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    Description

    (1820) Hudson's Bay Company Indian Peace Medal in Silver
    Leroux-490, Breton-181, Jamieson-20, AU50
    Only Six to 10 Examples Known

    (1820) George III Hudson's Bay Company Indian Peace Medal, Jamieson-20, AU50 NGC. Leroux-490, Breton-181, BHM-1062, Eimer-1120. The history of the Hudson's Bay Company has been described as the history of Canada. In 1670, King Charles II of England granted a royal charter to Prince Rupert and 17 other noblemen, incorporating them as the "Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay." The charter gave the Company a monopoly over roughly 40% of what is now Canada, securing for them "the sole trade and commerce of all those seas, straits, bays, rivers, lakes, creeks and sounds, in whatsoever latitude they shall be, that lie within the entrance of the straits commonly called Hudson's Straits, together with all the lands and territories upon the countries, coasts and confines of the seas, bays, &c., aforesaid, that are not already actually possessed by or granted to any of our subjects, or possessed by the subjects of any other Christian prince or state." It was over this vast territory known as Rupert's Land that the Hudson's Bay Company traders competed in the fur trade.

    Vital to the success of any colonizing power in North America, be it a state or a private concern, was securing alliances with Indigenous groups. One practice for establishing such affiliations, developed during the late 17th century and employed through the early 20th, was the gifting of medals. The distribution of medals, usually in silver, signaled "a pledge of material trade goods, such as cloth, kettles, beads and ornaments, and ultimately weapons" on the part of the Europeans in exchange for a promise on the part of the Indigenous people to "supply secure sources of raw materials (deer hides, furs, and feathers) that would enhance the Europeans' expanding overseas trading systems" (Reilly 2011).

    Writing in Medals, Tokens, and Paper Money of the Hudson's Bay Company (1975), Larry Gingras provides evidence that the Hudson's Bay Company distributed their own Indian peace medals as early as Spring 1793. However, those were different from the type offered here, and none are presently known. Regarding the issuance of these medals, Gingras cites a February 15, 1820, entry from the Company's London minute book: "Read a letter from W. Walker dated Soho 10th inst. Ordered medals with the head of his late Majesty to be sent the ensuing season." A Company ship, the Eddystone, captained by Benjamin Bell, set out to York Factory, the main HBC trading post in what is now northern Manitoba, in May 1820 with a "parcel containing 24 medals for Indian Chiefs." Documentation shows these medals were presented by HBC traders to Indigenous chiefs as far as Great Slave Lake and Peace River in 1821, and that distribution occurred as late as April 1825.

    The 1820 Hudson's Bay Company medals were designed by Conrad Heinrich Kuchler, an engraver employed by Matthew Boulton until his death in 1810. (Kuchler also cut the dies for the Myddleton tokens.) Examples are known in copper, some presumably originals but others restrikes, with three different obverses, while only a handful of silver medals are confirmed, all with the same obverse and all in the same reverse die state with a crack above the fox's tail. The Ford Collection included two examples, one with hanger and one without but holed. The Jamieson plate piece, later in the Ferguson Collection, now resides in the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta. Its hanger was attached to the rim rather than through a hole. A Choice Mint State example in the Lucien M. LaRivière Collection (Bowers and Merena, 3/2001), lot 2019 showed no signs of having been presented. Lot 437 of the Charles Morris Collection, Part II (Ben G. Green, 9/1912) was silver and described as "Very rare. Cost $20 in 1888." One VF silver and one bronze proof were sold as lot 45 in the Brigadier-General Palmer Collection (Glendening, 6/1919). The W.W.C Wilson Collection (Wayte Raymond, 11/1925), lot 942 was described as a silver proof. In his write-up of this medal in 1994, Warren Baker explained that it was believed to "have belonged to Charles Hunt French, Chief Factor and Fur Trade Commissioner of the Hudson's Bay Co., retired in 1930 after forty-three years in the fur trade. French collected material relating to the Hudson's Bay Co., both on a personal basis and for the Company."

    This medal, one of perhaps six to 10 known in silver, is an amazing rarity and a monumental relic of the North America fur trade. Clearly awarded, it shows evidence of high-point wear and superficial hairlines from a long-ago cleaning that do not distract in the slightest. Light silver-gray surfaces are slightly deeper around the raised devices.
    Ex: Possibly Charles Hunt French, Chief Factor and Fur Trade Commission of Hudson's Bay Company; Donald Stewart; Warren Baker; Torex Sale #29 (Jeffrey Hoare, 3/1994), lot 589; Donald G. Partrick.


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    22nd-25th Thursday-Sunday
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