museums throughout America.
Certain aspects of Dana’s philosophy were put into practice in the field of medals. Here he involved the Newark-born sculptor, John Flanagan, and a local medal manufacturer, Chester R. Hoag, of the firm of Whitehead & Hoag. Dana was a man of many words, very quotable; a colorful public figure about whom much has been written. Flanagan was a successful sculptor, active and recognized throughout a long life. The Whitehead & Hoag Company, closely associated with the Museum since its founding, mass-produced medals, badges and novelties on an international scale.
Exhibitions of 1910 and 1928 illustrate how medals could be used successfully for education and enjoyment in a general museum of"art, science, technology and history." Museum archives contain particular information regarding loans, gifts and purchases. These often-overlooked references reveal many of Dana’s personal insights as to how he worked to build his ideal museum collection of medals and use it for the common good.
The Newark Museum’s participation in the American Numismatic Society’s 1987 conference on"The Medal in America" and its accompanying exhibition brings us full circle. The"International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals," hosted by the Society from March 9 through April 1, 1910, provided Dana with an unparalleled survey of the field: its history, techniques of manufacture and its contemporary artists. Dana was well aware of the activities of New York City institutions. The ANS’s major exhibition and its detailed, illustrated catalogue had both an immediate and long-lasting influence, one which, to his credit, Dana acknowledged.2
The exhibition, however, was a summary of Beaux-Arts styles here and abroad without a full introduction to modernism such as the Armory Show would present only three years later. Nonetheless, by the end of 1910, the Newark Museum had shown medals by at least nine American artists3 represented in the Society’s exhibition and, in January 1911, it had purchased twelve examples for its permanent collection, some perhaps the very works illustrated in the Society’s catalogue.4
One of Dana’s talents was his ability to involve people in certain activities which he administered. John Flanagan, one of the finest medalists of the Beaux-Arts period, was closely associated with the NM throughout his life. There are more than 70 of his art works in the collection because Dana firmly believed that American artists should be promoted over Europeans. The long acquaintance of Dana and Flanagan must have begun in 1902 since John Cotton and Nadine Dana came to Newark in January of that year and Flanagan returned home from Europe some months later.
There are three medallic portraits of Dana by Flanagan, based on life sketches and commemorating Dana’s accomplishments. One,
a bronze galvano plaque, is a typical Flanagan profile, certainly part of his series of portraits of friends, fellow artists
and distinguished persons (fig. 1). Dated 1933, this is posthumous (Dana died in 1929) and made at the request of Dana’s friend, Henry Watson Kent of the Metropolitan
Museum of Art.5 In 1942 Kent presented a replica to the Century Club where he and Dana had been members. Because
the portrait shows an aged Dana, it is difficult to reconcile this portrayal with the sharpness and vigor in the catalogue
description of the Century Association’s collection:
Dana, a hell-fire Puritan from Vermont, did more than any other man to attract Americans into museums. He sharpened his language
by studying law and then formed his philosophy of public service by working in libraries to"put the right books in the right
hands at the right time." As the organizer of The Newark Museum, he lambasted"that popular ideal, the classical building of
a museum of art, filled with rare and costly objects. It adds to its inutility a certain power for harm.... Objects do not
make a ‘museum,’ they merely form a ‘collection.’6
Other portraits of Dana were produced for the new Newark Museum building, dedicated in 1925 when, because of the growth of collections and activities, the museum became an entity separate from the library. The new building was only a block away and Dana continued as administrator of both institutions. A large bronze plaque to him was installed near the main entrance.
A companion piece, also by Flanagan, shows Louis Bamberger who donated the bulding at a cost of an estimated $750,000. (Bamberger—a"merchant prince" of Newark—was one of Dana’s most ardent supporters from the business world.) The original Flanagan sketches were also used in the creation of small bronze plaquettes of Dana and Bamberger which served as souvenirs of the dedication of the building. Like the larger plaques, they were struck in 1928 and 1925 respectively. The plaquettes were by the Medallic Art Company which made many of Flanagan’s works. They were issued approximately in the same number and materials and sold at the same prices: Dana’s unique gold piece at $230; 12 silver pieces at $12; and 200 bronze at $2.60 each.7
Dana’s library career began in Denver, Colorado; there he introduced new concepts, such as open book stacks so that visitors could browse freely. Use of the library rose dramatically and news of Dana’s innovations received wide notice. Although he had no formal training in the field, he was elected president of the American Library Association in 1895. He soon moved to Springfield, MA, where a large library functioned with museums of science and art. Dissatisfaction developed over the administration of the museums, and Dana resigned to accept the position of librarian at the Free Public Library in Newark. He came at age 46, his ideas and philosophy of education fully matured. It is quite possible he arrived with the very idea of establishing a museum.
Newark at the turn of the century was the major city in New Jersey. Its population nearly doubled between 1890 and 1900, with skilled and unskilled workers of diverse nationalities. When two library trustees journeyed to Springfield to offer Dana the position of librarian, one warned him that Newark was neither a book-reading community nor a library center. Dana replied,"Let’s make it both."8 When he arrived in Newark"he found a city of 23 square miles, with a population of 300,000 and only one public high school."9
The era of peace and prosperity following the Civil War brought to Newark, as to many American cities, a generation of monied families whose businesses and homes were in the city. Many traveled abroad, acquired collections and became patrons of the arts. In spite of close proximity to New York City, there was a growing desire to have their own public cultural institutions. Pride and some gratitude for their prosperity prompted an interest in donating statues and buildings to beautify the city’s public parks and avenues. There was a spirit of new beginning and adventure with the arrival of a new century.
Dana assumed his position in a library building completed only in the previous year. He must have approved of its Renaissance style because it was not as forbidding as the classical, which suggested to him an aloof, bank-like stronghold. Also, the library as a public institution was readily accessible, located in a small park; not isolated, but downtown on one of the city’s main arteries.
Understandably, Flanagan was awarded the commission to create a large sculpture in high relief to be placed over the main door of the library. He was the only Newark-born sculptor to supply statuary for the city. Dana never failed to point out the international success of this local artist, the"foremost medalist in this country,"10 and use it as a source of civic pride. Wisdom Instructing the Children of Men, was installed on the library facade in 1909.
For his staff, Dana intentionally chose persons who had little formal training and thus could easily break with tradition and be receptive to his unusual ideas. His most able assistant was Beatrice Winser, who assumed the routine duties of running both library and museum. (Much of Flanagan’s correspondence was therefore with Miss Winser.) At Dana’s death, she became director and carried on his policies. Others on Dana’s staff were apprentices who learned the profession by working in all departments. Dorothy Dudley of the Apprentice Class of 1925/26, became a member of the Exhibits Department and was in charge of the"Medals Made in Newark" exhibition of 1928. With Dana as editor and coauthor, she also produced an illustrated booklet for the show.11 From Newark, she went on to a distinguished career at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City where she served as registrar for 33 years.
Dana’s Board of Trustees, made up of interested citizens, generally supported his innovations. With Dana as librarian, a wide variety of contacts and activities reached out into all areas of the community. Constantly writing and speaking, Dana publicized the institution in awareness of the value of public relations. In general, this was greeted with appreciation and enthusiasm, especially when the success of the"new" library received national recognition. Among his later credits were:"citizen" who"helped to create our greater city" and who"blazed intellectual trails in culture, education and industry."12
From the beginning, the library had informally exhibited objects in its public rooms. Fortuitously, the top floors of the building (accessible by elevator) were not yet needed for the library’s literary collections and thus were available for meeting rooms and galleries. Approximately a third of the fourth floor was devoted to science. Three other rooms became art galleries for changing exhibitions. At first, by necessity, these were largely objects on loan from trustees, members and local collectors. Clubs, institutions, businesses and individuals were invited to participate. The exhibitions were well received and the library’s own collection grew by gift and purchase. With the city’s blessing, the Newark Museum Association was formed on April 29, 1909.
An especially ambitious undertaking was the milestone 1912"Modern German Applied Arts" (Werkbund Exhibit of Industrial and Applied Art), the first museum showing in America of an industrial art exhibition. Dana brought to Newark more than 1,300 objects, created by contemporary artists and craftsmen in Germany and Austri, which traveled to museums in five other American cities. Dana had long advocated the theory that beauty can be found in everyday objects. He was now established as the major museum proponent of the need for a close relationship between the artist and the manufacturer.13
The average exhibition contained a variety of objects shown tastefully in combination. Installation provided a simple unobtrusive background, the colors pale and the materials plain so that they could be reused without costly, time-consuming changes. Exhibition cases and furniture were sturdy golden oak"library bureau," still in use today. Several of the cases were donated, along with medals, by Whitehead & Hoag.14 Objects were always well labeled, and inexpensive booklists, checklists or small, easily-carried catalogues usually guided visitors through the exhibition and led on to additional information about the objects. Printed material, considered a vital supplement, was often produced in the library’s printshop under Dana’s direction. Especially important were posters displayed throughout the building to advertise current exhibitions.
A view of an exhibition held in the center court of the museum building shows a variety of objects from different cultures
arranged together (fig. 2). Openness and accessibility allowed a visitor to be free to browse at will (as he could in open stacks of the library) and
make discoveries on his own.
...The court exhibits change frequently. Tables spread with all manner of museum news and periodical literature invite those
who would rest and read. Rugs laid on the marble court add an inviting and home-like air.15
The cases in the foreground, grouped where they could receive the most natural light, are filled with medals and coins. These were easily installed, in their storage boxes, already labeled, and were raised on bases to be nearer the glass for closer study. Thus Dana attempted to create a pleasant welcoming environment in his new kind of museum. The general public could enjoy discovering and learning about objects, such as medals, too often hidden away in a cabinet by an individual collector.
Medals were included from the beginning in these changing exhibitions and in the growing collections of objects acquired by gift or purchase. Many came directly from the artist or manufacturer, chosen specifically for the museum’s use. Two examples, or cliché strikes, were often supplied so that both sides could be seen on exhibition. Small in size, produced in quantity and variety, medals could be easily accommodated in limited gallery, storage and installation facilities. Dana often combined them with bronzes, coins and gem stones. He saw them as miniature art works often representing eminent artists when larger, more costly examples were beyond his budget. Certainly, he was most interested in these objects for their craftsmanship, manufacture and for the patterns of words and letters in their designs. He was personally more interested in medals as illustrative of a country’s culture or history than as fine art per se.16
In 1910 the focus was particularly on medals, with at least two exhibitions including them (this no doubt due to the ANS’s large exhibition)."A Loan Exhibition of Paintings and Bronzes" was held from February 25 to March 11. Gutzon Borglum, Victor D. Brenner and John Flanagan were represented by medals as well as by other sculpture including casts and marbles. (These artists, with Chester Beach, Eli Harvey and Isidore Konti, were also represented in the ANS exhibition.) All of the artists were currently living in America although some were foreign-born and many foreign-trained. It was stated in the catalogue that the works were lent by the artists themselves and that many were for sale with prices on application. Attendance at the exhibition totaled 4,631.17
A more comprehensive survey of medals was included in the exhibition of December 6, 1910, to January 15,1911. The poster read
AN EXHIBITION OF PAINTINGS & OTHER OBJECTS OF ART: 52 American paintings....Samples of the Work of American Potters and of
French & American Medalists; Hand-wrought Jewelry; Lenox China;Oriental Rugs; Portrait Coins; Pottery & Porcelain lent by
a Newark Collector....18
More than 325 medals were borrowed from 14 Newark and New York City lenders.19 Supplementing the 16"modern medals struck at the French Mint" from the library’s collection20 were 150 French medals from the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration. The loan and a visit from Dana are described
from Cooper Union’s point of view in their 1911 Annual Report:
This museum, first in America for what is now called industrial arts, has been fortunate in lending to...the Newark Museum, New Jersey, ninety bronze portrait
medals"Les Grands Hommes Français," thirty-nine bronze medals by F. Vernon of Paris.... In this way, by...temporary loans,
the Cooper Union Museum should become a center for assisting the formation of similar museums throughout the United States.
The visits of many Curators and Librarians from all parts of the country have made this year interesting. The Librarian of
the Newark Free Public Library listed the numbers of casts of bronze locks, knobs, etc., made by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs,
for purchasing similar ones for Newark.21
Several of the lenders of the American medals were to become closely involved with the museum and many of the loans became purchases or gifts. Dr. William S. Disbrow lent an undetermined number of portrait medals of men of science and medical medals; his large science collection (already on view in the library) and his numismatic collection would come to the museum in 1919 and 1922. The 57 medals struck by the Whitehead & Hoag Company"after designs by Bela L. Pratt and others" and five pieces"illustrating the process of making a medal"22 would be only part of large donations steadily received from this important local industry. Chester R. Hoag, an original partner in the company, was one of the first trustees and was president of the Association 1920-25. Dana’s long and friendly correspondence with Mr. Hoag began with the first exhibitions and continued until Dana’s death in 1929. Some letters reveal Dana’s personal ideas about the museum’s activities.23
The 10 American medalists lent 61 pieces"nearly all secured through the kind offices of Mr. John Flanagan."24 A letter from New York City dated January 13,1911, from Flanagan to Dana, illustrates that he was already directly involved as a contact with other artists:
Dear Mr. Dana,
I must have some of the medals tomorrow...your exhibition closes Jan. 14-...so I will come over in the evening towards 8:30 to get them. I don’t want to interfere, however, with your plans for buying some of them so if you will let me know which are not likely to be kept I will take [?] them....
Very truly yours,
John Flanagan 25
The museum was to purchase 12 medals from American artists included in this exhibition: works by Victor D. Brenner, John- Mowbray Clarke, Adolph A. Weinman and Flanagan. (All had been represented in the ANS exhibition.) In his Report of the Board of Trustees to the Association at the Annual Meeting of April 25, 1911, Dana stated that 13 American medals had been acquired at a cost of $220.26 In addition, a loan of medals was accepted from Whitehead & Hoag.
By these means, Dana provided practical and active support for living American artists by giving their works exposure in exhibition,
making price lists available and by purchasing works for the collection. He preferred to acquire objects directly from the
artists whenever possible and was able in some instances to acquire study or experimental pieces which often had more of the
artist’s personal creativity than the final work. An example is Flanagan’s The Delver medallion, a sketch for the reverse of the Essex Agricultural Society of Massachusetts medal, 1913 (fig. 3)27 To support these artists was the responsibility of a public museum and although he said he could not understand modernism,
Dana felt strongly that the new styles should be shown at Newark:
...in this world of change I am convinced that the institutions in my charge must see and feel and respond to the world’s
changes...there is always hope that the new is good and helpful and let us help it find itself.28
Also purchased early in 1911 as a result of the 1910 exhibitions were 84 French medals costing $220. These were almost entirely bronze copies from the Monnaie de Paris acquired through George E. Stechert of New York City.29 No doubt these were similar to those borrowed from Cooper Union. Certainly, too, the ANS exhibition had shown the great influence of the French on recent medallic art.
Dana was not ashamed to acquire and use less-costly replicas or restrikes along with the authentic. In 1912 he wrote to his
secretary from Europe asking her to inform the president of the Museum Association regarding the recent purchases:
I have tried to have in mind what I think to be his ideas...."Applied Art," replicas at moderate prices, many kinds with the
hope of interesting many minds. When we are rich we will buy real things.30
He continually sought out, often on his travels overseas, objects which illustrated the common, everyday life and culture of the people. These would be used particularly in the lending collection, developed from the library’s lending out of books and other printed material. Most of these objects were meant to be handled and examined closely, even by school children, who could thus gain an experience not possible in the usual museum exhibition. Coins and medals were ideal for this purpose. While in Rome in 1912, Dana purchased five replicas of Italian medals in terra cotta and 100 sulphur replicas of coins of the Roman Empire:"Strong, almost unbreakable. Can be freely handled. Color of originals."31 Replica or authentic, these objects were seen for their great educational value, for the worth of a museum object is in its use and"beauty has no relation to price, rarity or age."32 With great success, the lending department also circulated"process exhibits" which explained the manufacturing processes used in local industries. The raw materials, parts and finished products were mounted, complete with labels and illustrations, on charts. Process exhibits were also included in the permanent collection and exhibitions. Dana believed that these could encourage visitors of all professions, interests and skills to better appreciate the finished object, whether hand or machine made.
Flanagan assembled such exhibits for the museum from the artist’s viewpoint, to illustrate how his medals were made through"...a whole series of models from the sketch to the die."33 In 1913, a series of eight pieces was acquired which showed the steps in creating the gold medal issued by the Pennsylvania Society. The particular works were originally issued in 1909 and 1910, and the exhibit was a composite of medals for Horace Howard Furness and Andrew Carnegie. Flanagan’s plaster models were, at his request, supplemented by bronze clichés and two steel dies from the Pennsylvania Society itself (fig. 4). The artist asked that these bronzeproofs always be exhibited with his other medals and plaquettes and not with the dies, perhaps because there was machine tooling not from his hand of which he did not approve.
A gift from Flanagan in 1914 consisted of two wax models of 1910. These were an interim step not included in the series just described: trial strikes made from the reduced plaster models for the purpose of detecting flaws. The designs were for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s George Robert White Medal of Honor, awarded to Charles Sprague Sargent in 1909.
A particularly interesting and sensitive exhibit consisted of three parts for a galvano plaque made in 1908: a wax model, a negative galvano and the finished galvano plaque (fig. 5). When the finished work was shown in the ANS 1910 exhibition it was titled Portrait of a Man. When the exhibit was donated to the museum in 1927 Flanagan called it Portrait of Prochaska. He does not appear to have answered Beatrice Winser’s question in correspondence,"...who is or was Prochaska?"54
During the late 1920s, as a means of creating civic interest and pride, Dana held several exhibitions calling attention to products made by major city industries. Many of his ideas regarding the use of medals culminated in"Medals Made in Newark," held throughout 1928, which featured products of Whitehead & Hoag.
It was Dana’s policy to exhibit the same objects over and over in different contexts.35 Thus many of the objects in the 1910 loan exhibition reappeared here, the majority as gifts and purchases received along with many other acquisitions during the ensuing years. Whitehead & Hoag, for example, had donated more than 130 medals, both of eminent artists and of a more commercial kind. Included were process exhibits which illustrated striking methods and machine production.
Along with several sets of dies, hubs and finished medals, the Company lent to"Medals Made in Newark" (and later donated) a process exhibit"How Medals are Made."36 In particular the making of the Lincoln Prize Essay Medal, designed by Charles Hinton after portraits by Leonard W. Volk and his son, Douglas Volk as shown (fig. 6). The Company needed to borrow the dies at times to strike new medals which were still used as awards. The process required for mass-producing a medal was illustrated by 19 objects in plasticine, plaster and bronze, with photos of the machinery required.37 The objects carried through the process from a copy of the artist’s large model to the finished medals with different patinations. The illustrated booklet for the exhibition has on its title page one of Dana’s many dicta:"The good workman is an artist; a good artist is first of all a good workman."38 The medals process was traced, the history of the medal described and a brief description of the company and its products presented. Both authentic pieces and replicas, coins, medals and gem stones were discussed in relation to the medal. The classical tradition was traced even to work being done currently in the city. (The French medals acquired in 1910-11 were illustrated and, even in 1928, continued to be termed"modern".)39 Complete with a book list compiled by the library, the booklet was typical of Dana’s publications as a supplement to an exhibition.
