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QUERY: JOSEPH WHARTON MEDALS

The E-Sylum (1/3/2010)


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Jonathan Brecher submitted the following medallic/numismatic research project. Can anyone help? -Editor

Joseph Wharton was a major 19th century industrialist credited with producing the first metallic zinc and the first metallic nickel in America. He was also was one of the founders of both the International Nickel Co. and Bethlehem Steel. He also founded the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Heritage Wharton medal lot There are several medals featuring Wharton, including a common So-Called Dollar (HK-323) and a slightly less common award medal, both pictured in a Heritage sale a couple of years ago.

Attached are pictures of a different medal related to Joseph Wharton, showing his parents William Wharton and Deborah Fisher Wharton. It is 53.4 mm, 54.9 g, and unsigned. I have not been able to locate any information about this medal, and I wonder if any of the readership might have seen it before.

Heritage Wharton medal This medal bears some obvious similarities to a well-know-but-rare medal featuring Benjamin Franklin. That medal, produced by prolific medallist Robert Lovett Jr., is pictured at Heritage, and also in the ANS collection.

The wording on the reverse is identical to this one, but from a totally different die. Compared to the Franklin medal, parts of the William Wharton medal show high quality. The letters are nicely squared off, and it clearly had nice reflective surfaces to start with. But parts have low quality. Many of the letters on the reverse of the William Wharton medal are recut or repunched, some of them drastically. The portraits show linear dotted marks throughout that I'm going to say (waving my hands) might be un-cleaned-up evidence of using some sort of reducing machine during the production of the dies. In short, the William and Deborah Wharton medal doesn't have the feel of "Lovett quality".

1869 Joseph Wharton Medal obverse 1869 Joseph Wharton Medal reverse

In trying to find any information about this medal, I came across one reference that might be relevant -- or that might confuse the issue further. On February 18, 1895, Horatio Robinson Storer read a paper before the Newport Historical Society describing the medals of Rhode Island. Item 120 in that paper is a medal described as "Joseph Wharton, summer resident at Jamestown, R.I. Bronze. 53mm. By R. Lovett." .

That medal is probably related to this one, but is it the same piece? It seems that this medal would best be described as portraying William and Deborah Wharton. Similarly, the Franklin medal would best be described as portraying Franklin. Was Storer describing one of those, or possibly a third piece that really does portray Joseph?

Any information about this William and Deborah Wharton medal would be welcomed.

E-Sylum readers might want to take a close look at that Storer paper for a different reason. Storer documents the original recipients and current locations (as of 1895) of several gold US Mint medals, information that I have never seen before.

The Nathaniel Green medal in gold, presumably referring to Julian MI-10, was "in the possession of Mr. W. Brenton Greene, of Newport."

Storer could not locate the gold version of the Oliver Hazard Perry medal, presumably referring to Julian NA-17. One of the silver strikings, however, he documents, "was conferred on Acting Surgeon Usher Parsons, U. S. N., of Providence, and is now in the possession of his nephew, Mr. Edwin Parsons of N. Y.

A "Medal to Perry from the State of Pennsylvania", in gold, was "owned by Mr. O. H. Perry of Lowell, Mass." That was probably one of NA-18 through NA-21. Of those, Julian states that only NA-20 was struck in gold, and that it is now in the United States Naval Academy Museum at Annapolis.

"One of the silver Congressional medals for battle between the ships Hornet and Peacock was conferred on Acting Surgeon Charles Cotton, U. S. N., of Newport, and is now in the possession of his son, Mr. William H. Cotton." That presumably refers to the Captain James Lawrence medal, Julian NA-14.

The original gold versions of the medal for the wreck of the Steamer Metis (Julian LS-15) were "owned by the families of Capt. Jared S. Crandall, Albert Crandall, Daniel F. Larkin, Frank Larkin, Byron Green, John D. Harvey, Courtland Gavitt, Eugene Nash, Edwin Nash, and Wm. Nash, of Westerly, the life savers, who are all now dead." That totals ten recipients, which exactly matches the mintage reported by Julian.

...and a host of other information about additional pieces with ties to Rhode Island.

It sure would be interesting to try to track down where some of those pieces are now!

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