The History of the ANS: The Sixth Decade

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

In the last instalment of this series we saw the American Numismatic Society solve some of its longstanding difficulties thanks to the leadership of Archer M. Huntington and the acquisition of new permanent quarters at Audubon Terrace. In the second half of America’s Gilded Age the ANS received new opportunities to expand and establish itself as a mature institution.

The American Journal of Numismatics

Now that the Society had a new and secure residence, it could once again resume many of the activities that it had previously been forced to put aside. The most notable of these was the resumption of the publication of the American Journal of Numismatics under the auspices and direct supervision of the ANS. It will be remembered that already in 1893 the journal had been given over to the Boston Numismatic Society and William T.R. Marvin, who published it as a quarterly until 1907. In that year, as construction was progressing on the new building, the Society bought back all plates, back issues and other associated material for $400, but retained Marvin as editor for future issues, beginning with volume 42 in 1908. However, the resumed series was not destined for long life. In 1920 the ANS published the fifty-third and last volume. Indices of earlier issues through volume 50 were included in volume 51 of 1918.

During Marvin’s tenure as editor there was almost constant discussion about how to improve the Journal and when he died in 1912 the decision was made to consolidate the four issues into a single volume published at the end of the year. As a replacement for the quarterly publication, the ANS began to issue monographs, the first of which was Ernest Babelon’s Les médailles historiques du règne de Napoléon le Grand, empereur et roi (1912), an important work describing medals commemorating important events in the career of Napoleon Bonaparte.

In addition to the Journal, during the sixth decade of its existence, the Society also produced several other books, thereby beginning the long tradition of monographic publication that continues to this day. The ANS published Agnes Baldwin’s The Electrum Coinage of Lampsakos in 1914, which was immediately followed by Bauman L. Belden’s Medals and Publications of the American Numismatic Society with an Historical Sketch in the following year. In 1913 an attempt had been made to establish a series devoted to American numismatic subjects with the publication of the first volume of the American Numismatic Series. Nevertheless, while this work by Edgar H. Adams and William H. Woodin on United States Pattern, Trial and Experimental Pieces was recognized as an outstanding achievement and is still a key reference today, it also had the dubious honor of being the last book in the series. The experiment with a specifically American publication series was not resurrected until the 1980s when the ANS began to print the papers given at the annual Coinage of the Americas Conferences.

Theodore Roosevelt and U.S. Coinage Design

As we have seen in previous instalments, one of the abiding concerns of the ANS was the aesthetic improvement of United States coinage, which at the time was deemed by many to be unattractive, particularly by comparison with European coins. Although the Society’s efforts on this front in the 1890s came to little result, the American presidency of Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) created a favourable atmosphere for renewing the struggle. Roosevelt was himself a strong proponent of change to the appearance of the coinage and hoped for a redesign that would take into account the aesthetics of ancient Greek coins. Needless to say, the ANS could hardly have asked for a better ally in the crusade for an improved coinage. In 1905 Roosevelt needed little convincing to support Augustus St. Gaudens’ beautiful high relief designs for the $20 gold double-eagle and the $10 eagle coins as well as Bela L. Pratt’s intaglio designs for the $5 gold half-eagle and $2 1/2 quarter-eagle.


Ultra high relief, 1907, AU $20 (ANS 1980.109.2119, bequest of Arthur J. Fecht)

Heartened by the President’s improvements to the country’s gold coinage, in 1908 the ANS redoubled its efforts to press for the beautification of the fractional coinage as well. Archer F. Huntington appointed a committee composed of George F. Cunz, Thomas L. Elder, Daniel Parish Jr., Victor D. Brenner, Milo H. Gates, and Edward D. Adams to draw up a series of design resolutions to be sent to the President for his consideration. Although there is no record of the resolutions actually reaching Washington, in 1909 the Society’s campaign began to pay off when the Lincoln head cent, designed by Victor D. Brenner, was issued to commemorate the centennial of the former president’s birth. This victory was followed in 1913 by the release of James E. Fraser’s buffalo nickel design and in 1916 by the so-called “Mercury” head dime and standing Liberty quarter, designed by A.A. Weinman and Herman A. MacNeil, respectively. After years of hard work in conjunction with many other individuals and organizations the longstanding dream of the ANS finally came to fruition and a new era in United States coinage was begun.

Reorganization

With the move of the Society into its quarters at Audubon Terrace came a series of notable changes to the organization itself. The old name of “The American Numismatic and Archaeological Society” was permanently dropped in favor of the shorter and more appropriate “The American Numismatic Society” in 1907. This change required a redesign of the ANS seal, which was undertaken by Victor D. Brenner. The result of his work was the graceful oak sprig badge with PARVA NE PEREANT and THE AMERICAN NUMISMATIC SOCIETY that is still used by the Society to this day.