“Medals Made in Newark" also summarized Dana’s personal preferences regarding fine and applied art in exhibitions for his
museum. A letter of October 20, 1927, to Mr. Hoag states frankly:
I am sending you herewith my little pamphlet,"The Industrialist is an Artist," to show you that my interest in matters of
this sort is very keen, and that I would much prefer to show a Whitehead & Hoag Exhibit than I would an oil painting. This,
of course, is between ourselves.40
In conclusion: Dana’s theories regarding the use of medallic art can be illustrated by Flanagan’s Portrait of Prochaska (see above, fig. 5). The plaque lent by the artist to the American Numismatic Society’s 1910 exhibition had developed into a three-part"process exhibit" by 1927 when donated by him to the Newark Museum. On loan to the Society’s 1987-88 Beaux-Arts exhibition, these works41 show Dana’s influence in an American museum dedicated to public education.
|1||NM indicates The Newark Museum, Newark, NJ. All objects discussed are in its collections. All NM official publications were written or edited by John Cotton Dana unless indicated otherwise. Source material is in its files: letters, records pertaining to acquisitions and their documentation in the registrar’s department; publications and other printed material, copies, etc., in the Museum Library. The author has also drawn from personal knowledge and experience of more than 36 years on the staff. She is particularly grateful to William J. Dane, supervisor of the Art Department, Newark Public Library, and David M. McFadden, curator of decorative arts, of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. Illustrations are by Armen Shamlian, Armen Photographers, with the exception of fig. 2, and are reproduced here courtesy of the NM. Publications issued for the NM’s 70th Anniversary, provided background: B. Lipton,"John Cotton Dana and The Newark Museum," NM Quarterly 30, 2, 3 (Spring, Summer 1979). Also: D.B. Bartle,"Coins and Currency. The Dana Influence," NM Quarterly 30, 4 (Fall 1979), pp. 21-31.|
|2||J.C. Dana and D.H. Dudley, Medals Made in Newark (Newark, 1928), p. 19.|
|3||Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Paintings and Bronzes (Newark, 1910), pp. 13-15; The Newark Museum 2,1 (Jan. 1911), p. 7; see also, NM registrar’s loan records.|
|4||NM 11.467-78. Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals, ANS, Rev. ed. (New York City, 1911), hereafter IECM.|
|5||Letter, J. Flanagan to B, Winser, July 18, 1934.|
|6||A. Hyatt Mayor and M. Davis, American Art at the Century (New York City, 1977), p. 96.|
|7||The Museum 1, 7 (Oct. 1926), p. 101; also, letter, B. Winser to A.F. Egner, Sept. 28, 1928.|
|8||E.A. Kent and H. Lancour, eds., Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, 6th ed. (New York City, 1971), p. 420.|
|9||B. Winser, ed.,"Letter from J.H. Bacheller," The Museum 2, 10 (Oct. 1929), p. 77.|
|10||The Museum (above, n. 7), p. 101.|
|11||Medals (above, n. 2), pp. 3-4; also, letter, E.S. West of Whitehead & Hoag to Dudley, Dec. 12, 1927 with Dana’s notations.|
|12||Bronze tablet erected May 16, 1930, in Newark Public Library.|
|13||D.H. Pilgrim, D. Tashjian and R.G. Wilson, The Machine Age in America 1918-1941 (New York City, 1986), pp. 66, 276.|
|14||Letter, C.R. Hoag to J.C. Dana, March 28, 1912.|
|15||The Museum 1, 6 (Sept. 1926), p. 90.|
|16||The Museum 1, 2 (April 1925), p. 32 (illustration caption).|
|17||Annual Report 1910-1911, Newark Museum Association 2, 1 (Jan. 1911), p. 11; The Newark Museum 1, 2 (Feb. 1910), pp. 9-10.|
|18||The paintings were lent by William T. Evans, Montclair, NJ. The poster was exhibited in"The Dana Years, 1909-1929," The Newark Museum, 1979|
|19||The Newark Museum (above, n. 3), pp. 1-8; also Annual Report (above, n. 17), pp. 12-16.|
|20||Registrar’s loan records: Roty, Moria, Baudichon, Pillet, Dicy, Lefebvre, Mérot, Coudray, Yencesse, Vernon, Chaplain were artists represented.|
|21||Annual Report 1911, Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration 53 (New York City, 1911), p. 55. Probably gifts from Sarah C. Hewitt: CU 1907-17-3 to 157.|
|22||Registrar’s loan records. Disbrow loans totaled about 61 pieces. Whitehead & Hoag objects lent for the 1910 exhibition became permanent loans in 1912, and eventually gifts.|
|23||For example, a letter, J.C. Dana to C.R. Hoag, Oct. 20, 1927.|
|24||Annual Report (above, n. 17), p. 7.|
|25||Letter, J. Flanagan to J.C. Dana, Jan. 13,1911 (from 1931 Broadway, Manhattan).|
|26||Including: NM 11.467, Brenner, $5; NM 11.468, Clarke, $15; NM 11.469, Weinman, $20. Annual Report (above, n. 17), p. 13.|
|27||Flanagan, NM 14.454, $45. Purchase from the artist.|
|28||Letter, J.C. Dana to Max Weber, Jan. 14, 1929.|
|29||Including NM 11.77, Charpentier; NM 11.80, Moria; NM 11.82, Dupuis, at about SI each.|
|30||Letter, J.C. Dana to Miss Gilson, May 23, 1912; the president was Franklin Murphy, former governor of New Jersey.|
|31||Dana Purchases, July 5, 1912 and List of Purchases, J.C. Dana, Oct. 8, 1912, Nos. 6, 7.|
|32||J.C. Dana, The New Museum (Woodstock, VT, 1917), pp. 17, 32-33, 37; The Museum 2, 12 (May 1928), title page; see also The Museum 2, 5 (Feb. 1929), p. 40.|
|33||Letter, J. Flanagan to Miss Gilson, May 20, 1912; also, letter, Pennsylvania Society to NM, Feb. 1, 1912.|
|34||IECM (above, n. 4), p. 94, 8; letter, B. Winser to J. Flanagan, Feb. 18, 1929.|
|35||Letter, J.C. Dana to C.R. Hoag, Oct. 24, 1927.|
|36||For example, the sets NM 29.2117, Vice President Thomas R. Marshall; NM 29.2119, Handel and Haydn Society; NM 29.2117, New York City Athletic Club; also approximately 40 medals from machine and hand cut dies (registrar’s loan records).|
|38||Medals (above, n. 2); J.C. Dana and K. Coffey, A Weston Electrical Instrument (Newark, 1927), title page (a booklet for the first"Art-in-Industry" exhibit).|
|39||Medals (above, n. 2), p. 18.|
|40||Letter (above, n. 35).|
|41||Barbara A. Baxter, The Beaux-Arts Medal in America (New York City, 1987), no. 148.|
© The American Numismatic Society, 1988
While instrumental in the formation of the contemporary American medal collection at The Newark Museum under the direction of John Cotton Dana, John Flanagan was more esteemed by fellow artists for his own medallic work. Frederick W. MacMonnies considered him"the leading medalist of America," while Daniel Chester French thought that"he was one of the few men who knew all about the technique of medal making.1 Flanagan was, in essence, a medalist’s medalist. Lorado Taft noted that he was among those who realized"that the designing and elaboration of a good medal represents as much study as the making of a statue."2 Although Flanagan received numerous commissions for public sculpture and portrait busts throughout his productive career, it was ultimately his medals which established his reputation here and abroad as an important American Beaux-Arts sculptor.
Flanagan’s first medals were executed in Paris at the turn of the century. Among his most successful medallic works from this period are his portraits of Mabel Clarke (1895-98; fig. 1), and Hortense Lenore Mitchell (1896-1900; fig. 2), which reveal the sculptor’s mastery of bas-relief. From the delicate modeling of the women’s hair to the naturalistic rendering of their dress, it is evident that Flanagan was influenced by the work of his teacher, Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Born in Newark, NJ on August 4, 1865, John George Flanagan was apprenticed to his father, a marble cutter, before he studied modeling in the evenings from 1880 to 1882 at Cooper Union in New York City. After working briefly for Truman H. Bartlett in Boston, Flanagan was employed at the Perth Amboy Terra Cotta Works in New Jersey. At the age of 20, he became Saint-Gaudens’s studio assistant, while the sculptor was working on his Lincoln, Puritan, and Shaw Memorial. One of Flanagan’s principal jobs, besides running errands, was to model an American eagle, wings spread, on the back of Lincoln’s chair. In order to do this, he reportedly borrowed a large bird of prey from the zoo in Central Park. During this time Flanagan was also enrolled in life classes under George de Forest Brush at the Art Students League. Following Saint-Gaudens’s advice, the young sculptor went to Paris in the spring of 1890 and continued his studies under Henri Chapu at the Académie Julian and Alexandre Falguière at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he became a matriculant in July of 1891. At the Ecole, Flanagan was awarded third prize for his figure drawing after the antique.
During 1891-92 he assisted MacMonnies, also a pupil of Falguiére’s, with his colossal Barge of State for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. After a trip to Italy in 1893, Flanagan received a commission for a statue entitled Commerce and a monumental clock for the Rotunda Reading Room of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Returning to Paris after a few months in New York City, he set up a studio at 16 Impasse du Maine, where he lived and worked until 1902.3
In 1898 The Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia commissioned Flanagan to design a commemorative medal in honor of Dr. Garrison Brinton (fig. 3). Brinton, an anthropologist, physician and surgeon, who was also a professor of ethnology and archaeology in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, as well as a professor of American linguistics and archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania, is characteristically portrayed in full beard and period dress. The seal of the Society is represented on the reverse. The owl, perched on the shield, is in strikingly high relief.
While Flanagan’s portrait medallions and plaquettes varied in style during this early period, many were similar in format to the work of the French medalist Jules-Clément Chaplain, who played an important role in releasing medallic art from the formulas of routine and returning it to a direct study of nature. In his portrait of Agnes Lane, 1899 (MMA collection), in particular, Flanagan enlarged the head of the figure, heightening the visual impact of the composition.
At the Paris Salon of 1899, Flanagan exhibited several medallions and plaquettes, including a gilded portrait of a young woman. The following year he won a silver medal for his display of portrait medallions at the Paris Exposition Universelle.
After 12 years working in Paris, Flanagan returned to New York City in June of 1902 and eventually established a studio on Broadway.
At this time he also received a commission for a high relief in bronze symbolizing"Wisdom Instructing The Children of Men" for the Free Public Library in Newark.
One of Flanagan’s first medallions upon his arrival home was a portrait of Walt Whitman, 1903 (fig. 4), cast by the Griffoul Foundry in Newark. Reminiscent of Thomas Eakin’s sensitive photograph of this eminent American poet,4 the sculptor also chose to capture Whitman in a contemplative mood; his profile almost lost beneath his flowing beard. In a later medallion, (plaster model, The Newark Museum; bronze cast, ANS), Whitman is depicted frontally in a more animated fashion. Even though Saint-Gaudens once remarked"that a full face in a medallion was too much for the gods,"5 Flanagan successfully modeled several portraits from this point of view.
Like many sculptors of the Beaux-Arts school, Flanagan also experimented with the color of his bronzes. In his portrait of Leo Tolstoy, 1907, for example, one medal has been gold-plated (fig. 5, Metropolitan Museum of Art), while another has a brown patina (ANS). The degree of surface play varies considerably in these two pieces. While Tolstoy’s beard shimmers in light and shade in the MMA portrait, this sculptural effect is not apparent in the ANS medal.
In 1904 Flanagan began modeling a relief entitled Aphrodite, which was later carved in marble and tinted for a dining room in the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City. Upon seeing this work in Flanagan’s studio, Saint-Gaudens wrote to Stanford White,"Flanagan has made a beautiful Venus in bas-relief that I thought you would like to see. I think it is really very fine and I volunteered to write to you to go and see it. You might find a chance to place it in some of your houses. In marble or gilded bronze I think it would be swell."6 Several years later Flanagan took a plaster cast of the head of the panel and made a reduction of it (fig. 6). Portrayed in a seductive manner with loose flowing hair and lips slightly parted, Aphrodite is the sculptor’s most impressionistic work.
Included among Flanagan’s many commissions for commemorative works is his medal for The Pennsylvania Society’s Horace Howard Furness Award for Distinguished Achievement, 1909 (illustrated above, p. 112, fig. 4). The obverse shows a portrait of William Penn with appropriate inscription, while on the reverse three nude men symbolic of Character, Force, and Intelligence, are presented a laurel branch by Fame, a draped female figure. With the development of the Beaux-Arts medal in America, there was greater acceptance of the nude in medallic art as more academically-trained sculptors were drawn to the field. Seventeen years earlier, Saint-Gaudens’s design for the reverse of the World’s Columbian Exposition medal had been rejected by a Senatorial committee because of the inclusion of a nude youth. Although he attempted several modifications, Saint-Gaudens found no alternative but to redesign the medal excluding the figure altogether.
Also in 1909, the newly-established Circle of Friends of The Medallion asked Flanagan to design their first medal commemorating the Hudson-Fulton Celebration (ANS). The circle, led by the poet and literary figure, Charles de Kay, was formed"to encourage in the public a taste for small sculptures and especially bas-reliefs." For the obverse Flanagan modeled a double portrait of Henry Hudson and Robert Fulton. On the reverse a figure of a nymph recumbent on a cloud holds a light bulb aloft, rather than a torch, representing the present age of electricity. She gazes down upon the vessels of the two voyagers, the Half Moon and the Clermont."Past and present are knit together; three centuries are suggested in one small bronze."7
For the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Flanagan designed the George Robert White Medal of Honor in 1910 (ANS). The medal demonstrates how well the sculptor could fit any theme within a circular format. On the obverse a young horticulturist kneels to plant a tiny tree on the grounds of a public park or a private estate, where there is an elaborate gazebo or a greenhouse depicted in the background. As Cornelius Vermeule observed so well, writing in 1971,"the sense of mission, of repose, and of manicured nature in this vista is perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the medal and the tastes of those who sponsored it."8 The weight of the inscription, on the reverse, is carefully balanced with an elaborate bouquet of fruits and flowers.
In 1912 Flanagan was voted by the United States Congress to design a gold medal in honor of the British captain, Arthur Henry Rostron, whose crew rescued survivors of the Titanic in the mid-Atlantic (fig. 7). Rostron’s portrait, modeled from life, and the explanatory legend fills the obverse, while the reverse symbolically depicts the heroic rescue at sea.9 Flanagan’s muscular figures were most likely inspired by Michelangelo’s powerful forms in the Sistine Chapel, which he saw on his trip to Italy.10 A lifeline has been thrown to a man and woman floating in the water as jagged icebergs loom in the background. The date of the rescue is inscribed above.
For the Proctor Award Medal of The Essex Agricultural Society of Massachusetts of 1913, Flanagan executed a work illustrating"Rural Home Life and Labor."
7. Struck clichés of obverse and reverse, bronze, 70 mm, Collection of The Newark Museum, Purchase from the Artist, 1913
In his treatment of the former Flanagan presents a family group of a mother and two children in a setting composed of a barn, beehive, fruit tree, flowers and chickens, representing the farmer"blest beyond all bliss." The older child, who stands in the foreground, is beautifully composed. The reverse depicts a bare-chested man spading the soil, symbolic of the physical aspect of his work.
As a result of his academic training, Flanagan first executed this figure in the nude. He later chose to cast this study separately and entitled it The Delver, (illustrated above, p. 110, fig. 3). In an interview with DeWitt M. Lockman, the sculptor stated that he always used models as much as possible for his medals.11
Flanagan’s skill in modeling the nude form is also evident on the reverse of the award medal he designed for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 (ANS). Seemingly weightless male and female figures are shown facing one another, each extends a hand to the other. In the background the sun is shining and billowy clouds fill the sky. The symbolism of the figures, however, representing the union of the two seas between the Isthmus of Panama, was found questionable at the time.12
Probably the most familiar of Flanagan’s medals are his portraits of artist friends, which he began in 1917 with the sculptor Paul Wayland Bartlett (fig. 8). Like Saint-Gaudens before him, Flanagan looked to his colleagues as subjects for his own work. His portraits, however, are more classically restrained than Saint-Gaudens’s reliefs, which are more spontaneous in quality. With the"Bartlett," in particular, Flanagan has simplified the head in favor of linear clarity.
His plaquette of the painter Julian Alden Weir, 1919 (fig. 9), has been called"the masterpiece of medallic portraiture."13 Weir’s mature head is superbly crafted, successfully evoking the character of the sitter. Flanagan’s ability to capture a likeness, as well as the personality in clay, is evident in his other portraits, most notably of Walter Griffin, Joseph Pennell, Daniel Chester French, and Childe Hassam (all Brooklyn Museum).
Flanagan also executed portrait medals of Frederick W. MacMonnies, 1929 (ANS) and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 1934 (ANS); the latter was later reduced by the Medallic Art Co. to commemorate a dinner on April 9, 1937, in honor of the sculptor.
With his medal for the Garden Club of America, 1920 (ANS), Flanagan once again found a coherent solution to a difficult thematic problem. On the obverse a woman is depicted in a natural position tending her flowers. The curve of her back gracefully echoes the contour of the medal. On the reverse a simple but elegant floral motif surrounds a plaque bearing the recipient’s name.
The following year Flanagan received his most important commission: The Verdun Medal, 1921 (fig. 10). The gold medal was presented to the people of Verdun by the United States government in recognition of the heroic defense of their city during World War I. A competition was arranged by a congressional committee, which asked sculptors Paul Manship, Chester Beach, Sherry Fry, Anthony de Francisci, Robert Aitken, John Flanagan, Henry Hering and Anna V. Hyatt, to submit a plaster model according to a suggested design.
While the design of the obverse of the medal was left to the artist, it had to bear the inscription"From the people of the United States to the City of Verdun;" the reverse had also to include a representation of the Porte Chausée of Verdun with the inscription"Ils ne passeront pas"—the cry of the French troops under General Pétain. After carefully inspecting each model without knowing the identity of the artist, the Committee of Fine Arts, which included James Earle Fraser and invited guests Daniel Chester French and Herbert Adams, unanimously selected Flanagan’s work. His design was chosen for its simplicity and innovative use of the motto even though it did not strictly conform to the committee’s suggestions.14
In 1922 Flanagans received the prestigious J. Sanford Saltus Award from the American Numismatic Society in recognition of his artistic achievement in the field of medals.
After working on several commissions for public sculpture, Flanagan remodeled Aphrodite for the obverse of a medal issued by the Society of Medalists in November 1932 (fig. 11). The goddess of love now flirtatiously plays with a string of pearls, and her identity is clearly stated. The reverse depicts the Lampadedromy, a race run in ancient Greece to honor such gods as Prometheus, Athena, and Hephaestus. Two athletes are shown passing the torch; one has just collapsed in exhaustion. Movement is cleverly suggested here by the men’s swirling drapery as well as the steep incline awaiting the next runner. Flanagan had previously used this motif on his clock for the Library of Congress.
Having modeled medals for almost 50 years and having exhibited them in all the major expositions in America, Flanagan became internationally known for his work, as his numerous awards and citations proved. After a long illness, he died in a welfare hospital in New York City on March 28, 1952.15 Although his obituary in the New York City Times credited him first as the designer of the Washington bicentennial quarter, still minted today, Flanagan should be remembered foremost as an important sculptor of medals.
|1||Frank Owen Payne,"John Flanagan—Sculptor and Medalist," International Studio 75 (1922), p. 114.|
|2||L. Taft, The History of American Sculpture, rev. ed. (New York City, 1924), p. 549.|
|3||I am grateful to Emely K. Bramson who helped me transcribe DeWitt M. Lockman’s handwritten notes taken during an interview with John Flanagan on September 22,1925. DeWitt McClellan Lockman Interviews, Box 2, The New-York Historical Society, New York City.|
|4||See G. Hendricks, The Photographs of Thomas Eakins (New York City, 1972), p. 122, figs. 157-58.|
|5||H. Saint-Gaudens, ed., The Reminiscences of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 2 (New York City, 1913), p. 24.|
|6||H. Saint-Gaudens (above, n. 5), pp. 215-16.|
|7||As quoted from the book which held the first medal issued by the Circle of Friends of the Medallion in Manhattan, September 1909. See the article by Joseph V. Noble, later in this volume.|
|8||C. Vermeule, Numismatic Art in America (Cambridge, MA, 1971), pp. 125-26.|
|9||“The Rostron Medal," Art and Progress 4 (1913), p. 944.|
|10||Lockman interview (above, n. 3), p. 15.|
|11||Lockman interview (above, n.3), p. 23.|
|12||“Coins and Medals Produced in the United States of America during the Year 1915," AJN 49 (1915), p. 200.|
|13||Whitney Allen,"Our Contemporary Medallic Art," International Studio 83 (1926), p. 62.|
|14||I am grateful to Sue Kohler for sending me copies of the Minutes of the committee meetings on the Verdun Medal (July 7, 1920-December 13, 1921), from the archives of the Commission of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C.|
|15||The Medal Collector 3 (1952), p. 11.|
© The American Numismatic Society, 1988
In 1899, critic Charles Caffin lauded Daniel Chester French’s Admiral George Dewey medal of honor:
1. Obverse, Architectural League medal, 1896. Photo: Courtesy, National Sculpture Society; illustrated in NSS, Exhibition of American Sculpture Catalogue (New York City, 1923), p. 291
The beautiful artistic possibilities involved in the designing of medals have been almost completely ignored in this country.... The trouble has been that they have been simply manufactured; the fact that they may be made the vehicle of an expression of artistic skill peculiarly their own has been lost sight of. Their genesis has been little nobler than that of buttons.... What an excellent thing it would be if this beautiful medal should awake a vivid interest among us in the Glyptic Art. Whenever art has flourished, it has been one of the by-paths to which sculptors turned partly for recreation, partly for the secrets of decorative expression which it revealed.1
That Caffin wrote so positively about French is a tribute as much to his growing national reputation as monument maker as it is to his potential as a numismatist. By this time he had produced just two designs—the Dewey and a medal for the Architectural League of New York City (fig. 1).2
It is not documented how French learned of the Dewey project but on June 3, 1898, Public Resolution No. 38 passed Congress,
authorizing the Secretary of the Navy:
To cause to be struck bronze medals commemorating the battle of Manila Bay, and to distribute such medals to the officers
and men of the ships of the Asiatic Squadron of the United States under command of Commodore George Dewey on May first, eighteen
hundred and ninety-eight....3
Perhaps the offered fee of $7,000 provided sufficient incentive. But more likely French became involved because as president of the National Sculpture Society he was active in efforts, both in and out of government circles, to improve the design of American coinage.4
A three-member Board comprising Charles H. Allen (president), Senator Henry C. Lodge and United States Naval Academy professor, Marshall Oliver, was appointed by the Secretary of the Navy.5 Almost immediately they must have contacted French, learned of his terms for undertaking the work and agreed to permit him to make a design. Apparently there was no formal competition but at least 34 proposals were received.6 That French’s actual numismatic experience was the 1896 President’s prize medal for the Architectural League did not seem to matter; his credentials as a punctual public monument maker were sufficient.
By July 18, 1898, he began his first sketch and on August 16, he wrote in his diary that designs were completed.7 By August 27, 1898, the duplicate plasters of the sketches were sent to Oliver and to Allen and they were formally approved by October 7.8 The first design for the obverse has not survived but the first model for the reverse has been located in a private collection (fig. 2). It is a study of a shirtless sailor—French’s first executed ideal male figure, albeit at considerably under-lifesize scale.
