|by Dawn Bennett|
Early one morning while doing inventory, I found – amidst the many medals and decorations – a dark red oval case with a gold loop peaking out of the top. Upon opening the two metal clasps therein lay a stunning bright gold medal which greeted my eyes with an ornate image of three men in quaint dress, one holding a scroll, one holding a sword and the third looking on. I hurried to the library to investigate the piece and, to my surprise, saw the very same item featured prominently on one of the front pages of a 1938 book. The medal, (ANS 1948.40.1) was, according to Genealogy of the Banks and Allied Families, a Masonic medal from Great Britain.
It was presented to Brother James Bankes in 1790 “for his steady & upright conduct in the office of Rt. Wl. Master.” With a little investigative work, I found that along with this medal, James Lenox Banks also gave the ANS Library, in April 1948, the book mentioned above, which he compiled, as well as correspondence between E. M. L. Ehlers (The Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of New York) and various Masonic Antiquarians, which he had contacted, in reference to finding the name of the lodge which presented this medal. The reply on file stated that the name could not be found in any registers. They were able to report that the medal was made in London about 1790, but the makers’ mark I.H. could not be identified. There were however other medals of the same pattern in England, one being at the Grand Lodge Museum, London.
There is also on file an article from The Freemason, a British newsletter, dated January 14, 1899 in which the medal was pictured in hopes of finding out more information. It seems that all efforts were in vain, for the last line of a memorandum reads, “I wrote many letters and followed many clues… I decided the search was hopeless.”