In addition to the name change, adjustments were also made to the organizational structure, which led to the formation of a new constitution in 1910. This revised document took into account the creation of six new committees (The Committee on Foreign Medals, the Committee on Oriental Coins, the Committee on Masonic Medals and Tokens, the Committee on Paper Money, the Committee on Library and the Committee on Building and Grounds) in 1907 to supplement the four (The Committee on American Medals, the Committee on American Coins, the Committee on Foreign Coins and Medals, and the Committee on Ancient Coins) already created in 1905. The new constitution also abolished the presidency and vice-presidency, thenceforth placing all governing authority in the hands of an elected council of fifteen members.

During this period the ANS greatly expanded its staff in order to ensure the smooth running of Society business in the new building. In 1909 the positions of Assistant Curator and Assistant Librarian were created along with the post of Director. The latter was filled by Bauman L. Belden for a salary of $2000 per year, while Agnes Baldwin became Assistant Curator for between $400 and $800. The post of Assistant Librarian was not filled until 1930. This long vacancy is explained by problems encountered in trying to retain a full-time Librarian to care for the Society’s holdings. In 1909 Lyman H. Low, upon retiring from his business, offered to take up the post for a salary of $3000, but this was much too expensive to consider. Later William R. Weeks offered to work evenings in the library in return for $1500, but this too was more than the Society could afford. Attempts to find a Librarian for an annual salary of $1000 ultimately failed and in 1912 the position was left vacant. It was only filled in 1915 when Sydney P. Noe accepted the appointment. In 1913, Howland Wood also filled out the compliment of the Society’s staff by becoming the new Curator.

Exhibits

In the decade between 1908 and 1918 the ANS was involved in a bewildering array of exhibits focusing on a wide variety of numismatic and non-numismatic subjects. Indeed, there were so many in this period that the Society’s records finally stopped paying much attention to them. Several, including exhibits of Indian Peace Medals and Bismarck medals are only known today through contemporary newspaper articles.

Among the more important exhibits was the International Exhibition of Medallic Art of 1909, which was hosted in a temporary stucco hall erected in the space between the ANS building and that of the Hispanic Society. Some 2400 medals by contemporary artists as well as a group of Renaissance medals loaned by J. Pierpont Morgan were placed on display and published in three catalogues. The great success of the exhibition can be gauged by the fact that by the time it closed on April 1st, a total of 5,547 people had visited the show. At its conclusion, the ANS named the well-known Belgian sculptor, Godefroid Devreese as Commemorative Medallist for 1910 and commissioned him to design a bronze medal for the exhibition.


View of exterior of the American Numismatic Society joined to the Hispanic Society of America

Following the closure of the International Exhibition, loaned items were returned to their respective owners, but foreign medals that had been purchased by the Society were required to be shipped out of the country and reimported in order to comply with U.S. customs regulations. These purchased items, as well as some returning English pieces, had the misfortune of being shipped aboard the S.S. Minnehaha, which sank off the coast of the Scilly Islands on April 18, 1910. Luckily, the medals were insured, allowing the ANS to reimburse the English exhibitors and to replace its own lost medals.

In 1911 the ANS and the Hispanic Society hosted an exhibit of sculptures by Prince Paul Troubetzkoy that drew some 23,665 visitors and was so well received that it went on to be shown at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. The following year saw the Society return to its more traditional interests when it presented a display of private gold coins produced in California, Oregon, Utah and Colorado, as well as a show of the medals, plaques and drawings of Giovanni Cariati, a promising young medallist who had already had his work displayed at the Esposizione “Pro Museo Segantini,” Galleria Grubicy, Paris, and the Salon in 1906.

At the same time that the final preparations were underway for the display of Cariati’s work in 1912, George F. Cunz, the president of the American Historic and Historic Preservation Society, approached the Society about organizing a special exhibit of medals and other objects related to Joan of Arc to coincide with the five-hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Maid of Orleans in 1913. Also in connection with the quincentennial celebrations, the American sculptress, Anna Vaughn Hyatt, who would later become Mrs. Archer M. Huntington, produced an equestrian statue of St. Joan leading the charge that was erected in New York City at Riverside Drive and 93rd Street. Its pedestal, made from stone taken from the dungeon in which Joan of Arc was imprisoned, was purchased and shipped from France by J. Sanford Saltus, John W. Alexander and George F. Cunz.