As a profile portrait, the likeness of George Dewey (fig. 3) is certainly adequate. The head is erect, the contour of the face well modeled. The curve of the shoulder and chest terminus
is nicely balanced with the outer edge of the medal, which is marked by a series of decorative beads. The necessary lettering
surrounds the head unobtrusively. It was only after he had submitted the "official" design, promised by December 15, 1898,
but not delivered until January 2,1899, that a problem was noticed. On January 6 French wrote to Allen:
The mistake concerning the title will be rectified and I will send you another cast with the correction made. I shall also
of course change the stars, if you wish it, but may I venture the suggestion that the insignia of the rank which was given
Commodore Dewey in honor of his great victory, might very properly appear upon the medal struck to commemorate it?9
Although he was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral just three weeks after the battle, the Navy preferred that the medal give Dewey’s rank as Commodore. French’s idea was quietly ignored.
The obverse portrait, which critic Caffin praised as "excellent"10 was probably not changed appreciably between August and January. But the design of the reverse (fig. 4) was modified. French explained his first model on August 24, 1898:
The specifications also called for a figure of Victory on the reverse and here I have taken the liberty of substituting for the conventional female figure, the figure of a sailor in fighting costume.
"The man behind the gun" has occupied so prominent a position in the late war that it seems proper that he should be represented and certainly our sailor is the embodiment of Victory in most peoples’ minds just now.11
By October 16, 1898, French reported to his brother that he still had not finished the design.12 The reason was the sculptor’s decision to rework the composition on his own initiative.
The young sailor and the cannon barrel on which he sits are constant in both concepts. The preliminary design (see above, fig. 2) with its marvelously-foreshortened cannon and the jutting diagonal of the right knee, seems overly large and too active for the circular space. In the final design for the reverse (see above, fig. 4), the figure has been subdued; it is more frontally, and for French, more consistently posed. The cannon, slightly tilted, is now parallel to the surface plane, the flag more evenly draped across his lap. The flagpole now becomes the unifying compositional element. It divides the lettering around the circumference and isolates the sailor’s torso and face in uncluttered background of the upper half of the medal.
In the placement of the feet French moves easily between the necessary details of story telling and decorative design. The right foot is posed on a floating rope fragment that has no apparent beginning or end. The sailor’s left foot rests on the plaque which is a functional part of the medal; it is not a detail found on the deck of a naval vessel. This juxtaposition of narrative elements with design requirements is successfully repeated twice more—superimposing the sailor’s head over the letter T in the word Victory and the continuation of one stem of the letter M in Memory into the flagpole. French made a final change when he corrected Dewey’s rank on the obverse; he replaced the sailor’s cap with a scarf (fig. 5).
French and the Department of the Navy signed a contract on January 19, 1899, and the medal was struck by the Tiffany Company in July 1899, in two sizes—three inch diameter bronzes for the "notables" and one and ll/l6th inch reductions for the 1,634 sailors and Marines who served during the short-lived Battle of Manila Bay on May 1,1898 (fig.6).
The Dewey story has two more tangential chapters. The first involves New York City City’s celebration of George Dewey’s military exploits, September 28-30, 1899. As a member of the National Sculpture Society and its recent past president, French was invited to make one of the sculptural groups for architect Charles Lamb’s Dewey Triumphal Arch which spanned Fifth Avenue at Broadway and 23rd Street. French’s subject was Peace (fig. 7), and was paired with Philip Martiny’s Call to Arms. French’s group was modeled in the spring of 1899, with the actual enlargement and production in staff (hemp-reenforced plaster) for his and all of the sculptural decorations completed in less than two months. The group of the mother and young child dressed in a sailor’s suit documents an appropriate reuse of French’s profile portrait of Admiral Dewey.
7. Working model of Peace Group in DCF’s studio, plaster, 1899. Photo: Museum Archives, Chesterwood, Stockbridge, MA
The second involves French’s manufacture of a commemorative plaque (fig. 8) for Dewey’s flagship, the Olympia, a project commissioned by the State of Washington and citizens of the state capital in 1898 and placed on the ship before it entered New York City Harbor in September 1899. The nearly floating allegory, holding Dewey’s rather prosaic utterance that began the lopsided battle in the Phillipines, "Gridley you may fire when ready," seems more like Saint-Gaudens’s Amor Caritas with its billowing gown than French’s normal, more refined drapery treatment in the figure of Wisdom, one of the Boston Public Library doors.13
French’s next foray in the medallic arena came in the summer of 1917, when he was asked to make a medal (fig. 9) to commemorate the visit of the French and British War Commission to New York City City, May 7-10, 1917. Mayor John P. Mitchell appointed a citizens’ committee to plan the celebration. That summer, the Committee on Decorations proposed issuing a commemorative medal—struck in gold for the two English visitors, two French delegates and Mayor Mitchell, and subsequently in bronze and silver for members of the American Numismatic Society at subscription prices of $5 and $10 respectively. Chairing the group and the man responsible for securing French’s services was architect Cass Gilbert.14
8. Plaster model of Olympia plaque for Dewey’s flagship. Photo: Museum Archives, Chesterwood, Stockbridge, MA
French was only interested in the project if he could seek the assistance of a helper. In this instance, Evelyn Beatrice Longman designed the group on the reverse, portraying the inspiration of France as symbolized by Joan of Arc, the chivalry of England as a medieval knight and American Liberty.
The obverse shows French’s portrayal of Victory (fig. 10), wearing a "modified" trench helmet that is covered with a sprig of oak leaves, a lily and a cluster of pine needles. The profile on the obverse is one of French’s most exquisite female portrait heads and its source was the recently-completed head of the Spirit of Life, the principal feature of the Spencer Trask Memorial located in Saratoga Springs, NY. Obviously French was pleased with this ideal portrait, a stirring, triumphant image that replaced the reserved allegories such as the Republic and the Hunt Memorial figures. This alert portrayal was first suggested in the head of America , one of the Four Continents that embellish the entrance of Cass Gilbert’s impressive Beaux-Arts building, the old United States Custom House in lower Manhattan.15
At the same time that he was at work on the War Commission medal, French was approached by another personal friend, Robert de Forest, president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees. De Forest was a member of the Mayor’s Catskill Aqueduct Celebration Committee and chairman of the Medal sub committee. The medal (fig. 11) was issued to commemorate the 12-year public works project, building of the Catskill Aqueduct, a major water supply for New York City City, and offered by the American Numismatic Society at a subscription price of $25.00 for a silver medal and $7.00 for a bronze.16
10. Plaster model for the obverse, War Commission medal, 1917. Photo: Juley coll., National Museum of American Art, SI
French agreed to make the obverse and offered de Forest the same proposal he had offered Gilbert:
While I would be responsible for the head on the medal, I should have to get all the help possible in making the models for
the medal and I should probably ask Lukeman to aid me. He is here for the summer.17
The matter of the fee in this type of project always presented a special problem:
For a medal that we recently made together, he was paid $600.00 for his share of the work and I have no doubt that he would
be glad to do this for the same amount. If there are funds enough, you may pay me four hundred dollars. If there are not,
I will contribute that amount to the fund and pay myself!18
In this project the reverse was designed by both and executed by Augustus Lukeman and credited to him alone. At French’s suggestion he modeled a standing nude male figure, holding a symbolic water vessel in such a way that maintains the overall vertical emphasis, but with a twist of the shoulders that enhances the horizontal as it flattens the figure.
The lettering and the faintly-outlined Catskill mountain range, one hundred miles north of the city, share the background in a balanced manner.
French created his image for the obverse, aptly described in an American Numismatic Society circular as the symbolic head
of the City of Greater New York City, as a composite of heads of his groups,
and Manhattan, that flanked the Brooklyn entrance to the Thomas Hastings’s Manhattan Bridge which are now located at the entrance of the
Brooklyn Museum. When de Forest presented three medals to the Metropolitan as a gift, Henry Kent, the Museum’s secretary wrote
to the donor:
I have received the copies of the Catskill Aqueduct medal made by Mr. Daniel Chester
French, one in silver presented by you in behalf of the Mayor’s Catskill Aqueduct Committee, and two in bronze in different
colors presented by yourself. I shall take the necessary steps in the matter. May I say how very fine I think the medals are,
more distinguished and finer than any medal I have seen since the work of David.19
French’s third medal (fig. 12) of this period was executed at a time when the carving of the Lincoln Memorial statue was well underway in the Piccirilli Brothers’ Bronx studio. It too was ordered by Robert de Forest on March 31, 1919, and was awarded to 12 prominent New York City businessmen who generously gave their time and resources for the War Council of the American Red Cross.
I am involved in another medal but this time a pretty important one. It is a medal to the War Council of the Red Cross intended to be given to each one of them to commemorate their long and effective service. Is this something you would at all care to undertake yourself? If not whom would you recommend? It should be artistic and distinguished.20
Although de Forest offered an out by suggesting that French might name another artist, he agreed to take the commission on
April 9, apologizing for taking more than a week to reply. De Forest was pleased:
That is fine, but I do not want you to do it on personal grounds. Feel perfectly free to say no. As to remuneration, it should
be fair compensation, whatever that be.I think our Committee can afford to pay that.... I should think that either the program
of your Catskill medal should be followed, that is a large medal which could be cast for presentation, with a possible reproduction
smaller size, or else the medal should be of the largest size that can be stamped with a die.21
Issued late in the year, both the obverse and reverse have special design histories. Given the "private" nature of the medal, French eliminated all lettering on the obverse, although an earlier model includes, in the left field, the initials AEF, identifying the American Expeditionary Forces who first entered the fighting in France in the spring of 1917. In making the portrait of the young American soldier, French used his nephew, Prentiss, as his model. While the helmet seems slightly too large for the circular frame, and the strap an unavoidably intrusive detail, the portrait and general feel of the relief recognizes the war as the work of young soldiers. The fact French strenuously opposed America’s entry into the European fighting but then encouraged his nephew to serve once war had been declared, is captured in the youthfully naive but alert face.22
13. Final plaster model for reverse of the American Red Cross medal, 1919. Photo: Juley coll., National Museum of American Art, SI
In designing the reverse, French made a sketch which has not survived showing a recumbent wounded soldier with a nurse behind. Will H. Low, a fashionable New York City muralist, saw the sketch and told French that he had once considered designing a poster for the American Red Cross along the same lines. Low suggested that the nurse stand in front of the bed, a change French readily incorporated and credited the artist as collaborator by including both sets of initials, DCF and WHL, barely visible beneath the nurse’s feet (fig. 13).23
French was almost successful in his attempt to superimpose the cross on the medal’s surface. French’s wounded soldier, who appears considerably older and nearer death in the first model (fig. 14) and the uneasily stiff-backed nurse have a basic symmetry that adequately records the nurse’s vital role in the healing process of war.
14. Preliminary clay model for the reverse of the American Red Cross medal, 1919. Photo: Museum Archives, Chesterwood, Stockbridge, MA
Although it was not issued until 1920, the history of French’s last important medal, the Pulitzer, begins in 1918, one year after the School of Journalism of Columbia University, with a bequest from Joseph Pulitzer, began its annual prize "for the most disinterested and meritorious public service rendered by any American Newspaper during the year...."24
In May 1918, Columbia president Nicholas Murray Butler sought French’s advice about the best method for securing a design.
French, always opposed to competitions, tactfully responded:
You ask if it is "desirable to invite two or more medalists to submit suggestions." In general I think it best to decide upon
a sculptor and require that he shall submit designs for consideration by the committee in charge. The compliment of being
selected to execute a work of art is in itself an incentive and I think that most artists do their best work when a commission
is put unreservedly into their hands.25
15. Preliminary clay model for reverse of the Pulitzer medal, 1918. Photo: Museum Archives, Chesterwood, Stockbridge, MA
By mid-June, Butler asked French, long a member of the University’s art advisory committee, to make the medal.26 Before responding to Butler, French wrote Augustus Lukeman:
What is your price for a medal made all by yourself? Also what is your price for a medal supervised by me,— if I can’t get
it given to you outright?27
The next day French replied, declining the project for himself:
Only one who has made a medal appreciates how much work there is in one. A statue hardly is more exacting in time and patience
and it is not a thing that can be done successfully as a side issue. I am explaining this in order that you may not think
that I am rejecting your flattering proposition lightly.28
He then offered to supervise the work suggesting that he and Lukeman could do the work for $1000.00 but concluded:
I make this suggestion because of the wish you have expressed that I should be identified with the medal, but I really should
advise that you should put the commission entirely into Mr. Lukeman’s hands. This probably would reduce the expense two or
three hundred dollars.29
By September 28, 1918, French wrote to Butler, submitting a photograph (fig. 15) of the rough design for the reverse—a clay model with the date of 1917 and a fictitious award line to the New York City Times. He explained:
On the reverse we have represented Franklin’s press in operation with the inscription. I think I remember that you suggested that only the inscription should be on the reverse, but it seemed to Lukeman and me that the in- terest would be increased by introducing an early press with a figure of a printer at work. I hope you may think so.30
Butler responded promptly, commenting favorably on the profile bust by Houdon of Franklin on the obverse that was a basic
requirement of the medal and adding:
I...am particularly pleased that you thought of putting the printing press on the reverse. That is a little touch which is
quite a stroke of genius.31
When the medal (fig. 16) was finally issued in 1920, the dies were changed—Franklin’s birth and death dates were removed, Columbia’s identification was added as was a place for inscribing the recipient’s name. On the reverse the inscription JOSEPH PULITZER MEDAL was added beneath the printing press.32
While the execution of the reverse should be credited to Lukeman, its overall design, and control of the project belonged to French. In making the final model, several modifications were made. The printer acquires shoes, pants and a hat but remains barechested as he strains to tighten the press. A coat, referring to the fact that printers came to work properly attired, is draped over the press frame. The requisite lettering works with only modest success as it is suspended in front of the press almost pushing at the printer’s back. These details, refinements that enhance without interfering, were unquestionably made at French’s suggestion.
French’s place in American numismatics has been little known, quite possibly because his medals have not been widely distributed and were personal rather than "public" endeavors. Despite this disclaimer, French attacked his medal designs with a stylistic consistency that marked his career. He worked in a timely manner; he thoroughly explored all of the design possibilities, giving first concepts and final models the same creative effort, and he generously recognized the contributions of friends and associates.
|1||Charle H. Caffin, "The American Survey—The Dewey Medal," The Artist, Mar. 24, 1899, pp. xlvi-xlvii.|
|2||The Architectural League medal is known only by an illustration published in the 1923 exhibition of the National Sculpture
Society. A letter written to the secretary of the American Numismatic Society provides the sole historical record:
I received your circular letter asking for information in regard to medals which have been executed by me during the last year or formerly.I have made no medals during the last year. I have designed but two medals in my life.
The first was in 1896, when I modeled the Presidents prize medal for the Architectural League of New York City. This was a cast medal, cast in bronze and gilded and was five inches and five eighths in diameter.1 believe it has been superceded by another and smaller and better medal.
French to Bauman L. Belden, Jan. 13, 1915, The Daniel Chester French Family Papers, Library of Congress, Washington (hereafter DCFP).
|3||Elmer A. Lewis, ed., Laws Authorizing Issuance of Medals (Washington, 1929), pp. 2-3.|
Marshall Oliver sheds some light on the early history of the project and the Board’s interest in securing a qualified design.
The letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy offers an "after-the-fact" confirmation about French’s overall concern but
little on his direct involvement. Oliver cites an article in Scribner’s Magazine that mentions unnamed sculptors capable of revitalizing American coinage:
I wrote to the editors of "Scribner’s" requesting them to ask "W.W." who the two or three artists might be that he had in mind. The letter was referred to R. S., Mr. Russell Sturgis, the well known architect, from whom I received a note this morning, telling me that Mr. Walton (W. W.) was in Europe, but that he (R. S.) knew that the artists intended were Mr. Daniel C. French , and Mr. Augustus Saint-Gaudens. I ought to say that this information I regard as being of a quasi-confidential character. Mr. Sturgis is good authority, for he is versed in such matters, having been associated with Messrs. French and Saint-Gaudens as president of the commission appointed to secure, for the U. S. Mint, designs for a new coinage.
Marshall Oliver to Charles H. Allen (Assistant Secretary of the Navy),Oct. 2, 1898, File no. 7774, General Correspondence, 1897-1915, General Records Navy Department, Record Group 80, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington (hereafter RG80). I acknowledge the assistance of my colleague on the French Papers Project, Daniel Preston, for this research. The article cited is William Walton, "The Field of Art: Artistic Die-Sinking of the Present Time," Scribner’s Magazine (Oct. 1898), pp. 509-12.
|5||Charles H. Allen to John D. Long (Secretary of the Navy), Oct. 7, 1898 (RG80).|
|6||Of the 34 designers who submitted to the Dewey Medal of Honor committee, only 6 have "sculptural" credentials—French, Henry Jackson Ellicott, Theo. Starr, Gorham Mfg Co., Thos. S. Clarke and Tiffany. The remaining entries were from engravers, jewelers or silversmiths (RG80).|
|7||Chesterwood Diary, 1898, pp. 37-38 (DCFP).|
|8||Oliver to Allen, Aug. 27, 1898 and Long to French, Oct. 7, 1898 (RG80). Long concluded his letter:
With high estimation of your distinguished ability, and anticipating a result in keeping with the reputation of your monumental and public works, the Department reserves the right to look elsewhere for a design, should disappointing delays occur or should your design fail in technical adaptability.
|9||French to Long, Oct. 19, 1898. French thought he would have the models ready by Dec.1 but no later than Dec. 15. French to Allen, Jan. 2, 1899 (RG80); French to Long, Jan. 6, 1899 (RG80).|
|10||Caffin (above, n. 1), p.lxvi.|
|11||French to Allen, Aug. 24, 1898 (RG80).|
|12||French to W.M.R. French, Oct. 16, 1898 (DCFP).|
|13||Michael Richman, Daniel Chester French: An American Sculptor (Washington, 1983). Wisdom is illustrated on p. 14.|
|14||American Numismatic Society Pamphlet, Subcommittee on Official Medal, Feb. 16, 1918.|
|15||Richman (above, n. 13). The Trask Memorial commission began on Dec. 11, 1913, and was completed with the unveiling of the statue on June 26, 1915. The Trask is illustrated on p. 130; the Republic on p. 10; the Hunt Memorial figures on p. 87; and America on p. 108.|
|16||American Numismatic Society Pamphlet, Subcommittee on Official Medal, Nov. 10, 1917.|
|17||French to Robert W. de Forest, Aug. 4, 1917 (DCFP).|
|18||See above, n. 17. The medal French and Lukeman worked on was the Public School Athletic League. French oversaw the work which called for Lukeman to rework French’s statue of the Minute Man in relief on the obverse. French asked $200.00 for his services, per French to Gustavus T. Kirby, Jan. 18, 1917 (DCFP).|
|19||A comparison with David D’Angers serves French well. H.W. Kent to de Forest, Nov. 9, 1917 (Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives).|
|20||De Forest to French, Mar. 31, 1919 (DCFP).|
|21||De Forest to French, Apr. 10, 1919 (DCFP). French submitted a bill to de Forest for $ 1,250.00 for designing the medal and $250.00 for making the dies. He willingly made a concession in price, indicating that he would have charged $2,500.00. French learned that gold medals could be struck for about $250.00. Fifty bronzes could be purchased at $4.00 each, 100 or 125 would reduce the unit cost to $3.75; see French to de Forest, Jan. 30, 1920 (DCFP). French was paid by the American National Red Cross on Feb. 6, 1920.|
|22||French to Prentiss French, May 11, 1917 (DCFP). French was pleased that his nephew enlisted, understood why his sister-in-law was so opposed and hoped that the war would be over before American soldiers fought.|
French to Will H. Low, Apr. 28, 1919 (DCFP).
I am proud to follow your lead and it will interest you to know that I have decided to take your advice which I am sure is good and put the figure of the nurse in front of the recumbent soldier figure. I have the model far enough advanced so that it is evident that this arrangement is the better one. I really feel guilty that I have infringed your patent however innocently.... I still feel as I suggested to you that your name ought to go with mine on this side of my medal, and I shall be proud to put it there if you do not disapprove.
|24||Quoted in Nicholas Murray Butler to French, June 17, 1918, Central Files, Columbia University Archives, New York City City (hereafter NNC). The first recipient in 1917 was the New York City Tribune. A gold medal valued at $500 was proposed in the will, but did not accompany the first award.|
|25||French to Butler, May 30, 1918 (NNC).|
|26||Butler to French, June 17, 1918 (NNC).|
|27||French to Augustus Lukeman, June 18, 1918 (DCFP).|
|28||French to Butler, June 19, 1918 (NNC).|
|29||See above, n. 28. Butler accepted the terms—French and Lukeman would work together. Butler to French, June 20, 1918 (NNC).|
|30||French to Butler, Sept. 26, 1918 (NNC).|
|31||Butler to French, Sept. 28, 1918 (NNC).|
|32||It was not until July 1920 that changes in the inscription were contemplated. French indicated that if the modifications were
required, new dies and a new plaster model would have to be made at a cost of $300.00. The changes were made and Fackenthal
assured French that the corrections were necessary:
I know President Butler would be very reluctant to do anything to the medal that would in your opinion make it one bit less beautiful than it now is. It is one of the most admired of our medals, and its beauty should not be marred.It is not clear whether Fackenthal was referring specifically to the medals issued by Columbia University or in general terms to medals produced by American artists. French to Frank D. Fackenthal (Secretary), July 19, 1920 and Fackenthal to French, July 21, 1920 (NNC).
