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Archive for June, 2010

Henri Weil Working for the Deitsch Brothers

IN THE BEGINNING Medallic Art Company was not controlled by the founders, Henri Weil and Felix Weil. It was originally the property of another pair of brothers, two German brothers – Edward and Charles Deitsch – for whom Henri worked. They were leather manufacturers, primarily ladies handbags, but they also made leather cases, covers, book bindings and such in a variety of leathers.

They ornamented their leather goods with silver and gold decorations, called “trimmings” in the trade.  They hired Henri Weil in 1903, to make these trimmings. He cast the little cherubs and fancy scrolls and leaves and decorations that would embellish their leather products. These were top quality, expensive items, for New York City’s carriage trade.

Henri, although born in America, often returned to Paris as he strongly retained the family heritage and connection with France. It was on a vacation to Paris in 1906 he learned from a fellow sculptor there of a new method of making little bas-reliefs, like what he was producing back in New York. That was the method of reducing relief patterns by a “reducing machine.”

Once Henri viewed one of these machines he immediately realized it would greatly improve the making of his trimmings. From an oversize model the reducing machine cut a die. His trimmings could be struck far quicker and at lower cost than casting each one individually – and each one would be perfect – eliminating the problem of imperfect castings. These rejects occurred often no matter how skilled he was as a casting craftsman.

From Paris he telegraphed the Deitsch brothers back in New York. They responded with the instruction to acquire the machine, learn its operation, and bring it back when he returned. Henri visited the factory and met the mechanical genius who had developed and patented the machine seven years earlier, Victor Janvier.

Following his employers orders, he purchased one of the machines and was trained at the Janvier factory, perhaps by Victor Janvier himself. This acquired skill and that single machine was to dominate the remainder of Henri Weil’s life, the fortunes of his family, the course of his business, and, in effect, the direction of coin and medal making in America for the 20th century.

Simple acts often have long term consequence.

In setting up the machine on the floor of his workroom in the Deitsch building, 7 East 17th Street, he learned the instability of the floor caused the reducing machine to malfunction. Henri’s solution was brilliant. He strapped it to the wall! The floor vibrated, the wall was stable. It worked.

But Henri was not to make leather trimmings for long. As often occurred in the field, fashions changed! No longer were silver trimmings needed for ladies purses. Within months that machine – one thought to be a money-saver – was suddenly unnecessary. So was Henri’s employment as the maker of those trimmings.

Henri had a brilliant idea. This machine could cut dies from sculptors’ models. And he knew dozens of sculptors in New York City. He sold the idea to his employers. “Go find work for that machine if you want to stay working for Deitsch Brothers!” they stated.

He put out the word. One of his closest sculptor friends, Adolph Weinman was receptive to the idea. Somehow the word spread to Boston, and a sculptor there, Bela Lyon Pratt, had a model for a medal in hand that was destined to be struck by Tiffany & Company, the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Medal for the Cambridge Historical Society.

Henri cut those dies and sent them off to Tiffany. We don’t know for sure if Tiffany actually struck those medals, or, perhaps contracted that to one of the metal stamping shops in lower Manhattan. There is the possibility Henri applied the patina to these medals, coloring them like he had given a finish to bronze statues for sculptors he worked form for the last two decades.

That was the first medal. Adolph Weinman’s model of the Three Heads Medal for the American Institute of Architects was the second. The third was a medical medal honoring Gustav Killian for the American Laryngological-Rhinological and Otological Society.

For that last medal the model was created by Jules Edouard Roiné, Henri’s brother Felix, had joined forces with a French countryman, and the two formed a sculpture partnership, Roiné & Weil, operating out of a small shop not far from the Deitsch’s location.

The parts were in place. Deitschs were the businessmen. Henri cut the dies and could finish the medals. When he needed a model he had Felix’s partner model it for him. The actually striking was done elsewhere by metal working shops.

Henri made three medals that first year, 1907. He made two that we know of in 1908, but in 1909 he made twelve. Reason for the increase was the Hudson-Fulton celebration, then in progress in New York City that year, and also it was the centennial of the birth of Lincoln. He was cutting a lot of Lincoln dies for several entrepreneurs who sold these to collectors and the public.

One of those entrepreneurs was Robert Hewitt, Jr. He had made his fortune in New York City real estate and was a Lincoln collector. He had the Deitsch Brothers strike several medals of Lincoln’s portrait, He even had these placed in books that he had a friend, newspaperman Charles deKay, write.

