The History of the ANS: The Seventh Decade

Abridged by Oliver D. Hoover from Howard Adelson’s History of the ANS

In the last installment we saw the expansion of the ANS. In the seventh decade of its existence, with Edward T. Newell as the new President, the Society continued to develop as a nationally and internationally renowned institution, and weathered a serious crisis.


With the end of World War I, displays presented by the ANS lost their martial quality and returned to more peaceful and artistic subjects. On occasion, even non-numismatic exhibits were held, such as the 1921 show of sculpture by Clare Sheridan. This event was strongly supported, both morally and financially, by Archer M. Huntington. The success of the Sheridan display led the Society to take part in the 1923 Spring exhibition of American sculpture in connection with the National Sculpture Society. As one might expect, this exhibit placed special emphasis on medals produced by American sculptors. The show enjoyed such a high level of success that even the Mayor of New York City visited the display. Upon its conclusion, plans were immediately made for a second exhibition, focusing on the art medals of Europe. It too was very well received by the public.

Financial Woes

Unfortunately, at the same time that the Society was making a name for itself as a patron of the arts and a respected national institution, it faced mounting problems on the financial front. Although the 1916 fiscal year had ended with a balance of $255.19 in current funds and $1,793.16 in permanent funds, by the following year the ANS was faced with a deficit, having spent more than $15,000 while taking in only about $11,000 in income. In an attempt to reverse the deficit and avoid debt, a Finance Committee was appointed in 1917 with a view to creating a new class of Sustaining Members at $100 and to raising the dues of other membership classes. However, this plan seems never to have come to fruition. Instead, in the following year a massive membership drive was undertaken which was largely successful, in part thanks to the use of the Banker’s Directory to find likely patrons. As an inducement to join, prospective members were offered the opportunity to subscribe to forthcoming medals produced by the Society.

Despite the success of the 1918 membership drive, it was discontinued in 1919 and efforts were refocused on the creation of a larger permanent endowment fund. When the budget was estimated for 1920, there was a shortfall of $6,000. This was mostly covered by a gift from Archer M. Huntington and other donors. After operating for several years at an increasing deficit, economizing measures and especially the benefactions of members seemed to pay off. At the end of 1921 the Society had a balance of $23.08. However, this flicker of improvement was snuffed out in the next year, when the ANS found itself in need of about $1,000. Six donors, again led by Huntington, saved the day and left the Society with a credit of $859.04. In 1923, Archer M. Huntington also pulled the ANS out of the red, but as expenses grew, soon the deficit outstripped even his generous donations.

A real solution to the problem only presented itself in 1925, when the Society received a bequest from the estate of Arabella Huntington for $20,000. This money, combined with $500 from the permanent funds, was invested in guaranteed mortgages as a permanent endowment to defend against the rising costs of operation. More than fifty years would pass before the Society would face this kind of serious financial crisis again.

The Library

In 1917, Sydney P. Noe, who was then serving in the capacity of the Society’s Librarian, bemoaned that there was very little provision made to keep the holdings of the Library current. Despite the financial problems that began to surface at this time, President Newell recognized the importance of the Library and did as much as he could to remedy the situation. In an attempt to raise the necessary funds, the old stocks of ANS medals were liquidated and part of the income from publication sales was also allocated to the Library. These measures netted about $500, but the real salvation of the Library came in the form of committed donors from among the membership.

Archer M. Huntington added an important series of lexicons and dictionaries to the Library collection in 1920, and in 1921 a further 1,000 numismatic volumes from the Hispanic Society of America were placed on permanent loan. In 1924, Ferris P. Merritt donated a Serbian bond of $500, thus beginning the Merritt Library Fund, which he ultimately brought up to $5,000.