© The American Numismatic Society, 1988
The medals, medallions and coins created by Bela Lyon Pratt were sketched and sculpted with both enthusiasm and pleasure by Pratt himself. It is hoped that the following first-hand material will serve to cast light on this less known, currently neglected sculptor.
Bela (pronounced Beela) Pratt was born in Norwich, CT, in 1867. His father, George Pratt, was a respected Norwich lawyer; his mother, Sarah Victoria Whittlesey Pratt, came from a long line of artists and musicians. Her father, Oramel Whittlesey, had in 1835 founded Music Vale Seminary in Salem, CT, which was the first Normal Academy of Music in this country. It was because of her artistic heritage, perhaps, that she had the foresight and conviction to encourage her fourth child and second son, Bela, to pursue his passion for modeling, which had evidenced itself at a very early age.
Pratt’s father was a graduate of Yale University and so it was a natural step for Bela to be guided toward the Yale School of Fine Arts, which he entered at age 16. After three years of successful study under Professors Neimeyer and Weir, and after having won the Ethel Child Walker Prize for Sculpture, Pratt moved on to further studies at the Art Students League of New York City (fig. 1).
1. Sculpting class at the N.Y. Art Students League, ca. 1887. Front: Pratt in smock, M.T. Lawrence in front of him, Caroline Peddle (Ball) to his right; center: young model, Prof. Elwell; rear: Edith Woodman (Burroughs), unidentified.
Photo, Hakim Raquib
The greatest American sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, was an instructor at the Art Students League of New York City. It was here that Pratt began a life of intense study, cautious reverence, and painful jealousy of his famous mentor. In 1889 Pratt won the coveted first prize, the "Concours," at the Art Students League. Saint-Gaudens directed his protege, whom he later described as "a great student of mine," to travel to Paris for study under Chapu and Falquière at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
Pratt flourished in France, winning several medals and prizes at the Ecole and finishing first in his class. Saint-Gaudens called him back to the States in 1892 to undertake a commission for two colossal groups on The Water-Gate Peristyle at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Dr. and Mrs. Frederick Cheever Shattuck, prominent Boston patrons who were responsible for financially aiding Pratt while he was in Paris, commissioned of him two marble medallions. The first was of their daughters Elizabeth and Clara, and the second of Mrs. Shattuck with her youngest daughter Clara. These low reliefs were completed in 1893, but it was not until 1897, after Pratt had gained some experience in medallic work, that he launched a speculative venture to reduce the marble medallions and cast them in silver (fig. 2).
Mrs. Shattuck has sent me the reliefs of herself and Clara, and of Lizzie and Clara. I’m going to have them reduced to about four inches and cast in silver. This is speculation on my part. I hope that they will look so well that I can get lots of things of that sort to do when I go back.I believe people would be willing to pay a price for a thing that seemed as precious as a silver medal or relief, that would scare them if asked for plaster or bronze, and I think, myself, that there is more sense in having a thing of that kind around than a large relief, or at least unless one has a truly good light for the latter. If the rich people could see enough of this sort of a thing it would become very popular with them and I do like to work in that way, part of the time anyhow....1
As a result of Saint-Gaudens’s recommendation, Pratt was appointed to a professorship at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts in 1894, a position which he held for the rest of his life. In Boston, surrounded by Harvard loyalists, Pratt’s devotion toward Yale, his first love, never wavered. Nevertheless, on the occasion of Charles William Eliot’s twenty-fifth year as President of Harvard, Pratt was commissioned to sculpt a commemorative medal. A gold edition of the medal was to be presented to Eliot at the commencement day alumni dinner. According to notes written by Bela’s wife, Helen Lugarda Pray (whom he met as a student in his sculpting class at the Boston Museum School and later married in 1896), the gold medal at the time it was made was worth $500. Six bronzes were also cast. The plaster had been reduced in Paris. The following letter from Saint-Gaudens to Pratt, dated Jan. 11, 1895, refers to the Eliot medal:
My friend Mr. Bion has replied to my inquiry with regard to the medal, although he tells me that he has not heard directly from you as I told him he would. He says that he does not know of any person that casts in gold but thinks that is jeweler’s work, and may possible be as well done in this country as abroad. The cost of the reduction from your model, that will be necessary in any case (whether cast or struck) if it is about 50 centimeters in diameter will cost from fifteen to twenty-five Dollars; in other words if you send a model of fifty centimeters to Paris you will have a most faithful reduction to any size you desire for Twenty-five Dollars. This reduction will be furnished you in iron, and in order to have it cast in gold I think you would have to bring that iron model to Tiffany & Co. who I believe do the best work of that kind in this country....
A. St. Gaudens
In 1894 Pratt was awarded three separate commissions for the decoration of the new Library of Congress Building in Washington D.C. The most well-known pieces today are the six female spandrel figures, flanking the three arches, and sculpted in high relief granite above the main entrance. They represent Art, Science and Literature. His second commission, an eleven foot symbolic figure of Philosophy, stands high in the central rotunda. The third and final commission was for ornamental bas-relief medallions on "four separate subjects," to be placed in the pavilions. Pratt chose the four seasons as his separate subjects. He considered Spring to be the "best of the lot." His sensitive treatment of women and children, as depicted in the four medallions, recurred in many sculptural forms throughout his lifetime. It echoed his innate respect and tenderness toward the women in his life—his mother, sisters, wife, and models—as well as toward his own children.
In view of the fact that Pratt had studied at the Yale School of Fine Arts and had received an Honorary Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Yale University in 1899, it was appropriate that Yale "catch up" to Harvard by commissioning Pratt’s second medal. As with most of his commissions, this one involved a long and trying period before artistic realization. The classic design illustrates Yale’s motto of LUX ET VERITAS, Apollo’s chariot being guided by Truth over the clouds (fig. 3).
Boston, May 14 1899
I had a letter from Prof. Weir this week and from that I judge that they would like to give me the medal to do, but as they have already asked some N.Y. sculptors to submit designs, they don’t feel quite free. However, they want me to make a sketch for it and I’m going to do it.It’s queer how I always seem to be on the ground a little too late. I wonder how other fellows get onto jobs, or prospects of jobs, so quickly? I believe my business sense is very poor. I’m hoping that it will develop some day and then I shall be rich!...
Boston, Oct. 22 1899
I believe I’m going to get the Yale Bi centennial medal to do after all. I had a long letter from Prof. Weir saying that the committee was very much pleased with my sketch and had decided to have me make it in a larger size. If they do not accept it they will pay me for my trou- ble but he writes as if they expected to give me the job.No news from the Hale...[Pratt here refers to his Nathan Hale life-size sculpture, the smaller model for which he had already completed. This important commission was not awarded him until 1914, after years of waiting on the sidelines while Yale unsuccessfully wooed Saint-Gaudens to create a version of the famous Yale graduate.]
Boston, Nov. 19 1899
I hear nothing from Yale and I begin to fear that I shall not get the medal. Did I tell you that Adams design was "rotten" and that (according to Prof. Wier’s brother, who told Tarbell) I am to have the job. However, if it is a fact I don’t see why I don’t hear directly...
Boston, Dec. 17 ’99
I have had another letter from Prof. Weir in which he says that all the other sculptor’s designs have been rejected and that I am to go right on with mine as they have no thought of giving the medal to anyone but me. They will pay me $ 1000.00 for the work. This ought to leave me about $500 after paying for the die cutting etc. But I am glad to do it at any price...
Over one year later, Pratt commented on Tiffany & Co.’s execution of the die:
Boston, March 3 1901
They have suggested some more slight changes in the medal but I wrote them that I objected "to tinkering any more with my
design as not one of the alterations suggested by the committee had improved it in the least."The design was fully and officially
accepted seven months ago but they seem to have gotten hold of some man at the place where the die is being cut who is trying
to "queer me" with them. I hope my letter doesn’t make them mad but I felt mad when I wrote it and it is all for the good
of the medal....
Five years elapsed before Pratt was given another chance to display his talents for medal work. In June 1906, Professor Charles Eliot Norton of the Longfellow Centenary Committee and under the auspices of the Cambridge Historical Society, asked Pratt if he would be willing to undertake the making of a medal. This bronze medal, which was fashioned to commemorate the birth of Longfellow, was to be about 2 1/2 inches round. It would bear on one side the head of Henry W. Longfellow, and on the other a brief inscription. The number of copies to be issued was strictly limited to 200, and individual collectors could purchase one of the medals for $10 (fig. 4).
Norton, in a letter to Pratt, noted:
I do not know whether the die can now be made in this country as well as in Paris. You will remember that the attempt to have
the die for the Eliot Medal made here- proved unsatisfactory, and that we had finally to have the work done in Paris....
Pratt, writing to his mother in Kansas City, MO, on November 18, 1906, mused:
One thing that is quite interesting is the fact that Pier- pont Morgan has ordered two of the Longfellow Medals and wishes
to have them struck in gold! They will cost him about $300 each but I suppose he doesn’t mind a little thing like that. He
says he is getting a collection of gold medals and he wants two so he can show a obverse and reverse in the case....
A few of these 200 medals were reserved by the Cambridge Historical Society, to be awarded one each year as prizes for the pupils in the Cambridge school system for essays on the poet’s life and works. Pratt, who generally disliked and avoided making public appearances,
seemed to enjoy the Centennial Celebration:
Mar. 3d, 1907
The Longfellow celebration was the biggest kind of success. I was very sorry that I did not have the medal realy
finished when the photograph that was used on the program was taken. It looks twice as well now and I have made some very
important changes in the face, especially about the eyes. Anyhow people seemed to admire it.But I shall not have it cast untill
I am satisfied with it myself. I wish you might have seen me on the platform with all the great people. Gov. Guild, Pres.
Eliot, Charles Eliot Norton and any number of distinguished people.The sad thing is that they did not put my name in the paper
with the others, but as they had only about half of the big men mentioned, a little man like me ought not to feel slighted....
One remarkable exception to the standard treatment for medal design was Pratt’s sunken relief $2.50 and $5 Indian Head gold coins, also referred to as the quarter and half eagles, commissioned by President Roosevelt in 1908. A passion in Pratt’s life was American Indian artifacts, for which he dug and hunted on many occasions. He even surmised that he must have had some Indian blood in his lineage, so ruddy was his complexion, so dark his hair, and so enamored was he with Indian lore.
One day early in 1908, Dr.William Sturgis Bigelow, a Trustee at the Museum of Fine Arts, visited Pratt’s
Boston studio and asked if he knew of anyone who could interpret an idea of his regarding a new coin. In 1908 many artists were
talking about the Saint- Gaudens coins, including Pratt and his assistant who had just been discussing how they would have
done the Saint-Gaudens coins. They envisioned sinking the relief, but abandoned the idea as being too radical a change to
be admitted by the mint. When Dr. Bigelow became an interested champion, Pratt’s excitement rose and he wrote:
His idea was even more radical and startling than mine, for while I had thought of a ground sloping more or less gradually
to the relief, his idea was to sink the relief at right angles to the coin after the manner of the old Egyptian reliefs. I
at once began work on the models, and they looked so well and promised so much that I could hardly keep away from them long
enough to make a bluff at doing my regular work....
On February 2, 1908, he had forged ahead:
I’ve got the coin model very well along and it has worked out very nicely. I can’t believe that those in authority can possibly
fail to see that it is just what we have all been
looking for! It realy looks handsome to me and everybody to whom I have shown it says that it is the best ever. I wish you
could see it just to help out in the general excitement and give me the courage to see the thing through. Do you suppose that
I will realy take it to Washington and show it to Teddy? I don’t think there any use in just sending it. There are too many ways that it would get sidetracked,
which is just what is most likely to happen to it anyhow....
A week later he was still elated:
The coin continues to be the admiration of all to whom I show it, but Dr. Bigelow has been sick abed with the grip and so
things are rather at a standstill. I need not tell you that I am feeling very happy and cheerful. I always do when there is
plenty of work promised and I am feeling well enough to tackel it. The fact is that I’m feeling very agressive just now. There
seems to be something in the atmosphere of Boston not unlike that found in Paris, among the artists, and I am right in the midst of it. I think and believe it is what we have
all been looking for for so long, the beginning of a real American School of Art. I wonder if I am right! I certainly believe
it. It’s all very exciting and not at all unlikely. Boston is showing a life in Art matters which can’t be matched in any other city in the country at any period....
Feb 19, 1908
Dear Dr. Bigelow,
I am sending you the medal in plaster, of the coin on which we have been working for the past fortnight. It seems to me that your idea of having a sunken relief is going to work out perfectly. This arrangement protects the design from wear as well as possessing the advantage of presenting a level surface which will not interfere with the coins being stacked satisfactorily. Owing to the fact that the surface exposed is broad and flat, the wear on the coin will obviously be less than the wear on the irregular surface of the ordinary coins; thus reducing the loss of metal and rendering the coin of considerable economic value.
Aside from these practical considerations, the sunken relief has a distinct and original decorative quality. The Indian head seems particularly appropriate for use on a United States coin, being essentially American in character. The Indian is a decorative type, and the headdress adapts itself admirably to artistic treatment. The backward sloping arrangement of the feathers allows space for a head of generous proportions, while the contour of the profile and the shape of the head-dress are in sympathy with the circular shape of the coin....
One set of the casts is gilded and the other has a dark finish. The relief of these coins may be strengthened or diminished to any extent necessary in the minting.
All the artists and others who have seen these designs have been enthusiastic in their admiration of it and I feel sure that if the project could be carried through that it will be found entirely satisfactory.
Yours very truly
B. L. Pratt
Pratt’s studio was often open to friends, colleagues, and on certain occasions to the public, since transporting monumental
pieces of sculpture to small galleries for exhibition was not always feasible. He also felt, and quite rightfully so, that
everyone liked to "get a smell of the sculpture." In a letter dated Feb. 23, 1908, he refers to a special visit:
Yesterday Henry Higgenson, Mrs. Higgenson and their son Alexander came in to see the bust [a portrait of Henry Lee Higgenson
to be placed in Boston’s Symphony Hall. Higgenson was founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra], and they were all most complimentary. I’m so pleased to have the family pleased as that is often the
most difficult part of a portrait. The committee have been perfectly satisfied. In the afternoon the Higgensons came in again
and brought Mrs. Tyson with them. Mrs. Tyson is the prime mover in getting the bust made and she said that they all felt they
had been most fortunate in getting me to do it instead of St. Gaudens! Also, they all thought my coins much superior to St.
G’s. Of course they are quite right in both cases!...
In the next few months, interesting details were revealed concerning the issue of the coins. Dr. Bigelow, a personal friend and confidant of President Roosevelt, wrote to Pratt from the U.S. Senate Chamber in Washington on April 8, 1908:
U.S. SENATE CHAMBER
Dear Mr. Pratt,
The President likes the coin—both the idea of a countersunk relief and your Indian head. 1 saw Mr. Leech (Director of the Mint) at the White House yesterday and again at the Freeman this morning. He seems well disposed. The laws limiting the changes in design to once in fifteen or twenty years (I forget exactly) make it doubtful when either process or design can be adopted, but he is going to look it up and see what coins will be available for new designs within a reasonable time.—I told him to go ahead with the sunken relief idea on anything, as far as I am concerned but that I could not give him authority to use your design without consulting you, and moreover that I thought you would want to retouch it if it were adopted.
He asked me to write to you about it.—Of course, you are insured against loss in any case since it stands as a private commission from me even if the gov’t does not take it.—But suppose they do.—shall I refer Mr. Leech directly to you for terms, or can I give him any message?
Of course the suggestion of the gov’t paying out money will set a different set of wheels turning, and the creaking may wake up some watch-dog of the Treasury from Illinois or S. Dakota who is trying to make his constituents think him a financier, and it might be an obstacle to getting this thing judged on its merits, and it is conceivabley possible that the best may be for me to say to Mr. Leech— "this idea of a sunken relief I give the gov’t outright.— The design of the Indian Head has cost me so & so. If there is no appropriation available I will pay the bill & give the Gov’t the design too for the sake of seeing the experiment tried." That would eliminate the idea of a job, which every department or official shies at like a colt at a pile-driver.
Please write me
W. S. Bigelow
Dear Mr. Pratt,
So far so good—
I told Mr. Leech about the $300 [yes,that was the amount Pratt charged for his coin design] and offered to foot the bill myself. He said he had been looking for available funds and that the U.S. will nav the bill Now the on- ly question he knows of is what coin it can be got on to, and he is going to Phila. to the mint to see. The President wants the St. Gaudens eagle on the reverse, also in "recessed relief’, but there is a technical question whether "recessing" it would be"changing the design" within the meaning of the act. There is hope of getting it on a $5.00 piece anyway. Everything is ready for a new issue, but only the specimen pieces have been struck and none have gone out. There is a chance that this whole issue can be stopped and our coin substituted. But keep all this to yourself till further notice.
W. S. Bigelow
I am much pleased with the outlook.
THE WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON
May 1st — 1908
Dear Mr. Pratt,
Mr. Leech has got back from Phila. and reports everything favorable there. He had started one of the men there on the reverse, but when I told him what you said about doing it, he said he saw no objection to your going ahead, and that he—or we—could see which came out best. Do you want to try on that basis? Why don’t you? I will stand in the gap as before.—The President wants the standing St. Gaudens eagle of the $10.00 piece reproduced in "sunken relief’... Mr. Leech said unofficially that he did not think it necessary for you to reproduce "every feather." I got the idea that he would not object if you should improve it in any way. But I would not, if I were you, get too far from the original, as the President likes it. Perhaps you can make him like it better.—
W. S. Bigelow
They thought highly of your Indian at the mint, Mr. Leech says. How are you getting on with him? Don’t be too careful or you
may spoil him. Le mieux est l’ennemie du bien...
1765 Mass Ave.
Dear Mr. Pratt,
The coin it goes on depends on whether it is possible to get it on the $5. 00. Everything is prepared for a new issue, and the dies are made. But the coins are not yet struck. If they were, nothing more could be done for twenty five years. Mr. Leech takes the ground that the law refers to the date of issue of the coins, and not to the date of the cutting of the die—This is the point we are now wrestling with.
W. S. Bigelow
I hope you are getting on well with injuns and eagles. Don’t get the slope from surface to outline too gradual, or you may lose the character the outline gives....
By fall, Pratt wrote to his mother with great excitement:
Boston, Oct. 11 1908
...Remember the coin is a secret!
We went to the Symphony concert last night, the first night of the season with the new conductor, Max Fidler. He’s all right! The program was fine and he kept the orchestra together in a very masterful style; but that is not what I want to write about....
Well, Helen [Pratt’s wife] thought it would be nice to walk in the corridor to see if we could find our friends. We found the Woods, one and all, waiting for us and I had only just shaken hands when Dr. Sturgis Bigelow pounced on me and with a most misterious manner, husteled me off under a light away from the crowd and produced the first of the coins from his pocket! He says the President and mint people are most enthusiastic and it is their plan to get the coin all distributed for circulation and in fact into circulation before there is a chance to rase a row. Bigelow says there is sure to be a big fuss. I suppose he will get all the glory if there is any. There is always somebody ready to snatch every bit of credit for things of this kind, but it is a fact that Bigelow has engineered this thing through and it is sure that without him it never would have gotten through. I shall feel badly to have it called the "Bigelow coin" when it is really the "Pratt coin."
The papers here, except the Transcript, gave credit of the design for the Archbishop medal to LaRose! However, he came out like a little man and the Herald published his letter in a conspicuous place saying that he had nothing to do with it and giving me full credit....
Boston, Oct. 25th 1908
After the first of November you can all you want of my coins at any bank, but that is still a secret. They have "knocked spots" out of my design at the mint. They let their diecutter spoil it, which he did most thoroughly, so try not to be too disappointed when you see the coins.The little $2 1/2 coins don’t look so badly but the $5 is a sight! I could not sleep for a night or two after I saw it. The first impression, which Dr. Bigelow showed me at the Symphony two weeks ago looked quite well. But they tried to retouch it and gee! they made a mess of it!With a few deft touches the butcher or blacksmith, who is at the head of things there, changed it from a thing that I was proud of to one which I am ashaimed! Still it is the best coin the U.S. has ever had....
Boston, Nov. 8th, 1908
There have been several newspaper notices of the "New coin designed by W.S. Bigelow." They usually mention that Dr. Bigelow got me to "make the models." There seems to be no excitement about it at all and I suppose that is because they have not yet appeared. Anyhow, I shall have very little of eather the credit or discredit. I had not thought it possible that they would play such a trick on me and it realy looks much as if Dr. Bigelow was to blame. If a person gave a painter an order for a picture and told him in a general way what sort of a picture he wanted he would never think of claiming that he "designed" the picture and then proceed to take all the credit for it. As near as I can make out that is what Dr. Bigelow has done. It’s just the same thing that La Rose did in regard to the Archbishop medal. Tiffany & Co., who struck the Yale medal and got all the credit for that, played much the same trick. This seems to me the meanest kind of robbery....
Once the coins were in circulation (fig. 5), Dr. Bigelow wrote Pratt to clarify this point:
Nov 17, 1908
Dear Mr. Pratt
I have a quantity of clippings taken from papers all over the country about the new coins. Would you like to see them? There is only one comment that is otherwise than favorable and that is a short paragraph from the New York City Herald. There is also one from the Transcript which said point blank that I designed the coins. If I had seen this when it came out I should have written to correct it.
