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    Description

    1793 Washington President Oval Peace Medal
    Engraved by Philadelphia Silversmith Joseph Richardson
    Ex: Hunter-Brand, Only a Few in Private Hands

    1793 George Washington President Oval Engraved Indian Peace Medal, Silver, by Joseph Richardson, Baker 174 Unlisted, Belden 8-B, Prucha 31, Gilcrease 6.12, Genuine NGC. 111 x 154 mm. Surviving examples of the George Washington oval engraved peace medal are major rarities not usually seen outside of institutional settings. Only a few are held privately, and as is sometimes the case in numismatics, opportunities to acquire these monumentally important relics are even rarer than the items themselves.

    These iconic medals follow a long practice, established by the European powers as early as the 17th century, of distributing silver medals to North American Indigenous chiefs and other leaders, as described by Thomas Jefferson in 1793:

    "This has been an ancient custom from time immemorial. The medals are considered as complimentary things, as marks of friendship to those who come to see us, or who do us good offices, conciliatory of their good will towards us, and not designed to produce a contrary disposition toward others. They confer no power, and seem to have taken their origin in the European practice, of giving medals or other marks of friendship to the negotiators of treaties and other diplomatic characters, or visitors of distinction."



    Peace medals were highly prized by their recipients, and while Jefferson may have believed they conferred "no power," they were proudly worn and displayed as symbols of exactly that. Indigenous chiefs would even turn in their old British or French medals in exchange for American medals upon the formation of a new alliance, an important act in formalizing military or diplomatic ties.

    Washington oval peace medals are dated 1789, 1792, 1793, and 1795, and they exist in three different sizes: small, medium, and large. They are all hand-engraved with nine major types identified by Bauman Belden. All medals show minor differences from one to the other. The medals of 1793 and 1795 exist with hallmarks, unlike those of 1789 or 1792. Known marks are J.R. or I.R. for Joseph Richardson, Jr., a Philadelphia silversmith (1782-1831), and J.L., an unknown maker but possibly Joseph Loring of Boston or John Lynch of Baltimore. Richardson was listed in Philadelphia directories from 1785 to 1791, operating on Front Street, and later served as an assayer at the United States Mint from 1795 until his death in 1831.

    Only 50 or so Washington oval peace medals of all dates and sizes are thought to exist, excluding the countless fakes made to fool collectors. About 90% of genuine examples reside in museums. The late George Fuld compiled a census for each date and size, published in Peace Medals: Negotiating Power in Early America, published by the Gilcrease Museum in 2011. He was aware of the following 1793 medals: four large size, eight middle or medium size, four small size, and one for which the size was unknown, for a total of 17 pieces.

    The present middle-size representative can be traced to the collection of Toronto, Ontario, collector William H. Hunter. His collection was offered by S.H. Chapman in December 1920. This medal appeared as lot 90, where it was described as "Very Fine. Excessively rare." It realized $550, an incredible amount of money at that time, and the second highest total in the entire sale after a 1795 Washington oval peace medal attributed to Mississinewa, Chief of the Wabash Miamies, which realized $800. This medal was purchased by Virgil Brand (journal #103782) and next appeared publicly in 1984, when Donald G. Partrick seized the opportunity to add it to his collection, where it has remained for nearly four decades.

    As noted above, due their hand-made nature, each Washington oval peace medal is different. That said, some pieces stand out for their quality. In 2011, George Fuld remarked: "The detail of the Richardson issues is exceptional - the beauty of his medals is clearly obvious." Indeed, the level of detail on this Washington oval peace medal is remarkable. President Washington and the Native chief are exquisitely rendered, as are the background motifs on that side and the Great Seal of the United States on the reverse. Richardson's hallmark, J.R. within a square, is stamped upside down just right of six o'clock on that side. Silvery surfaces are magnificently toned in delicate, natural shades of violet-gray, blue, and gold. The rim, consisting of a band of silver around the engraved medal, is raised, and a flat loop for suspension is integrated at 12 o'clock. This museum-quality offering will surely serve as the premier highlight in any set of American or Indian peace medals.
    Ex: W.H. Hunter Collection (S.H. Chapman, 12/1920), lot 90; Virgil M. Brand; Brand Estate (Bowers and Merena, 6/1984), lot 961; Donald G. Partrick.


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