The ANS and the ANA

In previous installments it was noted that the American Numismatic Society maintained a friendly relationship with its popular sister organization, the American Numismatic Association. Thanks to this relationship, as a cost cutting measure, the Society was able to arrange for the Proceedings of the American Numismatic Society, to be printed in The Numismatist, the chief publication of the ANA. In return the ANS maintained a subscription for 350 copies of the journal. This arrangement remained in force until 1920, when the rising price of The Numismatist and publication funds made available by Archer M. Huntington made it more cost effective for the Society to resume printing the Proceedings for itself. However, the work of producing the volumes proved greater than had first been imagined, and by 1927 the Proceedings had again returned to The Numismatist, where they would continue to appear until 1933.

The friendship between the two organizations is also illustrated by the events of 1922. When the Annual Convention of the ANA was held in New York in this year, the Society invited ANA members to visit its museum to enjoy a special exhibition and make use of its facilities.

The J. Sanford Saltus Award

In 1913, J. Sanford Saltus established a $5,000 fund for striking medals to be awarded “to sculptors for distinguished achievement in the field of the art of the medal, to authors who have merited signal honor for numismatic research and scholarship, to those who have materially aided in broadening the Science of Numismatics.” However, it was not until 1916 that the Medal Committee was asked to take steps in order to have the medal designed and struck. The piece was designed by Adolph A. Weinman, the engraver for the US Mint who was responsible for the famous “Mercury” dime in 1916. The Saltus Award Medal Committee, composed of W. Gedney Beatty, William Gilman Thompson, and Robert James Eidlitz, awarded the first medal to James Earle Frazer in 1919. This honor was bestowed on Weinman himself in the following year. To this day the American Numismatic Society presents the Saltus Award to sculptors who have displayed excellence in the medallic arts.

United States. American Numismatic Society, AR, J. Sanford Saltus award for Signal Achievement in Medallic Sculpture, uniface galvano, 1919, by Adolph Alexander Weinman. (ANS 1976.263.5, gift of Robert A. Weinman) 80mm.

In 1922, Saltus, who had been a generous patron of the Society for years, was named as an Honorary Governor for Life in recognition of his dedicated service. At about the same time he was elected President of the British Numismatic Society, but unfortunately he did not live long enough to enjoy this new position. Four days before the BNS inaugural dinner in London, Saltus was found dead in his room at the Hotel Metropole. He had been enjoying a glass of ginger ale while cleaning coins in a glass of potassium cyanide. Apparently, at some point he reached for the wrong glass and drank the poisonous cleaning agent, rather than the intended beverage.

J. Sanford Saltus

At the time of J. Sanford Saltus’ death, the ANS held large parts of his vast collection of military decorations. The residuary legatees of his estate kindly permitted the Society to retain permanent possession of this material, which still remains the backbone of the collection of decorations at the ANS.


World War I provided the subject matter for a number of medals in the seventh decade of the Society’s existence. In 1917 Edward Adams offered $500 to cover the cost of producing a medal to commemorate the declaration of war against Germany. This medal, featuring an extremely lifelike representation of a bald eagle, was so well received that the Bankers Trust Company requested and obtained permission to reproduce the design for its Third Liberty Loan posters. In the same year, Daniel C. French was also commissioned to design a medal to commemorate the visit of the French and British War Commissions to the United States. The final product depicted a beautiful head of Victory wearing a trench helmet on the obverse and personifications of the three allied states on the reverse. The end of hostilities, signified by the Peace of Versailles (1919), was commemorated with a medal designed by Chester A. Beach. A year later French was responsible for a medal honoring the American Red Cross for its works of mercy during the war.

United States. American Numismatic Society, AE, French and British War Commissioners’ Visit Commemeration, 1917, by Daniel Chester French. (ANS 1985.81.168, gift of Daniel M. Friedenberg) 62mm.