I am sorry that they do not put you more in the foreground as a general thing. I have in my hand a copy of a memorandum I sent Mr. Leech who asked if I had anything to say about the designs for publication, as he expected an invasion of inquiring reporters. It ends with these words: "The credit for this particular design is wholly Mr. Pratt’s." In a private letter to him enclosing this memorandum I said: "If we could be sure that the thing was going to be a success I should be inclined to withdraw entirely and have the thing known as the Pratt design. As it may turn out a popular failure, however, I think it may be safer to couple the names and call it either the "Pratt-Bigelow" or the "Bigelow-Pratt" design."
Of course you and I, who have thought more about it than anybody else, can now see points where the thing could be done better if it were done over. Some of these the Mint is responsible for, others not. But on the whole the thing seems to be a success and I think we may well congratulate ourselves. At any rate nothing but an act of Congress can withdraw these coins from circulation for twenty years, at the end of which time I hope they will come to you for another design. If they do, remember and get the relief completely below the level of the surrounding surface at all points....
In January 1909, Pratt delivered a talk in Boston to the Thursday Evening Club, to which he had recently been elected a member. He offered some amusing reflections about his new coins:
I am sure that up to the time that Saint-Gaudens made his beautiful coins the United States had the most inane and ugly coins the world has ever seen. We did have one handsome one once, about 1862-3 they got out a nickel cent with a flying eagle, which was really fine but it only lasted two years, when it was revised in favor of the ridiculous one-cent piece of today....
The Latin, German, Indian, English and Sanskrit words for coin all mean some kind of cattle. The Bible work "shekel" means a lamb. Out West they have begun to get busy with a name for the new gold coins which have just been minted. In a clipping which some kind friend has sent me from Denver is the story of a man who tried to pass some of them on the street cars and elsewhere but they were all refused; those to whom he offered them not being sure whether they were milk checks or a new kind of tobacco tag. No farther West than Jamaica Plain [Boston, where Pratt and his family lived], I offered for my fare a $5 bill, being short of change. Upon the conductor’s refusing to change it I told him I had nothing smaller except a $2.50 gold piece, which I produced. He looked at it for a moment and said he would rather change the bill. I told him it was a perfectly good coin as I had made it myself, but even this failed to convince him....
When we had the models well along, Dr. Bigelow proposed that we ship them to Washington... It was not long before things began to happen. I got letters written on Congressional paper, Cabot Lodge paper and paper stamped with the stamp of the White House. We soon knew that we had a very good design: Mr. Roosevelt said so. The models were sent to the Mint and there slaughtered after the manner in which the Mint always treats designs. They milled the edge, chopped off the margin, re-modelled the feathers and did other damage....
One of the principal advantages of this coin is that it is nearly friction proof, as nearly so as a coin can be made; the background being slightly above the level of the relief, and the broad surfaces of the background taking all the wear and being perfecdy smooth, the friction loss is very slight. It has been stated on good authority that the gold in circulation in the United States decreases daily in value from friction losses alone considerably over one thousand dollars. When it is borne in mind that this loss is absolute, not simply squandered or going elsewhere, but annihilated, it is evident that any saving of this loss should certainly be considered if it can be done without effecting in any way the real or artistic value of the coin itself. That is what it is hoped we have accomplished in this coin. Another of the clippings which I received was from Providence R.I., and ran something in this manner: "The new $5 and $2.50 gold pieces have just been received at a local bank.
They are the ugliest things in the way of coins which have ever been seen outside the show cases of some museum where the coins taken from ancient tombs are exhibited as curiosities." Of course, the handsomest coins that were ever made were those made by the Greeks along about the fifth century B.C. and later.They had much greater freedom in treatment of design than is allowed by the Modern system, which sacrifices artistic effect to economic and practical value and facility of handling....
By 1908 it seemed that Pratt was beginning to have a corner on centennial medals! In July of 1908, the same year his coins were issued, he was commissioned to model a medal commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the Roman Catholic diocese of Boston. He writes:
The only new excitement is that I am going to make a medal for Arch Bishop O’Connal and I shall have to work on it some this summer. I’ve got to have the model ready by Sept. 1st. The Bishop is a very fat man and looks the part to perfection. There will be at least 100,000 copies struck of the smaller medal and several hundred of the larger. I am to get $500 anyway and more if the sales warrant it. I expect to get my full price of $1000....
The medal was indeed struck in two sizes, the smaller edition about the size of a quarter, with a loop at the top through which a small red, white and blue ribbon was run, long enough to be tied in a bow. It was speculated that every Catholic man, woman and child in the diocese of Boston would wear one of these badges in their lapels, offered at ten cents apiece. The larger edition, illustrated here (fig. 6), shows Pratt’s delicately precise bas-relief modeling which was never vague nor indefinite. The relative scale of the many objects was composed and proportioned admirably, the inscription becoming an integral part of the design. The fact that Pratt himself modeled his medals, as works of love and leisure, quite obviously gave them an added, personal dimension.
Pratt’s most active year in medal work was to be 1909. His Indian Head coins had brought him recognition beyond Boston, and in the fall of 1908 after the coins were in circulation, he finished a relief of Abraham Lincoln for Lincoln Park in Lowell, MA, and adapted, from the same design, a medallion for the Abraham Lincoln School in Boston. Shortly thereafter, New York City commissioned of him an Abraham Lincoln Centennial medal (fig. 7).
By January 25, 1909, he was making frequent trips to New York City:
I’m back all right (from N.Y.) with two orders for medals, one for the "Spanish Historical Museum" and another for the "New Theatre" these are both quite important things and are well paid for. They are ordered by Mr. Archer Huntington who inherits all the wealth of his father who was one of the richest men in the country... He was very much pleased to think that he had "discovered a new sculptor"! Well anyhow things do seem to be coming my way. Just think three medals for New York City and the little bronze figure bought by the Metropolitan Museum!...
His confidence builds:
Boston, Jan 31, 1909
The New York City Lincoln Medals have been struck and I think they have come out better than could have been expected. They are making them in four sizes and of both bronze and silver. They expect to sell a lot of them and the money is to go for a big Lincoln Memorial in New York City. I think it is about the best medal I have made and I designed it in a very few minutes. I had it all finished in less than a week from the time I started it. I don’t enjoy hurrying things this way but I’m quite proud to think that I can do good work in a hurry when necessary. It was done at white heat of creativity, that’s for sure, and has the advantage of being spontaneous....
I think I’m getting quite conceited about my medals.
I’m sure no one can do them any better just now! There are lots of men who can do "slicker"and perhaps more correctly finished things of the kind than mine but to me my things have "more stuff in them" and what pleases me is that other people seem to feel this too. I do hope that I can manage to hide my conceit! It would spoil all my chance of success if people knew how good I think work in this line is!...
April 11th 1909
I had to go "down" to N.Y. on Wednesday and I had one of the queerest experiences of my life! I went down to show Huntington the photos of the medals for the Spanish Museum and for the "New Theatre."
He was very enthusiastic, especially about the Theatre medal. He said "I consider it the very best medal ever made by an American sculptor, the best ever made in this country, and I have seen them all." You know he is president of the Numismatic Society and has given them land and built them a building. Then he said, "By the way, there is another medal I should like to have you make if you would care to, it is for the Natural History Museum." Of course I said I should be delighted and then he said "There is another one for Columbia University. It’s for President Butler. " This also I said I should be glad to do. Huntington allowed it was too bad that he did not have a better head for a medal and then asked if I had ever seen his father. He then showed me a fine photo of him and he had one of the most magnificent heads I have ever seen. "I want to get you to make a medal of him if you will?" I was beginning to get embarassed but as the head was realy so fine I accepted with enthusiasm, but when he said that he also needed a tablet of his father for the Museum I actually almost collapsed! Four jobs in 20 minutes! That is a record! I broak away at once fearing that I would use them all up at one sitting, and I had kind of a feeling that I might "wake up" at any minute....
The following fall Pratt recounted an adventure on Oct 23rd:
I had one excitement last week. Thursday evening I got a telegram from Archer Huntington requesting that I meet him at the Spanish Historical Building in New York City at the "first possible moment." So I took the midnight train and could hardly sleep thinking of the big job I was going to get.
But it turned out that he only wanted me to make some changes in the Theatre Medal which I had already been paid for and which was pronounced entirely satisfactory last spring. I shall charge him $150 for the trip although he gave me a fine ride in his big motor car almost the whole length of Manhatten Island and gave me a great chance to see the Hudson Fulton Naval parade which was impressive and quite worth while. The change is of no very great importance, I’m going to take out the central figure on the reverse to make room for inscriptions. When I made it first they said that they didn’t want any inscription except just space for the name of the person to whom it is presented....
The gold medal was presented to Miss Ellen Terry on January 15, 1911, by the founders of the New Theatre, amongst whom was J. Pierpont Morgan. As may be seen here, the central figure on the reverse side of the medal was never actually taken out (fig. 8).
In 1894 Pratt joined the Tavern Club, a Boston eating and drinking club, and a center to spirited, artistic and sympathetic minds. He enjoyed warm, lifelong relationships with a number of prominent artists, writers, musicians, academicians, lawyers, doctors, and bankers, all of whom were fellow club members.
This club voted, in 1909, to have Pratt design a silver medal based on their club logo, a bear, which would be presented to members of 25 years standing. As he had done on previous occasions, he designed this medal on North Haven Island, ME, where he and his family summered in their Bartlett’s Harbour home, adjacent to his artist friend and colleague at the Museum of Fine Arts and fellow Tavern Club member, Frank W. Benson. Pratt’s delightful, loving interpretation of a segment of nature, which he so cherished, is particularly endearing (fig. 9). It is difficult to label as "Beaux-Arts," "Gilded," or "Elegant."
The Tavern Club produced silver medals which are still passed down from member to member, after their names and dates of membership have been inscribed on the reverse.
Boston, Nov. 7th '09
I’ve got the medal for the Tavern Club almost ready to cast and I think it is going to be a success. I have used the bear that we used to see last summer in the spruce tree against the western sky. Of course I have had to change it some but in general it is about the same....
Boston, May 8, 1910
Tonight is the Tavern Annuel dinner. They are going to give out the first of the new medals which I made, for members of 25 years standing... I don’t think anyone knows how good the medal is except myself!...
Pratt was quite an accomplished sportsman, carefully allotting much of his time away from his studio for fishing, golfing, hunting, or archery. He enjoyed competing on one particularly beautiful golf course at the Country Club in Brookline, MA. Pratt was actually startled to be elected a member at this highly exclusive club in 1910. One of three Pratt medals which is still distributed was commissioned by the Country Club. Whimsical in nature, the jaunty squirrel, logo of the club, lent itself well to the restrictive, circular format of the medal. Pratt’s love of nature again shines through in his treatment of this little creature. The medal today decorates various of the club’s silver sporting trophies. This illustration is of a silver edition presented to Pratt by G. Herbert Windeler, who introduced curling to the U.S.A. in 1898, and Herbert Jaques, a prominent architect, both overseers of the Country Club, "with grateful remembrances" (fig. 10).
Pratt’s monumental work had reached a point where the demand was such that he had little time to accept small commissions. He made no more medals until 1914, when the Nicholas Murray Butler Medal, already begun in 1909, was finalized.
The Nicholas Murray Butler medal for Columbia University has just been struck and a proof copy sent to me. I am realy quite proud of it. It wasn’t an easy subject to treat....
The Children’s Hospital in Boston is in the 1980s the most renowned and important hospital of its kind in the world. Their seal, which Pratt designed in March 1916, was soon adopted as the hospital’s logo and is today widely recognized and distributed around the world, although few people realize who designed it! The original bronze seal is located in the lobby of the Hospital’s Walbach building (fig. 11).
Although the medals, medallions, and coins he created represented barely five percent of the total number of works in Bela Lyon Pratt’s short lifetime, they were an important reflection of his constant search to marry subject to artistic interpretation. The diversity and depth of Pratt’s work are exhibited to a far greater extent in his portrait reliefs, portrait busts, colossal groups, monumental statues, religious figures, decorative tablets, as well as marble and bronze fountain and ideal figures.
On June 19, 1915, Pratt was recipient of a Harvard College Master of Arts Honorary Degree. President A.L. Lowell bestowed the degree upon Pratt with these words: "Bela Lyon Pratt, a sculptor who has taught bronze and marble to whisper his secrets of beauty and power." No one, not even his closest friends and family, anticipated that heart failure would prematurely end Pratt’s life, on May 18, 1917, in his forty-ninth year.
|1||Unlesss otherwise noted, all quotations in this paper are from Pratt’s weekly letters to his mother. These and other correspondences have not been previously published and they remain in my possession in Cambridge, MA. Pratt was hardly a student of orthography. No attempt has been made to correct his errors in spelling; for Pratt it was the substance of what he was saying which was important to him. On one occasion, when asked to snell "pigeon." he replied that he would rather sculpt it!|
© The American Numismatic Society, 1988
James Earle Fraser, American sculptor, is best known for two of his early works: his figure of a desperately-tired Indian brave sitting on an equally-exhausted pony at the End of The Trail, and his very famous "Buffalo" nickel. Some seventy-odd years after these two American icons were first created they are still universally recognized by the American public, while the name of their creator is not. Aline Loucheim, late art critic of the New York City Times called Fraser "America’s most famous unknown sculptor," in a Times Magazine feature article, later reprinted by Reader’s Digest .1
In the second and third decades of the twentieth century, Fraser was the single most influential individual responsible for the aesthetics of American coins. His wife, Laura Gardin Fraser, who survived him by a decade, was also a medalist of considerable stature and influence. She is responsible for three commemorative half dollars: the Alabama Centennial of 1921; the Fort Vancouver of 1925; and the U. S. Grant. Together the Frasers created the Oregon Trail Half Dollar, termed by Taxay the "most beautiful" U. S. coin.2 At the peak of her career in 1958, she was commissioned by the American Numismatic Society to design its Centennial Medal.
Fraser was quite feisty when it came to the aesthetics of coins, and was a widely-commissioned sculptor, who served a five-year term on the National Arts Commission (1920-25). George Morgan, who in 1917 succeeded the younger Barber as Chief Engraver of the U. S. Mint in Philadelphia, was challenged by Fraser with more success and persistence than anyone, including his early master Saint- Gaudens. As a Commission member and later consultant to the Commission for coins and medals, Fraser selected or approved the artists of most government medals and coins, and rejected, criticized and/or praised proposed designs, all to improve the artistic standards of American numismatics. He took on artists, bureaucrats, and even congressmen, but still managed to remain on friendly terms with those of the establishment who counted.
Fraser’s earliest years were spent in the Dakota Badlands, where his father was an engineer for the new railroad lines which were being laid westward. In the rough and tumble of pioneer life a young boy could learn to ride his pony, and to admire the great outdoors of the American west. Indian children were often young Fraser’s playmates, and he learned to respect and admire the native American culture.
In his early teens, Fraser’s family moved back east, first to Minneapolis and then to Chicago. Fraser enrolled at the Chicago Art Institute, and apprenticed to the sculptor Richard Bock, just in time for the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. As an apprentice to Bock he was introduced to the Great White City of the Exposition, which was the product of the largest gathering of American artistic talents to that day, and a wonderful conglamoration of Beaux-Arts with pride in America as represented by architecture and sculpture. Two years later he was in Paris at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, in the studio of Falguière. Here his work brought him to the attention of Whistler and Saint-Gaudens. At the end of his schooling in Paris he was hired by Saint-Gaudens to assist in the development of his sculpture of General Sherman, now at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in New York City City. Fraser stayed with Saint-Gaudens until shortly before the latter’s death, having become his chief and favorite assistant.
Saint-Gaudens, with the sympathetic support of President Theodore Roosevelt, hoped to create a change in American coins. As President, Roosevelt brought with him a great interest in art in general, and a desire to improve the artistic quality of coins and medals in particular. His friendship led to the first assignment of an American artist, Saint-Gaudens, rather than the engravers of the mint, to create a U. S. coin.
The mint at Philadelphia had been under the direct control of its chief engravers, the English trained Barbers, William and Charles, father and son, and their associate and chief engraver, George Morgan. They had all been trained as metallic artisans in England, which begins with the engraving of fine script on copper plate, and continues with rigid adherence to traditional decorative elements. The emphasis in the training of the Barbers was less on original design than was the practice across the channel in Paris. An aesthetic difference between a Beaux-Arts trained sculptor and technically-oriented metal artisans at the mint was inevitable.
Saint-Gaudens was struck by the medals of the quattrocento and Pisanello in particular. He passed this interest along to the young sculptors who assisted him. In addition to Fraser, these included Adolph Weinman, Phillip Martiny, John Flanagan, Frederick Mac-Monnies, Bela Pratt, Charles Keck and Henry Hering, all of whom in their more mature years created medals, coins and reliefs with much of Saint-Gaudens’s influence apparent.
Fraser settled in an old stable on MacDougal Alley in Greenwich Village about 1900. Here he met other young American artists who were also starting to make their way. Among them were John Sloan, Henry Glackens, George Bellows and others of the Ash Can School. He was instrumental in bringing Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney to the Village. For a time she was his student. Fraser’s early work in New York City City consists largely of portraits of children and society notables, both in relief and in the round. Through these commissions he earned his livelihood and made many friends in the worlds of art and society.
In 1901 Fraser was asked to create a special medal for Saint-Gaudens, to be awarded at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo (fig. 1). In the medal to honor his old master, the design elements— the placement and relative size of the contents—are straight out of Pisanello and the Renaissance, a style which Saint-Gaudens admired so greatly. The undraped, profile bust of the sculptor faces left. While it dominates its circular field, the figure is well clear of the rimless edges. Above the head, circling from left to right, there appears PAN AMERICAN EXPOSITION. Horizontally, at shoulder height, is SPECIAL MEDAL OF HONOR CREATED FOR AUGUSTUS ST. GAUDENS, and at the bottom rim, BUFFALO NEW YORK MCMI. The signature of the artist appears in the straight line under the shoulder cut-off. On the reverse is found Pegasus, the winged horse symbolizing the Arts, an icon used on numerous occasions by Fraser, including his gargantuan Memorial Bridge figures in Washington, D.C.
A letter from Saint-Gaudens to Fraser, dated November 11, 1904, tells Fraser that he has been selected unanimously by the jury of the National Sculpture Society to do a medal of Edison.3 Saint-Gaudens asks the younger man to make four or five sketches "showing modifications of your present idea, or of new ones that may occur," and concludes by writing "I congratulate you and feel very happy about it myself as I know you will do a good thing." A reverse side bronze casting of one of these sketches is in the collection of the Albright Knox Art Gallery. It shows a crouching male nude figure in profile, facing left, with hair reaching to his shoulders. He holds up a light bulb, and is cleverly curled to echo the tondo. The signature "Fraser" is incised under the figure. The modeling is loosely handled yet clearly shows the muscular structure.
When Saint-Gaudens was in his final illness, he recommended Fraser to do the official portrait bust of Theodore Roosevelt. Thus began a long and fruitful friendship between the two. The first version of the bust (1906) shows Colonel Roosevelt in his Rough Rider mode. The Senate, where the portrait was to be installed, wanted a more conservative dress however, and the second version in marble, now in the Capitol, shows Roosevelt in a business suit.
While it was with the aid of Roosevelt that Fraser was first suggested as a designer for the five cent piece, it was during Taft’s presidency that he was commissioned. His relationship with American presidents continued throughout his career.
The first Buffalo nickel was minted in 1913 (fig. 2); not, however, without major discussions both before and since. Fraser’s design won the approval of Treasury Secretary MacVeigh and of President Taft, chiefly because of its American subject matter. Fraser wanted to make a coin design "using symbols which would only be fitting to the United States of America."4 He believed that the majority of U.S. coins used symbols that could be representative of almost any country. The eagle and other similar birds had been in standard use by many royal houses of Europe; the American versions of this royal bird were little different. As to the classic heads, be they Liberty or Columbia, their like had been used since Grecian times.
Many years later, Fraser wrote "American coinage, outside of portraiture and lettering, might as well have belonged to any other country in the world. I felt that this was not as it should be and that is the reason for the American character of my design. In other words, I wanted a coin which could be mistaken for no other country in the world outside the United States."5
Fraser’s childhood experience in the west, and his admiration for the Indian made the choices of the Indian head and the buffalo natural ones. As a resident of New York City City, finding a suitable buffalo for the obverse might have proved difficult except for the New York Zoological Park, where a suspicious beast kept his head turned toward the artist who wanted a side view.
Although there has been considerable interest in who posed for the Indian on the reverse side, no single person, according to Fraser’s frequent testimony, was the model. The head is a combination of three different men, including Chief Iron Trail, who was at the time employed at a Coney Island sideshow; John Big Tree and Two Moons were the others.
Officials of the mint raised major objections, particularly to the coin’s extra thickness. A new patent had just been issued to a manufacturer of slot machines, designed to prevent slugs from being substituted for the older, flatter coins. The patent holders joined with the mint in raising objections. Fraser, with the aid of an attorney, found that the law required such devices to be adjustable to at least three types of coins. The mint was not yet ready to give in, however. It was claimed that the thicker coin would not stack well, and the engravers proceeded to make minute but critical alterations in the depth and thickness of the coin, much to Fraser’s chagrin. Secretary MacVeigh came to the rescue and had the original design restored.