It was Hewitt that had suggested to the Deitsch Brothers that the name of their business should be Medallic Art Company. They incorporated the name in February 1909.

WITH increased activity, the Deitsch Brothers possibly recognized they could sell off their little sideline business. It was not a good fit with their leathergoods trade after all. They found a buyer in Joseph K. Davison’s Sons in Philadelphia. They had sold the Davison firm a Janvier die-engraving pantograph the year before so it was already an established relationship.

The Davison firm bought the business. What they didn’t buy was the Janvier, after all they already had one, and the Medallic Art Company name. Their name was well established since their founder started the business shortly after the Civil War.

We can only imagine the inner feelings in Henri Weil. He bought the Janvier machine he had been working on all along. He thought he got the business as well. He thought he got the name, all the dies he had made and all the tooling. Not so.

He opened his new business and called it Medallic Art Company. Only to received a letter from the Deitsch’s lawyer to cease and desist using the MACO name. After having been shut out of the medal business – Davison was exploiting all the ongoing business formerly promoted by the Deitsches – and not getting any of the dies and tooling, here were the Deitsches claiming they owned the name and he couldn’t use it.

Henri was crestfallen.  So much in fact he refused to face the Deitsch Brothers in person. It was brother Felix who went to see Edward Deitsch. He demand one thousand dollars for the Medallic Art Company name.

Felix exact words, decades later when he wrote his memoirs: “[we] bought the right to the name Medallic Art Company and paid the Deitsch Brothers $1,000, which was a lot of money for us at the time.”

HENRI HAD CUT the dies for 17 medals before the Deitsches sell off the business.

 

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1. BULLION MEDALS,  ROUNDS A medallic item issued not for its commemorative, historical, souvenir or art design aspect, but for the bullion it contains. When these are circular they are called by the unimaginative name of “rounds.”

2. CHALLENGE COINS Created for members of a military unit, a custom-designed medal of roughly silver-dollar size to be carried by members or supporters of that unit.

3. ART MEDALS A medallic item made from artists’ models, generally multiple struck and given a patina finish to enhance its total appearance.

4. AWARD MEDALS A medallic item bestowed upon a recipient in a contest, race, game or other sporting event, or for the participation in a group effort in some notable activity.

5. MILITARY MEDALS The full spectrum of medals issued by or for the military, including campaign, service medals, wound medals, and decorations of honor. Such medals issued for American military are administrated by the Institute of Heraldry and it is necessary to remain on their bid list to be notified when these medals are required.

6. ANNIVERSARY MEDALS A medallic item issued on the occasion of a significant anniversary; this includes product anniversaries as well as the anniversary of the issuer organization to memorialize its founding and long-term existence.

7. PLAQUETTES A square, rectangular, or nearly so, medallic item smaller than eight inches (or more precisely, 20 centimeters), it is an art object struck from a die bearing a bas-relief design.  When such an item is greater than 8 inches and less than 24 inches it is cast and called a PLAQUE; larger than 24 inches it is a TABLET.

8. MEDALLIONS A large medal, round or nearly so, greater than 80 millimeters (3 3/16-inch). Naïve people think the larger the medal the greater its importance. Not true. Importance comes from the status of the sculptor-medalist, the rendition of his bas-relief design and its execution.

9. DECORATIONS, DECORATIONS OF HONOR An elite class of medals, usually those of exceptional design, embellishment and composition – including suspension by ribbons – bestowed for exceptional service or tenure, and sometimes granted the recipient special privileges.

10. MEDALLIC OBJECTS A work of art inspired by the medallic genre. There are few restrictions on medallic objects or their creation, other than perhaps, they must be permanent, capable of being reproduced, usually made of metal and, in most issues, have multiple sides. They are MODERN ART objects.

11. SO-CALLED DOLLARS Originally political medals struck in silver similar to a United States silver dollar including such items as Bryant dollars (1896, 1900) and Lesher or Referendum dollars (1900–1901). Later the term was corrupted to include any medal similar in size and relief – but not necessarily similar in composition – to the U.S. silver dollar (1 1/2-inch or 38mm). It could be considered a SOUVENIR MEDAL.