In 1914 the ANS also presented three separate exhibits devoted to United States and Colonial coins, Mexican coins, and paper money. These were quickly followed by displays of Indian Peace Medals and medals relating to Otto von Bismarck, the founder of a united Germany, in 1915.

Medals

Despite the earlier failure of the School for Coin and Medal Designing and Die Cutting, in the sixth decade of its existence the American Numismatic Society continued to express a keen interest in the production of medals and the general promotion of the medallic arts. In 1906 Victor D. Brenner was commissioned to design a medal to commemorate the return to America of the remains of John Paul Jones, the famous naval commander of the American Revolution. He had died and was buried in Paris in 1792, but as a sign of goodwill, in 1905, the French government had his body disinterred and sent home to the United States. The medal created to honor the returning hero featured his portrait on the obverse with the inscription JOHN PAUL JONES / .1749.1792. and the reverse allegory of Fame blowing a trumpet and proclaiming, AMERICA CLAIMS HER ILLVSTRIOVS DEAD, while the funeral cortege appears in the background. Two hundred copies in bronze, one hundred in silver and a single specimen in gold were struck. The latter ended up in the collection of J.P. Morgan and was probably struck for him in the first place. The silver pieces sold for $10 and the bronze for $8.


1906, AE, John Paul Jones Medallion by V.D. Brenner, (ANS 0000.999.5954) 80x60mm

Around the same time that the John Paul Jones medal was being produced plans were afoot for issuing a medal to commemorate Sir Francis Drake, the legendary privateer who became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe in 1579. This medal, designed by Rudolf Marshall, Royal Medallist to the Court of Austria, had originally been intended to appear in 1905, but concerns for historical accuracy caused delay and the piece was not issued until 1907. The obverse depicts a portrait of Drake based on a painting done from life by Abraham Janssens with the inscription: SIR FRANCIS DRAKE 1540-1596, while the reverse is a facsimile of a medallic silver map of the world that Drake commissioned after his return, apparently so that he could show to the curious where his ship had sailed. One of four known examples of this original map is in the ANS collection and currently on display in the “Drachmas, Doubloons, and Dollars” exhibit at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. One gold specimen and one hundred each in silver and bronze were issued of Marshall’s commemorative medal.

At the Fiftieth Anniversary Meeting in 1908, Archer F. Huntington again exhibited his generosity towards the Society by cancelling a loan of $25,000 and converting it into gift, thereby freeing the ANS from all debts. This benefaction, only the most recent of many, led George F. Cunz to recommend the striking of a special medal in his honor. This suggestion was unanimously adopted and initially Victor D. Brenner had prepared a design featuring Huntington’s portrait on the obverse and the Society’s building at Audobon Terrace on the reverse, but ultimately the ANS Medal Committee preferred to hire the popular English medallist, Emil Fuchs, for the job. Subscriptions totalling $1,094.73 were raised by the membership to defray the costs of producing one gold specimen for presentation to the honorand, eleven in silver to be given as awards to outstanding numismatists and bronzes offered for sale to the public. The medal’s obverse shows two male figures flanking a coin press with a third man examining a coin through a magnifying glass with the inscription: ARCHER MILTON HUNTINGTON MEDAL. The reverse depicts a female figure holding a scroll bearing an image of the new building and the words IN / COMMEMORATION / OF THE / FIFTIETH / ANNIVERSARY / OF THE / AMERICAN / NUMISMATIC SOCIETY.


1908, AR, Archer M. Huntington Medal, by Emil Fuchs, (ANS 0000.999.4316) 65 mm

In 1909, the Society participated in the double celebration of the tricentennial anniversary of the discovery of the Hudson River by Henry Hudson and the centennial of the first use of steam navigation on that river by Robert Fulton. By agreement between the ANS and the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission, Emil Fuchs was chosen to design the medal which had official status and carried the insignia of both organizations. The obverse depicts Henry Hudson and a group of crewmen aboard his ship, the Half Moon, with the inscription: DISCOVERY OF HUDSON RIVER BY HENRY HUDSON A.D. MDCIX. A panel at the bottom shows the ship bearing its Dutch name HALVE MAENE. Fuchs agonized over the proper seventeenth century spelling of the ship’s name, not knowing whether Halve Maen or Halve Maene was correct. The dies were sunk with the latter spelling, but just as they were about to strike the first medals, papers were sent from Holland in which the former spelling was used. Deeply concerned for historical accuracy, Fuchs immediately suspended production and cabled a Dutch expert for an authoritative opinion on the spelling. Halve Maene was confirmed to be correct for the period and Fuchs was at last able to go ahead with striking. The reverse of the medal shows three allegorical figures holding Fulton’s ship, the Clermont, with a portrait of the captain. Two gold and one hundred silver pieces were struck for the ANS while the Commission issued specimens in virgin Alaskan gold for foreign dignitaries participating in the celebration as well as examples in silver, silver plated hard metal, bronze and aluminum for other participants and for public sale.