Most critics have agreed with Fraser that he achieved his goal of creating a first uniquely American and well-designed coin. Vermeule has called it "the ultimate homage to our native or Indian-prairie tradition. The small coin is overwhelmed by the mighty plasticity of the Indian’s rugged head and the majestic buffalo on his plot of prairie."6
The Harriman Medal of 1914 was awarded by the American Museum of Safety to the Southern Pacific Railroad. Fraser held strongly to the Renaissance ideals of coin design; using all of the surface without borders and bringing the lettering out to the rim, he treated his modeling in detailed romantic naturalism. The portrait of the railroad’s founder shows a fortyish gentleman with mustache, facing left. The reverse indicates Fraser’s talent for combining the figure of a railroad worker walking the tracks with the ideals of his art, without sinking into the sympathy of social commentary.
The Spanish American War Medal, for New York City State, was issued in 1915 (fig. 3). On the obverse the rimless circle displays an American doughboy in uniform, wearing a wide brimmed hat, puttees, and a blanket roll diagonally across the shoulder. His bayonetted rifle is fixed for a charge to the left. The rays of the sun and a warship are seen against the horizon in the background. On the reverse a sword is pointed vertically and down. Around the edge the inscription reads, AWARDED BY THE STATE OF NEW YORK. Beginning at mid-level and running horizontally are the words, TO ONE WHO SERVED THE NATION WITH HONOR 1898.1899.1900.
The Gold Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters was a commission of 1915 (fig. 4). Here again Fraser used the Pegasus as the icon of the reverse. In this version, the horse rears above the clouds from rim to rim toward the upper left; the right front hoof intruding over the lettering. The relief is quite low and flat. The obverse has a classically-described male nude seated on artfully-stepped boulders. He holds a lyre on his left, the right arm rests atop the boulders. AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS appears in a block at the right in the lower half. The artist’s initials JEF are opposite. On a sketch for the medal, Fraser had combined the image of the youth with the text from the reverse (fig. 5).
The Henry Elias Howland Medal was commissioned by Yale University in 1916. The obverse shows a well-muscled nude male facing right. The bow he holds with his left hand echoes the curve of the coin. Its rim is formed by a row of tiny rosettes. The reverse features a Greek warrior’s helmet with a galloping Pegasus worked into the bristled crest. The lettering is placed horizontally at midlevel and reads HENRY ELIAS HOWLAND at the bottom rim and MEMORIAL MEDAL. This face of the medal is cut with a shallower relief than the obverse, heightening the effect of the simple design.
In 1919 Fraser created a medal memorializing the Peace of Versailles (fig. 6). On the obverse, a warrior goddess strides toward us wearing a radiant crown and breast plates. She carries a shield and points her sword down, as a sign that the fighting has been completed. The figure is vertically-centered, the out-stretched wings offer horizontal opposition. The background is plain and smooth. On the reverse the fasce surmounted by the blade of a double-headed battleaxe is seen against the U.S. Shield. At the top edge of the round the inscription reads THE GREAT WAR FOR CIVILIZATION. At the bottom, six five-pointed stars are well-spaced. The participating countries are named and placed on either side of the shield. On the left they are France, Italy, Serbia, Japan , Montenegro, Russia, and Greece. On the right they are Great Britain, Belgium, Brazil, Portugal, Rumania, and China. The overall effect is of clean, modern design. An earlier version of this face shows only the fasce and battleaxe with four countries, America, France, Britain, and Italy, and the date May 1919 (fig. 7). When required to add the names of the additional signators of the treaty, Fraser was able to adapt the numerous additional letters to the basic design idea yet still keep his uncluttered feeling.
The Theodore Roosevelt Medal of Honor dates from 1920. It was one of many images of Roosevelt created by Fraser. The medal was commissioned by the Roosevelt Memorial Association, and awarded for distinguished public service in an area of Roosevelt’s concern. The obverse profile likeness faces right. Roosevelt’s eyes are in a typical squint with the pince-nez indicated. He appears to be wearing a business suit. There is no rim. "J.E. Fraser 1920" appears behind his shoulder; MDCCCLVIII-MCMXIX on the right. The reverse features a flaming sword centered vertically. ROOSEVELT MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION circles around the top half, FOUNDER’S MEDAL at the sword hilt. Running across the center is a favored quote of the President: "If I must choose betweeen Righteousness and Peace, I choose Righteousness." The lettering is occasionally overlapped or interlocked in the case of a double O, which helps to give an indication of Art Nouveau style.
The Williams College Medal also dates from 1920, although the inscription on the obverse says FOR HUMANITY 1918. Eight bayonets on rifles point to the left, held by soldiers in World War I battle gear, although parts of only four are shown. On the reverse a Revolutionary War officer rides his mount toward the right, three foot soldiers appear partially behind him, and a marker stone reads LAKE GEORGE 1755. The rimless medal is lettered above E. LIBERALITATE. E. WILLIAMS, ARMIGERI, 1793, and below the groundscape, THE WILLIAMS MEDAL. The lettering seems a bit crowded, the modeling naturalistic.
A poetic and well-thought-out pair of images occupies the two sides of the American Institute of Graphic Arts Medal of 1920. The obverse face presents a sturdy deciduous tree, its crown properly fitted to the medal’s top curve. Above it appears the single word BEAUTY. Below the tree branches the inscription reads SPECIAL MEDAL OF AWARD, below its roots UTILITY. The circular inscription along the bottom rim says AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF GRAPHIC ARTS. This quiet scene contrasts with the visually active reverse. The diagonal spokes of a printing press are contrasted with the varied angles presented by the printer’s arms and legs as he strains to turn the spokes and operate the press. In the upper right of the rimless circle the sculptor’s name appears, "Fraser 19©20."
The Norse American Centennial is an eight-sided medal issued through a commission from the Congress in 1925 (fig. 8). Both the obverse and reverse are modeled in clear simple lines and surfaces, quite unlike the complex and scumbled surfaces of other Fraser medals of this decade. On the obverse a Viking warrior is striding ashore wearing a horned helmet, carrying a down-pointed sword and holding up a shield. The inscription above reads NORSE AMERICAN CENTENNIAL (1825-1925). On the reverse, a Viking ship is shown with the inscription, AUTHORIZED BY THE CONGRESS OF THE U.S. OF A.
Among the many commemorative fifty cent pieces of the 1920s, in May of 1920 Congress authorized a half dollar honoring "The Fathers and Mothers who traversed the Oregon Trail" (fig. 9). This became the only occasion in which both Frasers acknowledged working together. The obverse by James shows an Indian facing right with full trailing headdress and a blanket, left arm outstretched. He stands before a map of the continental United States, and holds a bow in his right hand, just below which is inscribed UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. HALF DOLLAR appears along the lower rim. The reverse, by Laura, has a pioneer wagon moving toward a sunset at the left, inscribed across the rays of the sun IN GOD WE TRUST. OREGON TRAIL MEMORIAL appears in a slight curve just below the wagon. The coin is dated 1926. Taxay concludes his admiration for the combined design by noting "it testifies to the fact that authentic genius, even when trammeled by the necessities of a modern, mechanical mint, can transform our coinage into a work of art."6
The Navy Cross Medal of 1919 was one of Fraser’s most successful commissions (fig. 10). He described his design in a letter of 1943:
Blades of battleaxes were placed head to head to form a cross. Symbols old enough so that there would never be a change in
their meaning, I felt were necessary. For instance, as an emblem of the Navy, one of the early caravels was centered over
the axe heads. On the opposite side, anchors and ropes were employed with the initials U.S.N. Between the blades were clustered
laurel leaves. I purposely made the medal rich and full as I thought it would hang better and not have a tinny or disklike
Early in his career Fraser’s relief work was mostly in portraits of children and society figures, cast in bronze. The greatest number of his coins and medals were completed between 1915 and 1925, after the success of his Buffalo nickel, and before he was overwhelmed with his commissions for major public sculpture. Through his medallic designs he was able to explore his Saint-Gaudens’s-inherited admiration for Renaissance coins, and gradually develop a more modern feeling through the use of san serif lettering and simpler modeling of the subject and coin surfaces, as well as freer place- ment of the iconographic elements. The latter part of this period, Fraser also was serving as a member of the National Fine Arts Commission and from there was in a position that required him to review the work submitted by artists for government projects. It fell particularly to him to be the arbiter, not only for sculpture but specifically for coins and medals. Fraser was frequently and vociferously on record as clearly favoring and promoting the better designs and the more professional standards of sculpture as submitted to the Commission.
As early as 1920, Fraser was asked by Commission Chairman Charles Moore to pass on a drawing for a proposed Maine Centennial
half dollar. He rejected the design as very ordinary, and suggested that his assistant Anthony de Francisci be engaged to
prepare a working model of the idea from which the mint might work. Fraser’s aesthetic judgement spoke for the Commission,
and this assured artistic standards for the U.S. government on commemorative coins including:
The Pilgrim Tercentenary of 1920 by Cyrus Dallin
The Alabama Centennial, 1921, by Laura Gardin Fraser
The Missouri Centennial, 1921, by Robert Aitken
The Ulysses S. Grant Centennial, 1922, by L.G. Fraser
Monroe Doctrine Centennial, 1922, by Chester Beach
Huegenot-Walloon Tercentennary, 1923, for which
Fraser took direct criticism of George Morgan who designed the coin himself
Stone Mountain Memorial, 1924, by Gutzon Borglum
Lexington-Concord Sesquicentennial,1924, by Chester Beach
Bennington, VT Sesquicentennial, 1925, by Charles Keck California Diamond Jubilee, 1925, by Jo Mora (Fraser rejected this
design totally but was no longer a Commission member. Lorado Taft, who had replaced him as the sculptor member approved and
forwarded the sketch as submitted).
The Fort Vancouver Centennial, 1925, by L.G. Fraser
For many years Fraser continued to be looked to as a spokesman for better coins and medals. He served a term as president of the National Sculpture Society, and testified on its behalf before Presidents Coolidge, Hoover and F.D. Roosevelt at various times.
During the late months of 1929, George D. Pratt, industrialist and art patron, along with Robert W. de Forest, president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, invited Fraser to help found the Society of Medalists. Its purpose was to promote well-designed American medals, and to commission for its members two or three artist-designed works each year.
In the summer of 1932, John Flanagan, Laura Fraser, Adolph Weinman, Paul Manship, Frederick MacMonnies, and James Earle Fraser were invited to represent the United States in an international exhibition of medals held at the Jeu de Pommes, Paris. Several of Fraser’s pieces were purchased by the Louvre, including the Graphic Arts, Saint-Gaudens, Williams College and Harriman Memorial medals.
In the last several years of his life, Fraser returned again and again to the pioneer west he so admired. He had received many major sculpture commissions which remained unfinished, or were long delayed during World War II; nevertheless the western theme occupied his attention. In 1952 The Society of Medalists struck his Pony Express medal as its forty-fifth issue (fig. 11). In it Fraser returned to the covered wagon seen in the Oregon Trail Memorial half dollar. The same theme was used again in his final and incomplete work entitled Oklahoma Run, intended as a major-sized relief showing a settlers’ stampede at the opening of a section of land. The obverse of the Pony Express medal has a youthful rider galloping on his pony toward the right, while he looks back aiming his revolver at a pursuer. The inscription reads PONY EXPRESS. TEN DAYS TO SAN FRANCISCO. The reverse is simply rimmed and shows a Conestoga wagon moving through mountainous country. The ground surface is slightly concave and toward the bottom is inscribed NEW FRONTIERS. Under it the date 18-49 is divided by a small cow skull. The name "James Earle Fraser" appears at the rim below.
In 1945 Fraser completed a logo for a South Dakota high school which is strongly reminiscent of the Buffalo nickel, the beast’s head is slightly bigger, and again the head touches the rim of the design. The style of the modeling is also unchanged. In the logo a background of rolling hills and a sunrise peeking over the farthest hill have been added. On this a wide rim has been added as well, to hold the inscription HOT SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL SOUTH DAKOTA 1893.
Fraser’s major contribution to numismatics was the Americanization of subject matter. He developed a uniqely American coin using symbols fitting only to the United States. But a second contribution was to bring to bear a strong Beaux-Arts esthetic, not only in his own coinage and medals, but through his strong leadership of an entire generation of others engaged in the field. Saint-Gaudens had first held up the classic ideals in coin design, but it was Fraser’s con- tribution to develop and propagate use of American iconography and high artistic standards in the process.
|1||A.L. Saarinen, "Most Famous Unknown Sculptor, "The New York Times Magazine, May 31, 1951, pp. 24-25, 65-67; Reader’s Digest, September 1951, pp. 117-19.|
|2||Don Taxay, An Illustrated History of U. S. Commemorative Coinage (New York City, 1967), p. 122.|
|3||Letter Augustus Saint-Gaudens to Fraser, Nov. 11, 1904. There is no evidence that the medal was ever produced. However in 1909, Fraser completed the Thomas Alva Edison Award for the American Institute of Electrical Engineers which incorporates a bust of Edison as its obverse type.|
|4||Unpublished autobiography by James Earle Fraser, Ahrendts Library, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.|
|5||Letter Fraser to Mr. Hamilton, Oct. 11, 1949, Ahrendts Library, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.|
|6||C. Vermeule, Numismatic Art in America (Cambridge, MA, 1971), p. 128.|
|7||D. Taxay (above, n. 2), p. 122.|
|8||Letter James Earle Fraser to C.B.W. Gray, Dec. 23, 1943, JEF Archive at Ahrendts Library, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.|
Coinage of the Americas Conference at The American Numismatic Society, New York City
© The American Numismatic Society, 1988
The American woman medalist was not able to leap to life until the very end of the nineteenth century. The barricades which had kept women out of art schools had only begun to fall at the time of the Civil War, and life drawing classes with nude male models remained closed to young ladies until 1877. The first American female sculptors braved their way across the Atlantic in the 1860s to study the classics in Italy. Their medallions and bas-reliefs, such as Harriet Hosmer’s portrait of her "beloved master," sculptor John Gibson, and Edmonia Lewis’s study of abolitionist John Brown, were highly romanticized neoclassical works, all executed in marble.
The first American medals designed by a woman were done in the early 1880s—and the designer was not an American woman at that. The United States, which had initiated a "rent-a-medalist" policy in 1790 by hiring French artist Pierre Duvivier to create the "Washington Before Boston" medal, continued in this practice with the Swedish Lea Ahlborn. Born in Stockholm in 1826, Mrs. Alhbom succeeded her father as engraver to the Stockholm mint when she was 27. Among her U.S. medals are the 1883 centennial commemorative of the evacuation of New York City by the British, and a Columbus medal executed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Both medals, the first with its effective "camera angle" view of a statue of George Washington, the second of an armored Columbus confronting two awed Indians, seem extremely patriotic works to have been executed by a foreign hand.
It was the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago that gave two American women, Janet Scudder and Helen Mears, the foundation for their sculptural and medallic careers. The spunky Miss Scudder who, at age 18 had already shrugged off an impoverished childhood and the disappointment of a failed career as a wood carver, worked as assistant to Lorado Taft on the Exposition’s monumental sculpture. Her sculpture earned her a bronze medal, but of more importance to Scudder’s future was the opportunity to witness Frederick MacMonnies at work on the Exposition’s centerpiece, a monumental Beaux-Arts fountain. "That," Scudder told herself, "is the man who will teach me to sculpt."
As soon as the Exposition closed, Scudder sailed to Paris where she brashly convinced MacMonnies to allow her to work in his studio. Years later, he was to refer to her as his finest assistant.
Janet Scudder went on to win wide acclaim for her delightful fountains of impish children in which the influence of MacMonnies is clearly evident. She was also the first woman whose medals were purchased by the French government for display at the Luxembourg Museum in Paris.
As MacMonnies was the author of few medals, it is difficult to compare the work of the pupil with that of the master. A more apt comparison would be between Scudder and MacMonnies’s mentor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. We tend to revere Saint-Gaudens as the American Master of bas-relief, but Miss Scudder’s plaquettes show her to be of equal skill, giving the impression of fully fleshed-out individuals in whisper-low relief. Many of her works are self-framed, usually with nothing more elaborate than the suggestion of two Ionic columns and capitals. Saint-Gaudens also used this device, although many of his plaquettes are set in actual frames designed by his friend Stanford White.
Like Saint-Gaudens, Scudder almost never placed her subject exactly in the center of her "canvas," and she too learned to use the device of having a hand or elbow brush the frame, and in some cases, actually protrude from the frame thereby jolting the viewer to the reality of the person posed therein. This trompe-l’oeil device had been used many times in other branches of art, notably by the early eighteenth century French engraver Pierre Drevet whose portrait of Hyacinth Rigaud features voluminous sleeving which drapes down from a window-like frame partly obscuring the inscription below. In Miss Scudder’s portrait of Bishop Hare, his chosen path in life is accented by his Bible which juts out at us over the thick ledge of the plaquette. She creates a similar effect with lovely Mildred Barnes, who seems oblivious of us as she sits, head bent over her picture book, yet who has unknowingly entered our world by leaning out of her "window."
A 1906 silver plaquette of a little girl named Alice has the same plastic quickly-sketched look as have some of Saint-Gaudens’s renderings of small children. The innocence of youth comes through to us without being cloying. That the artist felt sympathy for her subject is evidenced by the lack of detail—the modeling was done quickly before the child began to squirm in the discomfort of being held to a long pose.
Scudder’s portraits of Arthur Middleton Reeves and his daughter Caroline Reeves Foulke show her love of detail and her ability to utilize graphics to define the character of her sitter. That Arthur Reeves is a man of means is brought home to us by the elaborate frame which surrounds him with its lion and dragons. With her crisp rendering of the waves and curls of his full head of hair, his long moustache and fashionably-parted beard, as well as all the tiny details of Mr. Reeves’s clothing—even to the lion’s-head tie tack in his cravat—Miss Scudder has drawn a man of self-confidence and still youthful vigor.
Reeves’s daughter Caroline is portrayed as a haughty young beauty of imperial bearing (fig. 1). She is seated on a throne-like chair, her wonderfully-modeled left hand resting lightly and naturally on its arm, the sweep of her long skirt enforced by the chair’s classic lines, lovingly traced by the artist. The lettering of the sitter’s name imitates Greek characters suggesting that we are in the presence of a muse. Miss Scudder does not invite the viewer into this plaquette, nor does the subject lean from it into our world. We are not meant to intrude on her patrician thoughts.
Young Helen Farnsworth Mears was also on the Exposition grounds in Chicago hard at work on a commissioned sculpture called the Genius of Wisconsin, The nine-foot statue attracted honors, prize money, and the attention of a patron, all of which enabled Mears, who came from a poor Wisconsin family, to realize a dream. She moved to New York City to study with Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Within a few short weeks she was promoted from student to assistant.
In 1896 another generous gift from Mear’s patron enabled her to travel abroad for further study. In Paris she studied and worked with Frederick MacMonnies, Denys Puech, and Alexandre Charpentier, and finally she rejoined Saint-Gaudens in his Paris studio to assist in the execution of his General Sherman monument. In between sessions on the heroic equestrian bronze, she modeled her master’s likeness in small scale relief.
The portrait of the male sculptor, executed in 1898, depicts him standing in his studio, the equestrian statue of Sherman a subtle shadow in the background (fig. 2). The pose reminds us of Saint-Gaudens’s bas-reliefs in which the subject stands or sits in a relaxed, informal manner. His right hand rests lightly on his hip holding his coat open and an engraving tool dangles loosely from his left hand. The magnificent profile with leonine nose, beard and a curly mane of hair, is drawn with strength and has, to quote Saint-Gaudens’s own criticism of Mears’s sculpture, "a subtle tangible quality exceedingly rare and spiritual."1 The portrait has the appearance of a quick rough sketch, reminiscent of Charpentier with whom Mears had recently studied. Charpentier, who in a traditional time disdained traditional portraiture, executed a large number of bronzes with ragged edges which have the unfinished quality of wax models. Mears’s portrait of Saint-Gaudens reflects her study with the French master, yet it perfectly captures both the essence of the subject and of his profession.
Another woman sculptor who worked closely with Augustus Saint-Gaudens was Frances Grimes. Born in Ohio in 1869, she spent seven years in Saint-Gaudens’s Cornish studio doing the actual cutting of some of his marble works and contributing to the modeling of at least one medal. Prior to working in Cornish, Grimes had studied at the Pratt Institute and worked as Herbert Adams’s assistant from 1894 to 1900. She is best remembered for her portraits of children both in relief and in the round.
The critic Adeline Adams described Grimes as an artist of integrity, one who knew where she was going with a piece from the moment she first set chisel to marble or immersed her fingers in clay.2 Her relief work bears out this analysis. The subjects are always placed "just so" and are masters of their surrounding space. There is a quiet dignity to Frances Grimes’s people, as true of the Coolidge baby as of Mrs. Parsons in her "Whistler’s Mother" pose. The Clement sisters, aged five and three when Miss Grimes sculpted them in 1921, are solemn little girls, the older standing almost maternally behind her sister (fig. 3). There is loving detail in the smocking of the dresses, in the pudgy fingers and hands, and in the soft page-boy hair cuts. The artist’s sympathetic treatment of the sisters and her soft-edged style remind us of Mary Cassatt’s sensitive pastels of children.
