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    Louis XV Indian Peace Medal, VF
    Betts-160, Silver
    One of Only Two Privately Held

    Betts-160. Louis XV Indian Peace Medal. Silver. VF. 55.5 mm, 69.1 gm. Obverse signed by Du Vivier. A bust of King Louis XV facing right, draped and laureated appears on the obverse of this medal. At 12:00 on the obverse rim above the highest point of the laurel wreath, there remains a brighter silver area, which may be a remnant of silver solder from a hangar that was once attached. This same area of disturbance also appears on the Gilcrease Museum example, which still has its original Paris Mint hanger.

    The reverse text, HONOS ET VIRTUS, translates as, "Honor and Valor." The design depicts two warriors, reaching out and clasping hands, the man on the right representing France, with the other representing the Indian allies of France. Although the medal bears Du Vivier's name, some have speculated that it is actually the work of Jean Le Blanc and it unquestionably matches Le Blanc's artistic style. Noteworthy die characteristics from genuine examples seen on HONOS with recutting at the base of H and N over misplaced O; on VIRTUS die-breaks to the right and above the U and to the left of S, die-break blob seen on the right foot of Honos. That this medal is a very early strike is evidenced by the small size of the flaw on the foot and the lack of any evidence of a die crack that develops in exergue below Honos' left foot seen on later strikes.

    The French Louis XV Honos et Virtus medal appears to be the very first Indian Peace medal designed and distributed "officially" by the a European colonial nations specifically for use with the First Nations in the New World. While the use of medals with the Native Americans began in 1642 with the Calverts in the Maryland province, this is still one of the very earliest medals used with the Indians in North America. The distribution began in New France as early as the mid 1720's when Du Vivier first designed the obverse bust of Louis XV, and continued to be used with the same profile of a young Louis XV into the 1760's during the French and Indian War. The French Honos et Virtus medal were struck in silver and were larger in diameter than the competing cast George II medals of this later era, demonstrating the greater importance placed on native relations by the French vs. the British at the time.

    Documented requests for large medals total several hundred, of which ten are known to have survived. A smaller version of Honos et Virtu was ordered in roughly equal numbers but, for whatever reasons, none has survived. Doubtless, many medals of both sizes were exchanged for British medals, particularly after The Conquest in 1760. The French may have lost the war but they deserve credit for a long period of enlightened relationships with most of the Indian tribes across their domains. Thus, the surviving medals carry immense historical importance both as landmarks in our colonial history and as symbols of the respect to which Native Americans were entitled but which they only rarely received.

    There are eleven examples now known, of which nine are in institutions, plus another four once known but now dropped out of sight. The diameter is fairly well controlled between 55 and 56mm but the weight varies considerably, ranging from 67 to 100 grams.

    1) Gilcrease Museum. Tulsa, OK. VF, with hangar. Ex: Charles P. Senter.
    2) Public Archives of Canada. Ottawa, Ontario. VF, with hangar.
    3) Musée de la Civilization. Gatineau, Quebec. VG, with hangar.
    4) Musée de Chateau Ramezay. Montréal, Quebec. VG/F, with hangar.
    5) American Numismatic Society. New York. Ex: Pell/Newell; GEORGIUS III REX Dei Gratia engraved over removed obverse legend. Good, with hangar.
    6) ANS. VG, with loop removed. Ex: W.H. Hunter, W Phillips. GORGE III engraved over LUDOVICUS XV.
    7) ANS. Good, with loop missing. Ex: W. H. Hunter 1920, W. Phillips 1925.
    8) Glenbow Museum. Calgary, Alberta. VF, with perpendicular hangar. Ex: Douglas Ferguson.
    9) Museum of Natural History, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
    10) Private Collection, Quebec, Canada. Ex: EBay 2012. VF, perpendicular hangar.
    11) Present example. Ex: Garrett 1981; John J. Ford; Adams 2009. XF, with no hangar or signs of mounting.

    The medal currently being offered, one of only two in private hands, displays medium gray color on the obverse, with lighter pewter-gray color on the reverse. The toning includes shades of peach-gold, deeper gold, teal, indigo-blue, and red. Unlike the other examples listed above, this piece reveals no evidence of a hangar.
    Ex: Garrett Collection (Bowers and Ruddy, 3/1981), lot 1949.

    Special thanks to Tony Lopez for detailed information concerning this medal.
    From The John W. Adams Collection.

    Learn more at the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis.

    View all of [The John W. Adams Collection ]

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