Detail of Hudson Medal (ANS 0000.999.4357)


1909, AV, Henry Hudson Medal, by Emil Fuchs (ANS 0000.999.4357), 76mm

The year of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration was exceptionally busy for the ANS Committee on Publication of Medals because at the same time that it was overseeing the production of the Hudson-Fulton medal it also undertook work on a plaquette to honor the recently deceased President Grover Cleveland as well as a medal to commemorate the centennial of the establishment of the Archdiocese of New York. Both medals were designed by Jules Edouard Roiné, a well-known medallist and Society member. Two specimens of the Grover Cleveland plaquette were struck in gold, fifty in silver with serial numbers, and one hundred in bronze. The obverse showed the President seated while the reverse depicted the allegorical figure of Democracy looking up at the inscription: PVBLIC. OFFICE / A. PVBLIC. TRVST, words taken from Cleveland’s address of October 25, 1881, when he took up office as Mayor of the City of Buffalo. In 1914 further casts of this plaque were made for displays at the entrance to Cleveland Road in Tamworth, New Hampshire, the Grover Cleveland Home at Caldwell, New Jersey, and a new high school in Cranford, New Jersey.

The medal for the Archdiocese carried an obverse portrait of the presiding Archbishop Farley with busts of his seven predecessors around the circumference, while a representation of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the seat of the Archdiocese. One example of this medal was stuck in gold and presented to Pope Pius X. One hundred and one numbered examples in silver and bronze were struck for the ANS with the first of each series given to Archbishop Farley. Other unnumbered medals were later produced from the dies by the Roman Catholic authorities of the City of New York.

Almost as soon as these projects were completed, Roiné was also hired to produce a plaque to commemorate the centennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. This uniface piece depicted the Great Emancipator signing the proclamation freeing the slaves while the allegorical figure of Fame crowns him with a laurel wreath. Two specimens were issued in gold, seventy-five in silver and one hundred in bronze. An impressive large copy of this work is the ANS collection.

As if the Society had not already fulfilled its quota of new medals for the year, 1909 also saw the production of a medal by Bela L. Pratt to commemorate the opening of the New Theatre of New York. On the obverse a seated nude female figure holds a mirror, while the reverse depicts nude children drawing stage curtains to reveal a standing female figure holding a tablet. This piece was not of especially broad interest at the time and only one example was struck in gold for the proprietor of the theatre. Fifty each in silver and bronze were issued for subscribers.

In 1910, the ANS commissioned a new membership medal by the famous American sculptor and medallist, Gutzon Borglum, as well as a medal to commemorate the career of the pioneering French numismatist, Ernest Babelon. The latter was issued jointly with the Société Hollandaise-Belge des Amis de la Médaille d’Art and featured an obverse portrait of Babelon designed by Godefroid Devreese. The reverse, showing the Greek goddess Athena, was designed by Rudolf Bosselt of Dusseldorf.

When John Pierpont Morgan died in 1913, the Society honoured the memory of the man who had been so generous in lending his incredible collections for exhibits by issuing a medal designed by Emil Fuchs. This piece depicts an allegorical figure of Art on the obverse flanked by scenes of sculptors and painters, while the reverse shows a tablet naming JOHN PIERPONT MORGAN flanked by the figures of Fame and Industry. The great respect of the ANS membership for the deceased industrialist and philanthropist is shown by the fact that out of one hundred silver and two hundred bronze specimens struck for sale, only thirty-two bronzes still remained by January of 1914.


1913, AE, John Pierpoint Morgan Medallion by Emil Fuchs, (ANS 0000.999.4395), 89x74mm

An Expanding Collection

The sixth decade of the Society was not only a period of phenomenal medallic production, but it was also a time when the collections were greatly expanded by various gifts and donations. Slightly earlier, in 1905, Charles Gregory gave his collection of 1,411 Far Eastern coins, which included many rare Chinese, Japanese, and Siamese (Thai) coins. In 1906, Samuel H. Valentine, a brother of the Herbert Valentine who had served as ANS Curator of Archaeology and Librarian in the 1890s, donated some 2,880 U.S. coins and political pieces. These gifts, as impressive as they were, served to herald even greater things to come.

In 1908, Daniel Parish, Jr. expanded the collections with the addition of his collection of 3,541 coins and medals of modern Europe, estimated to be worth about $50,000. Later, he also added some 145 Greek and Roman coins.

