February 1902: The ANS commissions its Prince Henry Medal
In February of 1902, Victor D. Brenner contacted ANS President Andrew Zabriskie to offer the ANS dies for a medal he was designing to commemorate an upcoming visit to the United States by Prince Henry of Prussia. According to Brenner’s proposal, the only expense for the Society would be for the production of a gold specimen for the prince and silver copies for the Society’s membership. (The original idea for the medal had apparently come from another member of the ANS, Edward D. Adams.) The Society’s Executive Committee quickly accepted Brenner’s offer; this fit in perfectly with President Zabriskie’s effort to have the ANS encourage the medallic arts by commissioning medals to commemorate significant New York City area events.
The Prince’s visit previously had been announced on January 11th. The justification for his visit – only the third to the United States by foreign royalty – was that the Prince was going to help launch the newest yacht of his brother, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. The Prince was supposed to arrive in New York harbor on February 22nd. And after an initial stay in New York City, he was scheduled to make a whirlwind tour of the country, visiting cities in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, and Massachusetts before departing for Germany on March 11th.
The Society’s leadership notified members of the availability of the commemorative medal by the end of February. And by March 7th, Zabriskie was excitedly writing to Bauman Belden that the ANS already had received orders for 53 specimens – “a splendid showing & stamps the medal a popular hit.” Articles on the medal appeared the following day in the New York Heraldand New York Tribune newspapers. (The New York Times had previously reported on the medal’s issuance.)
Later in March Brenner met with the Society’s Executive Committee to discuss the medal. During this meeting, Brenner explained that Edward D. Adams and J.P. Morgan had provided funding to produce two additional gold. In addition, the committee also agreed to allow non-members to purchase copies of the medal, given its popularity. 300 copies in silver were ordered and circulars sent to George Heath, Lyman Low and the Chapman brothers for distribution.
By end of April, President Zabriskie was able to report to the Executive Committee that all 300 silver copies of the Prince Henry medal had been sold – an incredible success for the Society’s young medallic program. In the end, 308 copies of the medal were produced: one in gold for the Prince, three in gold for Edward D. Adams and J.P. Morgan (one of which was donated to the Metropolitan Museum and the other to the ANS), 301 in silver, two in copper (one for ANS member James D. Hague and one for the ANS cabinet) and one in aluminum for the ANS cabinet.
In his annual address the following year, Zabriskie would describe the medal as “a medal of singular beauty and artistic excellence.” Its success also would help bolster Zabriskie’s efforts to expand the Society’s medallic program and by the end of 1902 the Society would have its first permanent standing committee – the Publication of Medals Committee – charged with commissioning medals on behalf of the ANS. Its first chairman? None other than Edward D. Adams, the same person who originated the idea of the Prince Henry Medal.
Postcard commemorating the 1902 visit of Prince Henry to the United States. (From the collection of George S. Cuhaj)
The ANS Prince Henry Medal, obverse (top) and reverse (bottom)
Thank you note from H.R.H. Prince Henry of Prussia to the ANS, April 25, 1902 (ANS Archives)