Anna Hyatt Huntington’s overwhelming sculptural output includes no more than a handful of medals, but these, like her large works, are a rich gift to the world of art. Like her large works, they too reflect her lifelong love affair with the beauty and strength of animal locomotion. In the pamphlet which accompanied her 1943 Society of Medalists piece, Mrs. Huntington described her passion for observing and modeling animals as a selfish one, adding her vexation over not having "fingers enough to catch in clay all that [I] see."3 The medal is a plush tapestry of African animals—an elephant on the obverse smugly dining on flowers; a group of zebras and a gnu calmly drinking and feeding at a water hole on the reverse. Tails swish at flies and sunlight sparkles on the ripples created by the thirsty beasts. The ability to capture the vastness of the African tundra on the tiny surface of a medal without losing scope is the mark of a true master of scale.
The reverse of Mrs. Huntington’s 1926 Mitre medal for the Hispanic Society of America features a toga-clad horseman astride a prancing horse balanced on the tightrope of a narrow inner border ringed by oak leaves. The steed’s head is tightly reined and two of its hooves are smartly raised in the air. Life and rippling musculature are suggested on a small scale, and a sense of arrested action is implied by the drape of the rider’s cloak, his uplifted right arm, the perpendicular torch, and the fact that he has twisted his head to stare behind him. The nervous energy here is reminiscent of the sculptor’s work in the round, particularly her Joan of Arc, and can even be likened to the tense moment created by Verrocchio in his late fifteenth century equestrian statue of Colleoni in Venice.
Anna Huntington’s 1925 medal for the American Academy of Arts and Letters shows that her abilities are more than those of a skilled animalier (fig. 4). William Dean Howells appears on the obverse, his left profile to us, spectacles held in his upraised right hand, a thoughtful, dignified and thoroughly human man in his later years. By placing Mr. Howells off center, the artist has cleverly managed to draw our eyes to his as he studies something just beyond the medal’s edge. His chin is lifted, his moustache luxuriant, his hair is slightly unkempt. His body is "at attention" but certainly not rigid. We almost expect that he will complete his perusal of the unseen object, turn his gaze in our direction, and begin to speak.
On the reverse are inanimate objects—sheets of writing paper, a quill pen and two palm branches—which pulse with life. On both sides of the medal the treatment of the lettering is exactly in balance with the design. For someone who has stepped out of her metier, this is a masterful work indeed.
Another woman sculptor who specialized in capturing animal life was Gertrude Katherine Lathrop. Lathrop’s specialty was not heavily-muscled Percherons and lithe jungle cats but young domestic animals, which she rendered with a delicate and often somewhat-bemused touch. Born in Albany, NY in 1896, she studied at the Art Students League under Gutzon Borglum and with Charles Grafly in Gloucester, MA. After Laura Gardin Fraser, Gertrude Lathrop was the second woman to win the American Numismatic Society’s Saltus Award.
For the eighteenth issue of the Society of Medalists in 1938, Miss Lathrop chose to do a pronghorn antelope and what she termed a "brilliantly colored wood duck."4 The use of the word "color" in her description is apt: the duck’s plumage seems to vibrate with the hues of the rainbow. The fiddleheads in the background also serve to intensify the impression of color. Her kneeling antelope is smooth and graceful in contrast to the prickly texture of the spines of a barrel cactus.
Her 1942 medal for Brookgreen Gardens is very similar in concept. On the obverse a bright feathered parrot (again, it is easy to imagine color), in deep relief contrasts with the placid recumbent deer on the reverse. Lathrop’s creatures are contained within the boundaries of her medals. The birds are each caged within a ring of lettering, and her use of a vertical bar as a pediment causes the beasts to "stay put." Compare this with Anna Hyatt Huntington’s African animals, unfenced and free, filling the surface so that they seem part of a larger space.
In her Cervantes medal for the Hispanic Society, Lathrop trespasses from her normally calm, ordered world into one of chaos. Don Quixote sits awkwardly astride his bony mount, the blunt end of his lance about to burst the border of his world. Rocinante rears and flays about, eyes rolling, nostrils snorting at the medal’s edge. The artist has placed horse and rider off-center, adding to the feeling of disorder. Around the rim run a frantic flock of sheep and lambs which Lathrop has rendered with her usual loving attention to detail, nubbly fleece, pert hooves, and all. The reverse is a bit more ordered. A battered shield and sword act as background to a barber’s basin overflowing with books. The sword slashes across the field touching each edge of the medal, its tip an exclamation point after Cervantes’s date of death.
As Beatrice Proske so aptly put it, "Miss Lathrop’s rigorous sense of design, carried out with a delicate touch and enlivened by a fertile imagination, lent itself to medallic art."5
From Huntington and Lathrop we step easily and naturally to our next artist, Laura Gardin Fraser, one of America’s best known and most prolific medalists. The Society of Medalists chose her to design its very first issue, the American Numismatic Society marked its centennial with a medal of her design, and she was selected to sculpt medallic portraits of two of the nation’s great heroes, Rear Admiral Richard Byrd and Charles Lindbergh. Born in Chicago in 1889, her art education was almost entirely with James Earle Fraser, whom she married in 1913. Sculptor Janet deCoux, who worked as an assistant to James Fraser during the 1930s, described Laura as "a very tense and serious person — very difficult to know." In Miss deCoux’ss opinion, Fraser’s work was largely reflective of her husband’s sculpture, as she was never able to "develop as one would who had fought it through alone."6
It would be a foolish waste of time to attempt conjecture of Fraser’s artistic development had she never met James. We know that, like Anna Hyatt Huntington, she was deeply interested in the anatomy and movement of animals, particularly horses, so certainly Laura would have honed her skills as an animalier with or without the tutelage of James Earle. Her love of animals is apparent in all of her medallic "portraits" of dogs and horses in which a fluidity of line and a feeling of joy can be detected. The stallion on her Morgan Horse Club medal of 1923 is a noble embodiment of the sire of the breed, while the mare and foal on the reverse are treated with a tenderness and delicacy befitting a Madonna and Child. For the Irish Setter Club of America, she created what Cornelius Vermeule described as a "very Renaissance, very Pisanellolike medal" featuring a portrait of a "most humanistic" setter (fig. 6).7
Fraser’s Better Babies medal done in 1913 for the Woman’s Home Companion is her only piece which can truly be called feminine (fig. 7). It is a well-balanced medal, nicely executed if a bit on the sentimental side. The babies’ bare flesh is soft, almost palpable; their curls and dimpled elbows invite touch, thus appealing to exactly the audience the medal was meant to impress.
That Mrs. Fraser is rarely paid tribute for her portraits of human beings is a slight which should be remedied. Her 1930 portrait of Charles Lindbergh, which was modeled from life for presentation to him as the Congressional Medal of Honor, depicts a man startlingly young, as Lindbergh indeed was. To underscore his bold accomplishment, Fraser’s reverse is of an eagle, its wings outstretched, soaring above the clouds and the earth as the sun sets behind it. She has balanced the humanness of the man with a clear and powerful allegory.
Her Admiral Byrd portrait, completed in the same year for the National Geographic Society, is similar in style. Both figures are truncated at mid-chest much like Fraser’s better known George Washington medal, a technique which harks back to such early masters as Pisanello and Niccolo Fiorentino. Byrd wears his fur-lined parka just as Lindbergh is clad in aviator’s cap and scarf. The reverse of the Byrd medal is of a winged man, Daedalus perhaps, gliding across the face of the sun. Both the Byrd reverse and the Lindbergh reverse, each with a figure cutting across a linear sunburst background, are similar in conception to the reverse design by Lucien Bazor for his famous medal of Richard Wagner.
A more down-to-earth reverse done for the John Endecott medal marking the Massachusetts Bay Tercentenary in 1931 is of twin pear trees, their roots intertwined (fig. 8). The trees are lovingly drawn with much attention to the detail of each leaf and plump round pear, the fruit of the Governor’s labors being passed on to future generations of the colony. It is the work of a medalist secure in her art, one who has gleaned from classic sources as well as from her Modern American husband.
Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, who was born into a comfortable home life in Philadelphia in 1880, showed early promise as a sculptor. At the age of 19 she entered Rodin’s Paris studio, and two years later she exhibited at the Salon. Her first commission was a life-sized bronze portrait plaque of Dr. Abraham Jacobi for the New York County Medical Society in 1910. Charles Aronson, the author of Sculptured Hyacinths, a paean to Harriet Frishmuth’s sculpture, states that the plaque tells us nothing about either the sculptor or her style.8 In a sense this is true, for the half-figure of the gentleman of serious mien is detailed and natural. It has neither the hurried quality of Frishmuth’s early master, Rodin, and of most of her own early work in the round, nor does it reflect her later "lyric years" when she created her well-known sensuous female nudes. What the plaque does tell us is that Frishmuth was a patient artist with the ability to capture mood and the dignity of her subject.
We can see this again on the obverse of her New York Academy of Medicine medallion executed in 1929 (fig. 9).
This is a serious business and the artist has set her hand to it with that knowledge. She has modeled a classical profile of Hippocrates set in a medal within the medal, but she has given the piece the lyrical Frishmuth touch by centering the small rondelle between the graceful and caressing branches of two olive trees, the gnarled roots of which spring from the rim. On the reverse, she has allowed herself almost free rein. She could not, of course, place a dancing naiad there, but she has come as close as she dares with the draped female figure of Truth in Science. The young woman kneels toward the left but turns her torso almost directly toward us; her arms are upraised like those of a dancer as her fingers gently lift the folds of her evanescent garment. There is a peacefulness and a grace to this figure, so perfectly balanced on the circular field. The clever placement of the draperies draws our eye around and around—we are swept into the medallion by Miss Frishmuth’s poetic workmanship.
It is interesting to compare this kneeling figure with Adolph Weinman’s nymph on the Saltus medal for The American Numismatic Society. Weinman’s nude figure, in profile to us, is nicely contained on the medal’s surface; the tree she kneels beneath shares the same plane. The young lady is certainly curvaceous, but the design is definitely linear. Frishmuth has created depth on her medal by revealing both of the kneeling woman’s knees and by the attitude of the torso, neck and head—and yet she has suggested neither horizon nor background. Weinman’s nude is immobile, posed. Frishmuth’s nude is in motion, recalling the artist’s own words on a lesson well-learned from Rodin: "Movement is the transition from one attitude to another. It is a bit of what was and a bit of what is to be."9
The words "powerful" and "archaic" come to mind in describing the work of our next artist, Genevieve Karr Hamlin. Born in 1896, the daughter of the head of the Columbia School of Architecture was educated at Vassar and went on to study with Abastenia St. Leger Eberle and Henry Dropsy. Hamlin’s portrait reliefs have the same down-to-earth sincerity as Eberle’s unsentimental sculpture, the boldness of medalist Dropsy at his independent best, and a strong architectural quality—possibly a reflection of her father’s work.
Reviewer Whitney Allen, writing in International Studio in 1926, compared Miss Hamlin’s plaquette of painter Horatio Walker to ancient Egyptian carvings.10 Her medals for the Antique and Decorative Arts League and for the American Art Dealers Association, both done in 1930, each of nude male figures, are thick, bold— one could almost say "masculine"—and reminiscent of archaic Greek sculpture. The symmetrically-balanced figures and the geometric forms are in tune with the trend of the day away from naturalism and toward abstraction.
Margaret Grigor’s most accomplished work is also in a style that emphasizes design rather than the more traditional and painterly scenic composition. Born in Scotland in 1912, Grigor was brought to California by her American parents when she was a child. She earned her B.A. at Mount Holyoke Colege in 1934 and only then did she seriously begin the study of art at the Pennsylvania Academy with Walker Hancock.
Margaret Grigor executed a number of medals for Mount Holyoke College. Among them is the Board of Trustees medal on which she depicted the towers of the Williston Memorial Library which grace the campus. The treatment of the architecture is realistic but sadly not successful. We are puzzled by the structure’s "wings" which are in fact the main roof of the building. Instead of giving an appearance of solidity and timelessness, the towers appear to be on the verge of soaring from the face of the medal.
Grigor’s 1937 Garvan medal for the Chemical Society of America is perhaps her best and it is certainly her most original (fig. 10). Hexagonal, it shows the sculptor’s masterful use of the spatial surfaces on both the obverse and reverse. The chunky torch of knowledge on the reverse fits perfectly into the center of the six-sided medal and is in correct proportion to the lettering and the banner on which the recipient’s name is boldly emblazoned. On the obverse, Grigor has set a cauldron snugly into the bottom niche. It fumes with the smoke of chemical experiments from which rise a caduceus at center, the steaming towers of industry at left, and the spires of modern city buildings at right. The design is neither crowded nor "floating free" like Grigor’s library towers. A simple and powerful statement has been made by an artist with a true grasp of her medium.
When Margaret Grigor’s design was selected for the reverse of the National Sculpture Society’s Seventy-Fifth Anniversary medal in 1968, it was both a fitting tribute to a prolific medalist and an apt selection for the organization. Miss Grigor’s design shows the hand of an experienced sculptor passing the tools of the profession to the hand of an aspiring youth. Behind them a rough block of stone waits to be carved. The legend around reads: TO FURTHER THE SCULPTURAL HERITAGE. The design is simple, the message direct. It is quite a contrast to Thomas LoMedico’s busy obverse design which features a full frontal head of Pegasus surmounted by a wreath-bearing Muse of Art and flanked by both an eagle and an owl.
Eleanor Platt was active at the same time as Margaret Grigor, yet her medallic sculpture is entirely different. Born in Woodbridge, NJ in 1910, she studied at the Art Students League winning study awards and grants, among them a Guggenheim Fellowship, when she was in her mid-thirties. By the 1950s, Eleanor Platt had hit her stride and was turning out plaques and medals for the New York State Bar Association, Harvard University Law School, and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She did portraits exclusively, mosdy of men in the legal profession.
The bronze medallion of Henry B. duPont is typical of Platt’s naturalistic style of portraiture. It has a special appeal as the subject is dressed in a windbreaker, his hair mussed by the breezes which sweep across the deck of his yacht, unseen but clearly suggested. We are able to admire the rugged face in comfort without feeling like voyeurs, for even though the artist has portrayed Mr. duPont nearly full-face, she has avoided allowing us eye contact with the subject. His importance is emphasized by the fact that the bust nearly fills the medallic field, looming large in relation to the legend around and above it.
The time has come to step into the realm of living artists. There are many fine American women working today—of the nearly 60 listed in the recent Directory of Artists published by the American Medallic Sculpture Association, one third are women. Since it is impossible to cover them all, I have selected only two: Adelaide Toombs Sundin and Karen Worth. Sundin grew up in Boston and began drawing as a child. Her art training was taken at the Massachusetts College of Art and at M.I.T. Mrs. Sundin’s primary medium is a marble look-alike called Parian porcelain which she herself makes up in daily batches. Her favorite subject, one with which she has a strong rapport, is the young child.
When we look at a medallion by Mrs. Sundin we feel the strong pull of the past, back to Frances Grimes, Janet Scudder, and other artists who worked in the Beaux-Arts tradition. A bronze of a father holding his young son on his lap has the charm of Scudder’s portrait of little Alice (fig. 11). The little boy is not yet squirming even though his father holds him with a tender firmness. The child reaches out a hand for his pet dog which completes the design by stopping the eye at the medal’s edge and bringing the viewer’s gaze back into the circle. Details of clothing and hair are suggested rather than distinctly delineated. In all it is a warm and intimate family scene.
Quite a different direction has been taken by our last medalist, Karen Margulis Worth. Born in Philadelphia, Worth was exhibiting work at the National Sculpture Society while still in her teens. World War II interrupted her studies with Paul Manship; then she married, raised a family, and did not return to sculpture until 1959. Since that year she has designed hundreds of medals including the Society of Medalists sixty-seventh issue and a series for the Judaic Heritage Society.
In 1977 she joined Laura G. Fraser and Gertrude Lathrop as the third woman in history to be honored with the Saltus medal.
Karen Worth’s 1982-1983 Brookgreen Gardens membership medal shows what a forceful and accomplished artist she is (fig. 12). On the obverse, Pygmalion flings out his arms in astonished ecstasy as he sees the statue he has carved come wriggling to life as Galatea. Worth has kept the lettering to a quiet incuse background, and her border is a simple beaded one. The figures are amazingly muscled, and if not realistic, they are full of life and movement. In the art deco style, they are somewhat reminiscent of Paul Manship’s medallic work, although Manship’s is perhaps more stylized. Worth’s work is more akin to that of Donald DeLue and Abram Belskie, all of which can be described as potent. This medal also exhibits a strong diagonal pull and a feeling of depth created by Pygmalion’s left arm which seems to plunge into space at the medal’s center. On the reverse the motion is hypnotically circular as Orpheus lulls the wild beasts and birds with his lyre.
Less than one hundred years separates Janet Scudder and Karen Worth. In this short span of time, the American woman medalist has made her mark, contributing work ranging from sensitive portraits of small children to nearly monolithic abstracts. Her delicate hands have played an important part in shaping the course of American medallic art.
|1||Charlotte S. Rubenstein, American Woman Artists (New York City, 1982), p. 102.|
|2||Adeline Adams, The Spirit of American Sculpture (New York City, 1929), p. 106.|
|3||Anna Hyatt Huntington, brochure for the Society of Medalists Twenty-seventh issue (1943).|
|4||Gertrude K. Lathrop, brochure for the Society of Medalists Eighteenth issue (1938).|
|5||Beatrice Proske, Brookgreen Gardens Sculpture (Brookgreen Gardens, SC, 1968), p. 409.|
|6||Janet deCoux, personal correspondence with the author, 1987.|
|7||Cornelius Vermeule, Numismatic Art in America (Cambridge, MA, 1971), pp. 163-64.|
|8||Charles N. Aronson, Sculptured Hyacinths (New York City, 1973), p. 84.|
|9||Ruth Talcott, "Harriet Whitney Frishmuth," National Sculpture Review, 29, 2 (Summer 1980), p. 23.|
|10||Whitney Allen, "Our Contemporary Medallic Art," International Studio 83 (February 1926), p.63.|
Coinage of the Americas Conference at The American Numismatic Society, New York City
© The American Numismatic Society, 1988
The year of the founding of The Society of Medalists, 1930, was an inauspicious time to begin such an art organization. The great economic depression of the fall of 1929 had deepened, and had spread worldwide. In America, millions were unemployed. But, to place 1930 in a proper perspective, one needs to recall some other events of that year. An astronomer had discovered the planet Pluto; Boston had banned all of the writings of Communist Leon Trotsky; meanwhile in London, Noel Coward wrote Private Lives; the motion picture All Quiet on the Western Front won the Academy Award; and France started building the Maginot Line, the seeds of future events were already sown.
Nevertheless, George DuPont Platt proceeded to found The Society of Medalists. He was an optimist, an idealist and a wealthy private collector of medals. At the time of the founding of the Society in 1930, Pratt was 60 years of age and a dedicated benefactor of the arts and very much interested in ecological preservation. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City City, and for six years he had served as New York State Conservation Commissioner and was also President of the American Forestry Association. He was a member of various arts organizations and the Century Association. Unquestionably the idea for the founding of the Society of Medalists came from his experience two decades earlier as a member of the Circle of Friends of the Medallion, which had been organized in New York City City in 1909.
The Circle of Friends of the Medallion was created by two men deeply involved in the arts. The first was Robert Hewitt, Jr., a real estate man by profession and an avid numismatist. His special interest was in the medals of Abraham Lincoln, and his extensive collection of over 1,200 pieces he eventually donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. In 1908 he published a book, The Lincoln Centennial Medal, and bound in it was a portrait medal of Lincoln. The following year he issued a second Lincoln book with a different Lincoln medal bound in it. Undoubtedly, the success of these publications led him to join with Charles deKay to found the Circle of Friends. Noted author and critic, deKay had been the literary and art editor of the New York Times for 18 years and the author of various art books including one on the french sculptor, Barye. Like Platt, he too was a member of the Century Association.
Hewitt was a quiet and studious man who understood what was needed to organize the project. Indeed, he had persuaded the Deitsch Brothers, a New York City City leather goods manufacturing company which owned a reducing pantograph which had been made in Paris by Janvier, to use the name "Medallic Art Company" for medal production. In fact, the Medallic Art Company struck the two Lincoln medals for him. DeKay was an affable and socially wellconnected leader in the cultural world and was well known among artists, writers and patrons. He served as the secretary of the Circle of Friends of the Medallion, and wrote the text for the short essays about the subjects of the medals and their sculptors published in the books which also held the medals.
They publicized the medal series as follows:
Circle of Friends of the Medallion is a band of artists and lovers of the arts, of both sexes, who hope to encourage in the
public a taste for small sculptures and especially for bas-relief. Designs are chosen by the Art Committee. Medals and other
sculptures issued by the Circle go to members only, without charge beyond the annual dues.They are not offered publicly for
sale. They are of bronze, unless a costlier metal is called for at an additional cost.
The plan was to issue two medals a year bound in books with an appropriate essay. They illustrated a wide variety of themes such as motherhood or the ocean; portrait medals included Lafayette, Charles Dickens and Joan of Arc; and they commemorated special events such as the tercentenary of the City of New York City. Outstanding sculptors participated including John Flanagan, Victor Brenner and Paul Manship. The series ran from 1909 to 1915, with 12 medals issued; the first two and the last one were struck by the Medallic Art Company in New York City City and the others by Joseph K.Davison’s Sons, Philadelphia.