Several of the medals struck in this period were related to achievements of and visits by European royalty and officials, and often underwritten by Saltus, who was keenly interested in such individuals. In 1918, he was the motivating force behind the decision to strike a medal honoring King Albert and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium for their aerial crossing of the English Channel. A gold specimen of this piece, depicting the jugate portraits of the rulers and an image of the flight, was presented to the monarchs, with silver specimens also given to Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, Alfonso XIII of Spain, and Manuel II of Portugal, the three royal Honorary Members of the ANS. The gold was obtained by melting down Belgian coins, a special touch that was thought “very European” by J. Sanford Saltus. Ten additional silver and ten bronze copies were also made for distribution to friends and sister societies abroad. In the following year, the Belgian monarchs and the Prince of Wales visited the United States, and again Saltus offered to cover the costs of producing a commemorative gold medal. This piece was designed by John Flanagan, a student of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and bore the obverse portrait of the Prince and a reverse depiction of a welcoming Columbia (America). Edward T. Newell officially presented the medal to the Prince of Wales aboard the H.M.S. Renown, at which time he also invited him to accept an honorary membership in the Society. The Queen of Belgium was also elected as an Honorary Member and given a gold membership medal.

John Flanagan at work

United States. American Numismatic Society, AR, New York City: Edward Prince of Wales’ Visit Commemoration medal, 1919, by John Flanagan. (ANS 0000.999.4460) 63mm.

Presentation of the Medal to the Prince of Wales aboard HMS Renown: Edward T. Newell, Prince of Wales, Prince’s Equerry, John Flanagan (sculptor), Dr. William Gilman Thompson, H. Russell Drowne.

Although not a member of one of the European royal houses, in 1921 Marshal Foch of the French armed forces was similarly honored with a medal when he visited New York to lay the cornerstone of the American Academy of Arts and Letters at Audubon Terrace. A gold example of the medal designed by Robert Aitken, famous for his work on the Panama-Pacific Commemorative Quintuple Eagle coin, was presented to Marshal Foch, with silver and bronze specimens made available to members of the ANS, the Alliance Fran├žaise and the Institut Fran├žaise aux Etats-Unis.

In addition to pieces related to foreign dignitaries and events of major international importance, the Society also issued a number of medals to commemorate events much closer to home. In 1917, medals were issued to commemorate the laying of the cornerstone for the new building of St. Bartholomew’s Parish and the completion of the Catskill Aqueduct. A year later, Allen G. Newman was commissioned to celebrate the international observance of Independence Day, which, in 1918, involved the participation of Great Britain, Belgium, Greece, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Peru, Cuba, Portugal, Italy, and France. Likewise, in 1919, the ANS issued a beautiful medal by Anna Vaughn Hyatt to commemorate the dedication of New York’s Joan of Arc Park. By happy coincidence it appeared in the same year that the Catholic Church canonized St. Joan.

When the 150th anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride took place in 1925, Anthony de Francisci, the designer of the “Peace Dollar” and the “Maine Centennial Half-Dollar,” was commissioned to create a commemorative medal. Unfortunately, there was little interest among subscribers and the piece turned out to be a financial failure. The reverse design was also criticized for its depiction of Paul Revere mounting his horse from the wrong flank.

United States. American Numismatic Society, AE, Paul Revere’s Ride: Sesquicentennial Commemoration medal, 1925, by Anthony de Francisci (ANS 1985.81.15, gift of Daniel M. Friedenberg) 63mm.

The last medal to be produced by the Society in this period was to commemorate the tercentenary of the purchase of Manhattan Island from its Native inhabitants, a celebration originally planned for 1923, but postponed to 1926 after it was discovered that European settlement could not be historically proven prior to 1626. The medal, designed by Hermon A. MacNeil, depicts the purchase on the obverse and on the reverse illustrates the idea of the progress that had taken place on the Island through the use of allegorical personifications of “commercial progress” and “intellectual life.”

Unfortunately, despite the added support of the New-York Historical Society, this piece did not enjoy financial success. Thirteen years would pass before the ANS issued another medal.


In 1920, it was decided to forge ahead with the production of a new series going under the title of Numismatic Notes and Monographs after Archer M. Huntington established a fund of $100,000 to underwrite the project. This series was intended to showcase original scholarship in numismatics and has continued to be published up to the present. The first volume was Sydney P. Noe’s Coin Hoards (1920), which was immediately followed in the same year by ten further volumes by Noe, Newell, Wood, Westervelt, Baldwin, Perez, and Smith, running the full gamut of numismatic enquiry. The editorship of the new series devolved upon Sydney P. Noe and Howland Wood.