12. ART BARS, COINED INGOTS Bullion items issued in shape and imitation of ingots; design is not that important since, ultimately, they will be melted for their metal content.  The term “art” in the name misleads most people, however they are widely collected.

13. CONVENTION MEDALS, CONVENTION BADGES, LADY’S BADGES A medallic item, often of fraternal nature, bestowed upon delegates of a convention or meeting. Usually attached to ribbons and headers, convention badges were often designed with several components:  bars, drops, pendants and such. All are intended to be worn, thus they have some method of fixing to a garment. Medallic Art Company invented a lady’s badge of half size for the American Numismatic Association and made a COLLECTOR SET of four medals (without loops) struck in two metals (bronze, silver) of the two sizes.

14. RELIGIOUS MEDALS A most popular theme with a heritage extending back in history for hundreds of years. Like religious paintings, religious medals portray Saints with rules of depicting them with halos and rays. Catholic religion encourages wearing medallic items around the neck.

15. CROSSES A medallic item with several arms; often in the form of a crucifix. The use of a cross for a medallic item has wide appeal, mostly for its symbolism of Christianity and talismanic quality.

16. CAMEOS An oval medal in raised relief usually bearing a portrait, in similitude to a carved shell cameo; by extension raised relief, particularly a small relief handcut with background cutaway.

17. JEWELRY ITEMS, BIJOUS A highly decorative medallic item intended to be worn, often worked into a piece of excellent craftsmanship with a frame of jewels surrounding the relief item.

18. BADGES A medallic item intended to be worn, often of heraldic shape and emblematic design, greater than one-inch diameter with some form of fastening to cap or clothing.

19. CHARMS A small medallic item, of less than one inch diameter, with a loop and intended to be worn.

20. MEDALETES, MINIATURE MEDALS A small medal less than one inch diameter, not intended to be worn, and obviously, without a loop.

21. TOKENS, GOOD-FORS A substitute for a coin, usually struck in metal with a denomination – or some indication of value – near the size and form of a coin. Often in place of a denomination it will state “good for” some form of merchandise or service.

22. PENDANTS A medallic or jewelry item intended to be worn suspended from a chain, ribbon or the like, as from around the neck.

23. KEY TAG MEDALS Utilization of a medal to put on a ring of keys; they are always looped or holed; better key tag medals are struck in nickel-silver for its hard-wearing qualities.

24. MARDI GRAS DOUBLOONS, ALUMINUM THROWS A light-weight, low-cost medal intended to be thrown to spectators from parade floats or such.  Aluminum is ideal and not a too-heavy a projectile; most of these medals are anodized to give them color.

25. LAPEL PINS, EMBLEMS A small medallic item for wearing in the lapel buttonhole of a garment, their unusual shape and color help identify the issuer of the pin.

26. INSIGNIA A symbolic device of distinctive shape and three dimensions indicating rank, office or honor, most often intended to be worn.

27. CALENDAR MEDALS A medallic item in which a calendar of one or more months (usually 6 or 12) is incorporated into the design.

28. ZODIAC MEDALS A celestial constellation, twelve in number and forming a belt around the sky, appearing on numismatic and medallic items; they are symbolized by animals and are the basis of astrology.

29. PINS, PINBACKS A small medallic item, less than one inch diameter, usually uniface, with clasp or stem and catch, intended to be worn.

30. SPORTS MEDALS A prize medal or medal of sports theme; other than Olympic medals which fall in this category, sports medals are notorious for poor design, poor quality and cheaply made. Opportunity exists for upgrading this entire class.

31. FRATERNAL MEDALS Fraternal organizations, notably the Masons, but all others as well, have a long history of issuing medals for members and many functions.

32. COIN-MEDALS, TOKEN-MEDALS A medal made like a coin or token – struck in a coining press on an upset blank with low-relief coining dies.

33. BROOCHES A large insignia, badge or medallic jewelry item with a clasp on the reverse to be attached to a garment or hat.

34. HISTORICAL MEDALS A medallic item which commemorates some historical event, as contrasted with those medals of purely artistic nature, or those of completely commercial nature (as a card).  Most always bears a date.

35. TWO-PART, MULTI-PART  MEDALS A medallic item of two or more separate unattached parts which form the complete item.

36. INAUGURAL, DEDICATION MEDALS A medallic item issued on the occasion of a new administration, era or term.

37. PORTRAIT MEDALS A medallic item bearing a portrait as the principal device.

38. SATIRICAL MEDALS A medallic item whose theme is basically humorous, often cutting or critical much like an editorial cartoon.