One year after this, J.P. Morgan transferred his fabulous collection of 410 gold, 357 silver, and many bronze United States coins from the American Museum of Natural History to the vaults of the American Numismatic Society. Six years later, the ANS further benefited from this man’s wide reaching numismatic interests when it received an array of Greek, Roman and modern coins and medals on indefinite loan from the Morgan Library. The star in this group was an extremely rare Athenian decadrachm that is now on display at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. All of the Etruscan pieces, as well as a set of Roman aes grave and five Roman bronze medallions were purchased outright for the permanent collections.

When Isaac Greenwood was honored as the oldest living member of the ANS in 1911, he gave his thanks by presenting the Society with his collection of 3,139 specimens of modern United States, European, and Oriental coins and medals.

In addition to his other benefactions to the Society, Archer M. Huntington also added to the collections during the period 1908-1918. In 1909 he presented 1,160 medals struck at the French mint and in 1910, he and J. Sanford Saltus acquired and donated the 260 pieces in the George W. Devinny Collection of Decorations and War Medals. Three years later, the two men again joined forces to bring the Higgins Collection of 1,567 medals relating to the French Revolution of 1848 into the Society’s vaults. Further cooperation between Huntington and Saltus, with the added assistance of William B. Osgood Field, Edward T. Newell and Henry A. Ramsden, led to the acquisition of the excellent Lo Collection of Chinese coins. In 1914, Huntington also acquired and donated the Bryant Collection of 4,431 pieces of American paper money. This same year was also notable for the donation of a thirty-one pound eight thaler piece of the Swedish king, Charles X Gustavus, dated 1650, by Emerson McMillan.

J. Sanford Saltus, who became Second Vice-President in 1907, had earlier improved the Society’s holdings by donating an almost complete set of U.S. half-cents and a group of Indian Peace Medals. For the Joan of Arc exhibition in 1912, he presented the ANS with 221 medals related to the Maid of Orleans, and during the war years of 1914-1918 he filled the Society’s collections of military decorations with hundreds of new additions. However, his most famous donation to the ANS must surely be the fabled Confederate half-dollar, which remains a prize of the collection to this day and can presently be seen in the same exhibit as Morgan’s decadrachm.

The Great War

Although the United States did not officially enter the First World War until April 6, 1917, the outbreak of fighting in Europe three years earlier led to heightened patriotism in America as well as an increased interest in the combatant countries and militaria in general. In response to the new interests of the public, the ANS presented a wide variety of topical exhibits, including displays of medals commemorating Otto von Bismarck, military decorations of various nations, and coins of the United States and colonial America.

Before 1917 the ANS membership was largely untouched by events in Europe, with the notable exception of Mr. and Mrs. Huntington, who were detained by the German authorities at the outbreak of hostilities in 1914. They were thoroughly searched and briefly suspected of espionage when several maps were found among their belongings, but they were soon released.

Unfortunately, once Woodrow Wilson and Congress issued a declaration of war, the polite and relatively non-partisan interest in the European conflict and the nations that it was devouring soon gave way to jingoism and war hysteria, even among the members of the ANS. In 1917 it was suggested that the constitution of the Society should be amended to state that, “Only native born citizens of the United States shall be eligible to the Council.” To the credit of the Council, it did not take immediate action on this suggestion, but held it over until the Annual Meeting of 1918, at which time it was presented for discussion. The issue was to be resolved by a vote in 1919, but by then the Peace of Versailles had been signed and the point moot.

As the war drew to a close, Bauman L. Belden attempted to convince the rest of the Council to strike all German and Austrian subjects from the membership rolls of the Society, but his colleagues again refused to be rushed into precipitous action. Instead they formed a committee to study the problem and to discover whether such exclusionary measures had been taken by other learned societies. When Belden pressed the proposal again in June of 1918 it was immediately defeated for lack of anyone to second it.

During the years of 1917-1918 the business of the ANS was hampered not only by coal rationing, but also by the fact that many members, including Edward T. Newell, who was elected President in 1916, and the Librarian, Sydney P. Noe, were called to the colors. Members like Stephen H.P. Pell received the Croix de Guerre for wounds incurred on the field of battle and A. Piatt Andrew distinguished himself in the ambulance corps.

The ANS celebrated the return of peace to the world at large in the way it knew best, with the striking of a commemorative medal in 1919 using the design of the American sculptor, Chester A. Beach. However, like the nations who had fought in the Great War, as the Gilded Age gave way to the Roaring Twenties, the American Numismatic Society also found itself forced to confront some of the ghosts of its past.