Happy 210th Birthday, Abe!
Two hundred and ten years isn’t a milestone we normally celebrate in a special way, but 100 years certainly is, and Lincoln’s 100th birthday in 1909 was a big deal. Cities like New York and Chicago tried to outdo each other with tributes, and big names like Teddy Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan made appearances at his birthplace in Kentucky and at his home in Illinois. Numerous tangible and lasting tributes were issued: ribbons, badges, postcards, calendars. Numismatic items too, of course. There were tokens and medals—even a coin, Victor David Brenner’s iconic cent. Numismatic portrayals of Lincoln were nothing new. The first ones appeared with his presidential campaign of 1860, and they continued through his presidency, only to proliferate after his assassination. The first medal issued by the American Numismatic Society was, in fact, a memorial to him, issued in 1866.
The ANS played a small part in the observation of the centennial. One of the Society’s longest-serving members was Robert Hewitt Jr., who had been collecting presidential medals since at least the time Lincoln was president (his collection of Lincolnalia would go to the Smithsonian in 1918). Hewitt was the force behind a couple of Lincoln medals by the sculptor Jules Édouard Roiné, both of which were issued bound into books. Roiné, Hewitt, and two brothers, Henri and Felix Weil, were all ANS members who played a role in founding the Medallic Art Company (MACO), the private mint that struck the medals. (In 2018, the ANS acquired the medals, dies, galvanos, plaques, paper and digital archives, and other historical materials from the defunct MACO.)
The dies for one of the medals were ceremoniously canceled with a cut indicating the centennial date (February 12, 1909). One thousand aluminum medals were issued by MACO announcing the die cancelation and specifying that the dies would be deposited at the ANS on the day of the Lincoln Centennial.
For more on the Lincoln medals, see Robert King, Lincoln in Numismatics, Token and Medal Society, 1966.
For more on Roińe, see David Hill, “Jules Édouard Roiné, Medals in Books, and the Birth of the Medallic Art Company,” ANS Magazine, 2018, issue 4.