39. SOUVENIR MEDALS A medallic memento; a medal issued in honor of a public celebration or event.

40. EXPOSITION MEDALS A medallic item bestowed either as a prize for a display or activity at an exposition or fair, or one issued for attendance or purely to commemorate the occurrence of the event.

41. POLITICAL MEDALS A medallic item primarily issued for a political campaign, often containing one or more portraits of candidates, campaign slogans and symbols.

42. MEMORIAL MEDALS A person honored by his portrait or name appearing on a medallic item after his death.

43. GRAND PRIX MEDALS A French term for a highest ranking prize medal

44. MEDALS IN SERIES An issue of a number of numismatic or medallic items with a common theme or design and a continuity in their issue.

45. KEYSTONE MEDALS A medal associated with a series but with a feature different from all others in the series.

46. CORNERSTONE MEDALS A medallic item placed with other objects in a cornerstone or other place in the foundation when erecting a new building.

47. MAP SHAPE MEDALS Silhouetted medallic items in the shape of some geographic entity, as country, state, province or region.

48. ADVERTISING REPLICAS An award medal in which the recipient individual or organization has medals struck in similitude to the original medal and distributes these as a form of self-promotion.

49. STOCK MEDALS A medallic item made up in advance and on hand for use by anyone; not a custom medal.

50. SEALS A metallic bas-relief object, much like a medal, the possession and use of which indicates authority or a medallic item whose principal device is a seal or trademark.

51. LUCKY CHARMS A medallic item intended to be carried by a person, the item purporting to bring good luck.

52. AMULETS A talismanic medal to ward off evil or illness, usually intended to be worn around the neck, intended for very superstitious people.

53. SERVICE MEDALS A medallic item of any size which is bestowed upon an employee or member of a group for length of service to that business or organization

54. SERVICE PINS A pin or emblem bestowed upon an employee or member of a group for length of service to that organization; usually such pins bear a number indicating the years of service.

55. RETIREMENT MEDALS A medallic item designed for bestowing to a person for long service, not a gold watch, give a medal.

56. PERSONAL MEDALS In a broad sense, a medallic item with a person’s portrait or about a specific person.

57. PRIZE MEDALS Any form of medallic item used as an award in a contest, race or game where there is competitive action and more than one contestant.

58. MARRIAGE MEDALS, WEDDING ANNIVERSARY MEDALS A medallic item issued on the occasion of a marriage or on the anniversary of a marriage.

59. BIRTH AND BAPTISMAL MEDALS A medallic item issued on the occasion of a birth of a child or of its baptism; usually the design shows an infant, a baptismal font, or the Christ child.

60. AVIATION AND SPACE MEDALS From ballooning to the latest space launch this theme covers a wide range of air transportation; very popular. Look for medals to be made from the first metal alloy to be made is space (without gravity) which cannot be combined on earth (like aluminum and gold).

61. MEDICAL MEDALS Any medallic item with a medical or health theme; extremely popular theme and the subject of medal series, collections, catalogs and books written about the subject.

62. GARDEN CLUB AND HORTICULTURE MEDALS Local garden clubs are known for awarding medals for growing prize flowers and for garden arrangements; by extension horticultural medals are awarded for more serious or professional activity.

63. ARCHITECTURE MEDALS Virtually any medal which contains a building in its design, plus any medal issued by an architectural organization.

64. RELIC MEDALS A numismatic or medallic item formed from metal or other material which was previously an artifact of a different form.

65. UNUSUAL COMPOSITION MEDALS Struck on a blank made of a material not normally used for making medals, the usual compositions are: bronze, copper, silver, gold, copper-nickel, nickel silver.

66. PRODUCT MEDALS A medallic item made of a composition that is the business product of the issuing firm.

67. EMBOSSED SHELLS Any form of relief created by pressure from behind, as hammering with hand tools or striking with dies.

68. TALISMANS A medallic object of superstitious design intended to be carried to ward off evil; they are often more grotesque, more symbolic and more widely used than amulets or lucky charms.

69. COSTUME JEWELRY MEDALS An imitation decoration or medallic item made to wear on costumes and fake uniforms, most often for use in theatrical productions.

70. ANIMAL MEDALS Widely popular, the issuing of medals depicting animals will never end; the critical point is the design, the animals must be shown in a realistic pose and setting.