For the first medal in the series by John Flanagan, Hewitt and deKay chose a subject which was sure to be popular in 1909. That was the year of the great Hudson-Fulton celebration which commemorated the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage to America in his ship the Half-Moon in 1609, and the centennial of Robert Fulton’s invention of the steamboat, later named the Clermont, which had inaugurated a new form of water transportation by steaming up the Hudson River from New York City City to Albany in 1807. Naturally, the medal carried the portraits of Hudson and Fulton on the obverse and the two ships on the reverse.
From the subscriber lists, it is estimated that approximately 500 medals were struck of each of the 12 issues. It had been hoped that the venture would be profitable for the two organizers; however, the advent of World War I and the static number of members were apparently the cause of the demise of the Circle of Friends of the Medallion. (See below, Table l.)1
Platt launched the Society of Medalists in 1930, 15 years after its precursor, the Circle of Friends, ceased production. Although
he patterned it closely on the pioneer organization, the new society differed in one very important respect. From its inception,
it was created as a not-for-profit membership organization. The low cost of the dues at that time, $8.00 a year, attests to
that. In the certificate of incorporation, executed on March 16, 1934, the purposes of the organization were set forth:
(a) To develop in the American people a knowledge and apreciation of medallic art;
(b) To recognize and record, through the medium of medallic art notable events, personalities and cultural movements of the
past and present;
(c) To encourage the development of creative art.
These principles are still followed today and undoubtedly are the reason why the Society of Medalists is America’s oldest non-profit art medal organization. For the past 58 years, the Society has issued to its members twice each year an original work of medallic sculpture created by an outstanding artist. Membership is limited to 2,500 and each member receives at no cost beyond the payment of annual dues the two new medals struck each year, together with display stands and a descriptive brochure concerning the subject of the medal and the sculptor. Membership in the Society of Medalists is open to sculptors, collectors, and museums. The membership fee today is $ 100.00 per year which includes shipping to any part of the world.
As a non-profit organization, the Society was set up to be administrered by a Board of Directors. Platt wisely brought on to the board others interested in medallic sculpture, both collectors and sculptors. In 1935, just five years after the Society’s beginning, its founder, George DuPont Platt, died; however, he had organized the Society in such an efficient manner that it continued with uninterrupted progress.
From the origin of the Society, all of its medals have been struck by the Medallic Art Company. The choice of production facilities was made by Platt who was quite familiar with their work for the Circle of Friends of the Medallion. In the intervening years, the Weil brothers, Henri and Felix, who had previously bought the Medallic Art Company from their employers, the Deitsch brothers, in 1910, had sold the company to their associate, Clyde C. Trees in 1927. The interest of Clyde Trees and his dedicated staff was essential to the success of the Society. Over the years, the Medallic Art Company became the corporate sponsor of the Society. Upon the death of Trees in 1961, the Medallic Art Company was taken over by three of his associates, William Louth as president, Julius Lauth as vice president, and Mrs. Frances Trees, his widow, as vice president and treasurer.
When they chose to retire during the years 1974-1979, the company was sold to an associate and its current president, Donald A. Schwartz. In 1972, for manufacturing reasons, the Medallic Art Company and the Society of Medalists moved from New York City City to Danbury, CT.
The close collaboration between the Society of Medalists and the Medallic Art Company has been productive for both. For the Society, it centralized responsibilities and facilities for high quality production, and the Medallic Art Company has had the opportunity of producing the finest of art medals without the usual constraints of commercial production.
Medals do not exist in a vacuum, they reflect the interests and concerns of the public at large as perceived by the sculptor. Medals, like all art forms, echo the hopes and fears and the aspirations of the civilization in which they are created.
The first medal issued by the fledgling Society of Medalists in 1930 was by Laura Gardin Fraser, and it was on a popular subject (fig. 1). The sculptor wrote in the accompanying brochure, "I felt that a sporting subject would be a departure from what one has been accustomed to seeing in medallic art. Therefore, I chose the hunter with his dog because it presented the opportunity of telling a story embodying a human and animal element. The ruffed grouse forms the reverse." It is interesting to note that although the medal depicted a popular sport, it did not reflect the economic catastrophe of the depression of 1929 which was overwhelming the country. However, two years later in 1932, the fifth medal, by Lee Lawrie, an austere and disciplined work, bore the inscription, WHATSOEVER A MAN SOWETH THAT SHALL HE ALSO REAP. The artist commented, "The medal is intended to cause reflection upon this age-old saying, and those who pause to look at the medal may each read into it meanings of his own."
The preceding medal in 1931, by Frederick MacMonnies, presented the portrait of Charles Lindbergh, the American pilot who had been the first to fly the Atlantic Ocean (fig. 2). At a time when America desperately needed a hero image, Lindbergh, a modest boyish flyer, aroused the spirit of the nation. The reverse of the medal depicted the Lone Eagle, as Lindbergh was called, eluding the allegorical figures of Storm and Death.
In retrospect, we see the second medal by Paul Manship only as a well-designed and disciplined medal in which lettering and a portrait of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus, are combined in an effective manner (fig. 3).
When it was issued in 1930, however, it aroused controversy. Some years before, the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution had been enacted which prohibited the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages. Many people, and artists in particular, found prohibition to be intolerable and Paul Manship wrote, "The medal is not conventional. It is subtly humorous, and is symbolic of a present-day attitude toward certain restraints of the times. Thus it is commemorative of an era." Happily, a few years later, the eighteenth amendment was repealed.
It is interesting to note that Paul Manship also had produced a medal for the Circle of Friends of the Medallion as did John Flanagan. His medal for the Society of Medalists in 1932, number 6, encompassed a neoclassical portrait of the goddess Aphrodite and on the reverse the torch race (see above, p. 131, fig. 11).
A particularly effective and powerful medal was created by Carl Paul Jennewein in 1933, issue 7, in which the themes of glory and fame were presented (fig. 4). Glory was depicted as a winged child, symbolizing the purity of motive in achievement. This was contrasted on the reverse with the representation of a cicada symbolizing the fame which comes from public notice achieved by the noisy and shrill self-assertion of the obstreperous but insignificant creature, the cicada.
There are several themes which have been repeated again and again in the medal series; "Peace" is one of them. With the war clouds gathering over Europe in 1936, Albert Stewart created issue 14. He wrote, "In arriving at the subject matter for a contemporary medal, I was guided by the belief that man’s voice of protest against war is growing from an inaudible whisper to a resounding concordance which may bring ‘between all men peace and good fellowship’." The following year, 1937, Chester Beach in issue 16 made a stronger statement. The obverse bore the inscription, IN PEACE SONS BURY THEIR FATHERS, and on the reverse, IN WAR THE FATHERS BURY THEIR SONS (fig. 5).
The themes chosen by the sculptors clearly reflect the time of their creation. In 1939, with World War II already beginning to engulf Europe, there was a movement toward isolationism in America, and this is reflected in issue 19 by Edward McCartan, which contrasts the peace of the new world to the pestilence of war in the old world (fig. 6). However, World War II was inevitable.
Despite the shortage of materials and manpower during the war, the Society continued to produce two medals each year.2 Inexplicably, the Society did not issue a medal with a wartime subject during the entire period of the war in Europe.
In 1945, issue 31 by Rene P. Chambellan was based on a photograph of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima in the war in the Pacific. The following issue in the fall of 1945 at the close of the war was by Berthold Nebel and depicted the burst of an atomic bomb.
The same motif was repeated in allegorical form in 1971 by Elbert Weinberg in issue 84 which equates the creation of the atomic bomb with the opening of Pandora’s box. Peace medals have included issue 33 in 1946 by Joseph Kiselewski at the end of World War II. Cecil Howard’s medal, issue 42 in 1950, and issue 48 in 1953 by Peter Dalton, both related to the Korean War. Mico Kaufman’s medal, issue 87 in 1973, contrasted a carefree youth with a battlefield scene at the time of the Vietnam War. In 1986, issue 114 was the medal One Planet by Alex Shagin (fig. 7). It presents a view of the planet Earth as seen from space, and complements it with a symbolic scene of children dancing around the globe. Shagin has a unique perspective on this subject because formerly he was a medalist working in the Leningrad Mint, and now he is an American citizen continuing to create medals.
Over the past 58 years, the Society of Medalists has issued 116 medals. The sculptors have worked in a wide variety of styles and techniques and the medals have often deviated from the conventional circular disc. Patinas and surface texture also have varied widely. One hundred of the medals have been created by men and sixteen by women. (See below, Table 2.)
Each sculptor has his or her individual style and personal thoughts concerning the creation of a medal. Robert Aitken, who
created issue 15 in 1937, expressed his philosophy in a very cogent manner:
In making a medal or medallion the main problem is to add, if possible, to its metallic alloy the one ingredient which makes
bronze imperishable—Beauty—Beauty in thought and execution. For Beauty inspires Love—Love creates Beauty. The next step is
to use the metal disc as a conveyor, so to speak, in which a beautiful arrangement of lines, forms and spaces can be compressed.
With the above in mind this Medallion began to enfold a symbolic group of two figures, interwoven into a composition, which
appears to penetrate the bronze so that one side is the completion of the other.
Mr. Aitken’s style was highly realistic, whereas that of Anthony deFrancisci, who created issue 12 in 1935, is very much in the art deco school. The medal by Robert Cook in 1978, issue 97, is semiabstract. It is his personal interpretation of dance and music. Some medals are highly detailed, such as that of Marcel Jovine, issue 100 of 1980; whereas others, such as the 1976 medal by Harvey Weiss, issue 93, has large and simplified forms. Some sculptors use no lettering on their medals as Gifford Proctor’s issue 47 in 1953; whereas one sculptor, Edward Grove, on issue 88 in 1973, created his composition solely with a variety of lettering styles.
The height of the relief of the medals varies greatly. In 1954 Ivan Mestrovic executed issue 50 in very low outline relief; issue 18 by Gertrude Lathrop in 1938 is in medium relief and Donald DeLue used extraordinarily high relief on his issue 111 in 1985. Most medals are solid discs of metal, such as the portrait medal, issue 52, by Georg Lober in 1955; whereas, Richard Miller, in creating issue 112 in 1985, pierced his medal with two perforations. Issue 113 of 1986 by Marika Somogyi is not only perforated but also breaks away from the conventional round form of the standard medal (fig. 8). With issue 115, created in 1987 by Robert A. Weinman, the Society of Medalists broke free of other conventions and issued a free-standing piece which can be considered either a medal or a small sculpture (fig. 9).
The Society invites all sculptors of the world to participate in the open and continuing competition for the creation of its
medals. The following are the guidelines:
The Society of Medalists strives to produce the finest series of medals in the world, therefore, the sculptors participating
may be citizens of any country in the world.
A sculptor who has created a medal for the Society of Medalists will be eligible to compete for the commission to create another
medal in the series after ten years.
The Society of Medalists issues two medals each year, one in the spring and the other in the fall. Accordingly, the competition
for new issues is ongoing, and sculptors may submit original sketches in any form for both obverse and reverse designs at
any time. The subject matter is the choice of the sculptor. At the time that sketches are submitted, it would be helpful if
photographs of other work by the sculptor and a resumé also be submitted.
Sketches will be reviewed by the Society of Medalists and the sculptors will be notified whether their designs are selected
or rejected. If rejected, the submitted material will be returned. Once the designs are accepted, the sculptor must prepare
12 inch plaster models suitable for production of the accepted design. The sculptor must both design and execute the models
for the medal.
Medals usually are struck in bronze 2 7/8 inches in diameter.
The honorarium for the completed, delivered, and approved plaster models, including all design rights thereto, is currently $3,500. Upon payment, the models and designs become the property of the Society of Medalists and are copyrighted as such.
From the foregoing, one will note that the Society of Medalists encourages the sculptor to choose the subject unfettered by restrictions. It permits unlimited experimentation in technique of sculpture and of production and finishes. Sculptors are encouraged to explore the medium of the medal to the utmost. This is the goal of the Society of Medalists.
|1||1909||John Flanagan||Hudson-Fulton||Half Moon-Claremont||2 3/4|
|2||1910||Isidore Konti||Wanderer returns||Family||2 3/4|
|3||1911||John Mowbray-Clarke||Saint Brendan||Youth and chalice||2 3/4|
|4||1911||Victor D. Brenner||Motherhood||Cupid||2 3/4|
|5||1911||Jules E. Roiné||Lafayette||Spirit of Liberty||3 × 1 13/16|
|6||1912||John S. Conway||Charles Dickens||Tiny Tim||2 3/4|
|7||1912||Louis Potter||Abdul Baha||Persian reformer||3 × 2|
|8||1913||Sigurd Neandross||Whirlpool||The Ocean||2 3/4|
|9||1913||René Theophile de Quélin||John Fremont||Victory||2 1/4 × 3|
|10||1914||John Mowbray-Clarke||Anglo-American peace||Peace for 100 years||2 3/4|
|11||1914||Paul Manship||New Netherlands founded||Tercentenary of New York City||2 3/4|
|12||1915||Allan G. Newman||Joan of Arc||Figure of France||2 3/4|
|a||Sizes in inches. Each issue was struck in an edition of 599, all in bronze.|
|1||1930||Laura Gardin Fraser||Hunter and dog||Ruffed grouse||3,235||125|
|2||1930||Paul Manship||Dionysus||Satyrs treading grapes||1,950||50|
|3||1931||Hermon A. MacNeil||Indian prayer for rain||Hopi snake dance||1,713||25|
|4||1931||Frederick MacMonnies||Charles A. Lindbergh||Lone Eagle allegory||1,989||250|
|5||1932||Lee Lawrie||Whatsoever a man soweth||That shall he also reap||1,617||35|
|6||1932||John Flanagan||Aphrodite||Torch race||1,494||125|
|7||1933||Carl Paul Jennewein||Gloria||Fama||1,237||125|
|8||1933||Gaetano Cecere||Pegasus and men||No easy way to the stars||1,287||125|
|9||1934||Herbert Adams||Boy fishing||Little fish a prize||1,207||100|
|11||1935||Lorado Taft||Great lakes||Five maidens||1,025||100|
|12||1935||Anthony de Francisci||Creation||Swirling universe||1,165||100|
|13||1936||R. Tait McKenzie||Youth putting the shot||Four runners||1,001||100|
|14||1936||Albert Stewart||Ploughman and crosses||Peace||968||100|
|15||1937||Robert I. Aitken||Lovers||All mankind loves a lover||1,160||100|
|16||1937||Chester Beach||In peace fathers die||In war sons die||941||100|
|17||1938||A. Stirling Calder||Dance of life||With pleasure and pain||891||100|
|18||1938||Gertrude K. Lathrop||Conserve wildlife||Antelope||1,025||100|
|19||1939||Edward McCartan||Peace in the new world||War in the old world||943||100|
|20||1939||John Gregory||Cere's blessing||Scarcity shall shun you||937||100|
|21||1940||Edmond Amateis||Aesop's fable of hawk||Dog and reflection||921||100|
|22||1940||Walker Hancock||Two men building||Overcoming adversity||894||100|
|23||1941||Joseph E. Renier||Woman and child||Prometheus||849||100|
|24||1941||Edwin Springweiler||Arctic-polar bear||Antarctic-penguins||999||100|
|25||1942||Janet Decoux||Thou sluggard||Go to the ant||767||100|
|26||1942||Brenda Putnam||Man with airplane||Bird in flight||759||100|
|27||1943||Anna Hyatt Huntington||African elephant||Water hole||747||100|
|28||1943||Carl L. Schmitz||Freedom of speech and religion||Freedom from want and fear||100b||100b|
|31||1945||Rene P. Chambellan||Flag raising on Iwo Jima||For conquer we must||1,501||60|
|32||1945||Berthold Nebel||Wounded soldier||Atomic bomb explosion||839||60|
|33||1946||Joseph Kiselewski||World peace||Dove and olive branch||802||60|
|34||1946||Sidney Waugh||Privacy makes innocent||Nameless worthy||1,182||60|
|35||1947||Bruce Moore||Eternal vigilance||Destruction||764||50|
|36||1947||Henry Kreis||Wise virgins||Foolish virgins||599||50|
|37||1948||Michael Lantz||John the Baptist||Salome||730||50|
|38||1948||Thomas Lo Medico||Pursuit of happiness||Good will toward men||727||50|
|39||1949||Adolph A. Weinman||Genesis||Web of destiny||785||50|
|40||1949||Leo Friedlander||Harmony||Creates tranquility||797||50|
|41||1950||Donal Hord||Man must sow||To reap||725|
|42||1950||Cecil Howard||Peace is life||War is death||842|
|43||1951||Albert A. Wein||God the creator||Creating heaven and earth||725|
|44||1951||Wheeler Williams||Madonna and child||Lamb||750|
|45||1952||James Earl Fraser||Pony express||New frontiers||964|
|46||1952||Karl Gruppe||Eagle||Boy Scouts||762|
|47||1953||Gifford MacGregor Proctor||Fish||Dry fly lure||834|
|48||1953||Peter Dalton||Brotherhood||Swords into ploughshares||657|
|49||1954||Abram Belskie||Art goddess||Sculptor's tools||748|
|51||1955||Malvina Hoffman||Races of man||No man is an island||722|
|52||1955||Georg Lober||Hans Christian Andersen||150th anniversary||681|
|53||1956||John Angel||Adam and Eve||Annunciation of Virgin||682|
|54||1956||Paul Fjelde||Walt Whitman||Leaves of Grass||635|
|55||1957||Pietro Montana||St. Francis of Assisi at prayer||St. Francis and leper||658|
|56||1957||Donald De Lue||Creator of universe||Creator of man||824|
|57||1958||Charles Rudy||Year's at the spring||Day's at the mom||650|
|58||1958||Jean de Marco||Clown with horn||Music and drama||673|
|59||1959||Allan Houser||Apache fire dancer||Buffalo hunt||713|
|60||1959||Katherine Weems||Puma||Wild fowl||749|
|61||1960||Leo Lentelli||Romulus and Remus||Constantine the Great||741|
|62||1960||Adlai S. Hardin||Three wisemen||Nativity||930|
|63||1961||Adolph Block||Pilgrims landing||Holy cause of liberty||827|
|66||1962||Carl Mose||This our heritage||This our land||836|
|67||1963||Karen Worth||To the stars||Spirit of the space age||960|
|68||1963||Joseph A. Coletti||Glory of God||Great frigate bird||875|
|69||1964||Robert A. Weinman||Honor to Socrates||Light of knowledge||1,170|
|70||1964||Frank Eliscu||Underwater swimmer||Seascape||937|
|72||1965||Elizabeth Weistrop||Sower of the forest||Squirrels||984|
|74||1966||Ralph J. Menconi||Thomas Jefferson||Hippocampus and mermaid||845|
|75||1967||Herring Coe||Flying saucer||Wilderness is preservation||992|
|76||1967||Donald R. Miller||Five forms of life||Boys building||924|
|77||1968||Nina Winkel||Girls dancing||Spider and web||809|
|78||1968||Terry lies||Medical research||Liberty||939|
|79||1969||Bruno Mankowski||Paul Bunyan||Johnny Appleseed||803|
|80||1969||Boris Buzan||Space control room||Brer Rabbit in briar patch||1,284|
|81||1970||Julian Hoke Harris||Uncle Remus tales||Astronaut on moon||1,061|
|82||1970||Tom Allen, Jr.||Flame of life||Pro vita||1,115|
|83||1971||Hal Reed||Four scientists||Unleashing the atom||1,310||1|
|84||1971||Elbert Weinberg||Pandora one||Pagan joys||1,333|
|85||1972||Sten Jacobsson||Christ and multitude||Atomic cloud||1,223|
|86||1972||John Edward Svenson||Chilkat Chieftan||Indian carvings||1,509|
|87||1973||Mico Kaufman||Youth with guitar||Soldier carrying wounded||1,700||175|
|88||1973||Edward R. Grove||Alphabets of the world||English alphabet||1,625||175|
|89||1974||Laszlo Ispanky||Girl in spring||Youth in fall||1,374||175|
|90||1974||Stanley Bleifeld||Chinese philosophers||Chinese landscape||1,300||185|
|91||1975||Frederick Shrady||Courage and hope||Bird in flight||1,350||185|
|92||1975||Bruno Lucchesi||Couple embracing||Mother and baby||1,350||185|
|95||1977||Harry Marinsky||Youth dreaming||Castle in Spain||750||150|
|96||1977||Stephen Robin||Tutankhamun||Egyptian pectoral||750||150|
|99||1979||Donald A. Borja||Helios the Sun God||Solar energy||750||150|
|101||1980||Marcel Jovine||Unicorn||Medieval procession||750|
|102||1980||Edward Fenno Hoffman III||Alice in Wonderland||Winnie the Pooh||750|
|103||1981||Laci de Gerenday||Cougar||Deer in woods||750|
|104||1981||Elizabeth Gordon Chandler||Visual arts||Performing arts||750|
|105||1982||John Cook||Faun with pipes||Man with mask||750|
|106||1982||Don Everhart II||Dance of the dolphins||Dolphins leaping||750|
|107||1983||Joseph Di Lorenzo||Excalibur||Camelot||750|
|108||1983||Carter Jones||George Balanchine||Dancers||750|
|109||1984||Dexter Jones||Clown||Harlequin and Columbine||750|
|110||1984||Margaret C. Ellison||Bands of living creatures||Zodiac||750|
|111||1985||Donald De Lue||Man bursting the bounds||Back of the man||750|
|112||1985||Richard McDermott Miller||Girl escaping man||Man capturing girl||750|
|113||1986||Marika Somogyi||Woman looking in mirror||Devil watching through mirror||750|