Numismatic Notes and Monographs, vol. 1: Coin Hoards by Sydney P. Noe (1920)

At the same time that Numismatic Notes and Monographs was making its debut, the long and troubled saga of the first series of the American Journal of Numismatics was drawing to a close. In 1923 the Publication Fund for the Journal contained less than $2,500, an amount that could hardly cover the cost of articles that the Society had already promised to publish as well as the cost of printing the Proceedings. At the Annual Meeting of 1927 the financial burden of publishing the Journal seemed insurmountable and as a result the decision was finally made to end its production. However, after a hiatus of over six decades, the American Journal of Numismatics was resurrected in 1989 and remains the main publication vehicle of the ANS.

In the same year that the Journal was at last abandoned, Edward T. Newell’s The Coinages of Demetrius Poliorcetes and Bauman L. Belden’s Indian Peace Medals, both seminal works in their respective fields, were published.

The Numismatic Collections

During the seventh decade of the Society’s existence great strides were taken towards making it the possessor of one of the finest collections of Islamic and Oriental coins in the world. This was accomplished by the acquisition of several major collections, including that of Pandit Ratan Narian of Delhi. The Narian collection, which included many Indian and Thai (Siamese) coins and tokens, had formerly resided in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but in 1917 an agreement was made transferring the material to the Society’s building. In the same year, the ANS also received some 17, 513 Oriental coins, mainly from collections assembled by Edward T. Newell and Howland Wood. In 1921, the A.F.R. Hoernle Collection of Indian coins, amounting to 1,726 specimens, was also purchased and presented to the Society by Newell. The year 1922 saw the Oriental collection expanded still further by the addition of the Valentine Collection of Islamic copper coins (about 8, 000 pieces) and parts of the General Starosselsky Collection of mainly Iranian coins. When the Longworth Dames Collection of Islamic coins was sold in 1927 the ANS managed to add 500 more coins, including several extremely rare issues of the Afghan Durranis, to its holdings. It should come as little surprise that in order to deal with the ongoing numismatic bonanza the Society found it necessary to establish a special Committee on Oriental Coins.

In addition to Oriental coins, other areas of the collection also benefited from gifts and donations. Perhaps most notable of these was the gift of the famous Confederate silver half-dollar, donated to the Society by J. Sanford Saltus in 1918. It is one of only two known specimens and can currently be seen in the ANS exhibit, “Drachmas, Doubloons and Dollars,” at the New York Federal Reserve.

Confederate States of America. AR Half Dollar, New Orleans mint, 1861. (ANS 1918.153.1, gift of J. Sanford Saltus) 30.5 mm.

During the course of the following year, William P. Beaver purchased part of Howland Wood’s collection of American coins and medals, combined them with his own, and donated all 800 pieces to the Society. Likewise, in 1920, William R. Powell gave his important collection of coins, medals, and tokens relating to the reign of Napoleon to the ANS, despite the fact that he was not a member. This development illustrates that by this time the Society’s museum was recognized as an institution of national importance. Powell was promptly elected as an Honorary Fellow for his impressive gift.

The donations continued throughout the 1920s, including such notable gifts as the Frank I. Liveright Collection of 1,743 coins related to World War I (1925) and the Bechtler coining press used to produce private gold issues in North Carolina (1928). The latter was presented by Julius Guttag, who also donated a collection of German and Austrian paper money and tokens of the First World War.

In 1923, Bauman L. Belden collected enough money through subscriptions that he was able to purchase the well-known Wyman Collection of Indian Peace Medals. It seems fitting that the medals in this superlative collection were at last brought under the care of Belden, the Chairman of the Committee on Indian Peace Medals and author of the classic study on them.

Great Britain. George III (1760-1820), AR Indian Alliance medal, n.d. (ANS 1923.52.7, purchase) 79mm.

Bauman L. Belden

As the shine of the Roaring Twenties began to fade and the hard times of the Dirty Thirties loomed on the horizon, the experiences and advances made in the seventh decade placed the American Numismatic Society in a position of strength for the years ahead.