71. ENGINEERING MEDALS Construction of everything requires an engineer; medals can be designed to honor this activity.

72. NAVAL MEDALS Show a ship on a medal, from a canoe to a battleship and it is the desire of every naval collector to own that medal.

73. MASONIC MEDALS Masonic was mentioned among Fraternal Medals above, but it bears its own slot of medallic products. Masonic “pennies” were issued to every member who carried his own medal as a pocket piece. So pervasive is the number of Masonic medals there are two museums in America (more in Europe) of nothing but Masonic medals.

74. SCOUTING: BOY SCOUTS, GIRL SCOUT MEDALS Medallic Art Company was an early medal supplier to the Boy Scout movement, by designing and striking some of the early badges (in the 1920s!).  Millions of medals later, there is wide demand for any scouting item.

75. RAILROAD MEDALS The author could have said “transportation medals,” but there is a strong nostalgia for railroads, thus the appeal of any medal showing a railroad engine or theme.

76. COIN CLUB AND NUMISMATIC MEDALS What should be the leading groups for fine art medals is just the opposite, as most coin club medals are not quality at all, but accepted by naïve collectors. A genuine opportunity exists here to raise the bar!

77. GAMING CHIPS Joe Segal and his Franklin Mint made a million (dollars and medals) by producing casino chips for Vegas and other locations. Imitators are now making gaming chips, not of metal, but of a clay composition.

78. WEAPONS AND ARMOR MEDALS The appeal of this category is very strong among their devotees.  Easy to reach through their national organization.

79. GALLANTRY MEDALS A medallic item bestowed for noble and chivalrous behavior; early such medals were bestowed to knights, in modern times more so to heroes of military action.

80. VETERAN’S MEDALS Servicemen returning from military service have been given medals it seems like forever. Napoleon made this a major activity, and in America following World War I hundreds of states, cities and local organizations had medals made for local veterans.

81. SURVIVOR’S MEDALS A medal bestowed to a living relative of a military or naval person killed in the service.

82. MILITARY UNIT BADGES A pin identifying a military organization, highly emblematic and usually enameled.

83. CAP BADGES An insignia, a medallic item with a device on the reverse to attached it to headgear.

84. CARDS, STORECARDS A numismatic item issued as an advertisement by the sponsor or issuer; its called a storecard when the issuer is a retailer.

85. SPINNER MEDALS A medal or token used in games of chance which has a pointer on one side and a center projection point on the other allowing it to rotate or spin on a flat surface.

86. OPTICAL ILLUSION SPINNER MEDALS A medal which when spun both obverse and reverse appear as one view, also called edge spinner.

87. KEYS, PHI BETA KAPPA KEYS A charm shaped like a small tubular key usually indicating membership in a scholarly, fraternal or scientific organization.

88. ADILLIONS A small Jewish bullion proof surface medal mounted in a bezel for wearing as jewelry, invented in Israel.

89. FOBS, WATCHFOBS A special pendant medal with a wide loop worn by men usually attached to a leather strap, or to a metal chain to a pocket watch, what was once called a fob seal. The rise of use of wristwatches diminished the need for such fobs.

90. PAPERWEIGHTS A medallic item intended for use on desktop to hold down papers, also called deskweights.

91. NAMEPLATES A metallic item bearing a name, often with other data, usually in rectangular shape.

92. PLATE INSERTS A medallic item attached to a metal plate; made as a gift item for women or plate collectors.

93. BOX MEDALS, SCREW MEDALS A medal machined in such a way that it has a hollow center – or one made of two sides with a hollowed inside – made to open up to reveal the inside chamber much like a locket; it is called a “screw medal” when the two sides are machined with threads that screw together.

94. TILES Thin square medals which are mounted in quantity on a flat surface, much like ceramic tiles, often of interlocking design.

95. BRELOQUES Adapting a portion of a large medallic design for a small portion to form a new medallic item.

96. SIGNET MEDALS A medal used like a signet ring to press into molten wax to make a wax seal.

97. ANAGLYPHS A small bas-relief item, as an art object in similitude to a cameo, gem, or other three-dimensional relief that is cast, carved, or chased.

98. WAFERS A very thin small metallic piece usually with design on one side only; their thickness is about one millimeter, gold bullion wafers have been made.

99. TROPHY HOUSE MEDALS A medallic item, often a stock item, with a design of a particular sport or event, poorly designed and cheaply made. You can’t make them cheap enough to suit these merchants.

100. ASSASSINATION MEDALS A memorial medal issued following the killing of a leader, ruler or president, for the next JFK, Bobby Kennedy, or Martin Luther King.

101. TSUBAS Japanese sword guard; the protective guard between the blade of a sword and the handle; these are essentially medallions with an aperture for the sword blade to pass through. Tsuba makers developed similar techniques as design, plating and finishing as art medals made in the western world.

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BEFORE there was a Medallic Art Company the top management were two brothers, the Deitsch brothers who oversaw Henri Weil. So here is a list of who was in charge for the entire existence of the company from those two brothers to the present.

1903-1909 – Edward J. and Charles Deitsch

Henri Weil went to work for the Deitsch Brothers in 1903 to make silver trimmings for their leather goods, ladies handbags and such. They imported the first Janvier die-engraving pantograph in 1906 to make those trimmings. Fashions changed, trimmings no longer needed. First medal made in 1907. First use of the name “Medallic Art Company” in 1909. Henri offers to buy medal business. Instead Deitsch brothers sells everything — dies and ongoing business – to Davison’s Sons in Philadelphia. They had a Janvier so did not need another. Deitsches sell their Janvier to Henri (who was unaware of business sale to Davison’s).

1910-1915 – Henri Weil

Henri operates alone for first five years. After purchasing the name “Medallic  Art Company” (for $1,000 from Deitsch Brothers) Henri and Felix incorporate under that name in 1910. Felix is in partnership with Jules Edouard Roine in a separate sculpture business, Roine and Weil.

The two brothers agreed to split income no matter who earns what where. Each brother has 49 percent of company shares. The other 2 percent is in Marie Weil’s name, Henri’s wife.

As Henri struggles in those early years, he is supported by Felix’s income from his partnership’s income. Henri wants Felix to join him in medal business, but Felix is wise to wait, in satisfactory partnership with friend Roine.  However, Roine becomes ill and returns to France, 1915. Felix attempts to keep is sculpture shop open, finally agrees to close sculpture shop and join Henri full time.

1915-1919  — Henri and Felix Weil

The two brothers operate the entire medal making business with knowledge of all aspects. Henri more in die-making and finishing, Felix in sculpture and operating the tanks for electroplating and galvano making. They contract out the actual medal stamping.

They accept orders from sculptors only. These are their friends as they had worked for numerous sculptors since the early 1890s. Their sister even married a sculptor. So they are among the “in crowd” with New York sculptors. They were the “service business” to sculptors who receive medal orders from clients and had only to produce a bas-relief model and turn this over to the Weils for all medal production.

1919-1929  — Henri Weil

The brothers realize they are not businessmen and seek someone to run the business side of the slightly growing business. Through a lawyer friend they learn of Clyde Curlee Trees, whom they take on board.  Formal papers are drawn up with Henri president, Felix vice president, and Trees as secretary-treasurer.

Trees immediately moves to larger quarters and organizes the business. He sees greater potential in going around the sculptors and seeking medal business direct from clients. The Weils will have none of that, their loyalty is to their sculptor friends.

About 1927 Trees offers to buy out the Weils, to purchase the company, to be more aggressive in obtaining medal business. Felix agrees to sell out, Henri does not.  The swing vote is that few shares of stock owned by Marie, Henri’s wife. She votes with her husband – no sale.

After two years the two brothers ultimately see the merit of sale and Marie is convinced. The agreement would be for at least one Weil would be in attendance at the company all time, in effect giving each Weil a six-month vacation.

Trees borrows the money from his brother, Fred Lawson Trees, a banker in their native Kokomo Indiana, and a friend — Mark Anthony Brown – and acquires the company.

1929-1960  — Clyde Curlee Trees

Once in control Trees immediately takes action. He moves the firm again. He starts soliciting medal business. He comes in contact with George DuPont Pratt and the pair start The Society of Medalists, as additional business for two sculptors a year, but also to showcase what medallic art is and what Medallic Art – the firm – can create.

Trees initiates advertising and sending out sales literature. Instead of waiting around for the medal jobs to come to the firm from sculptors, he actively seeks medal jobs which he will then commission sculptors to create the models for the company to produce. The Weils are not happy with this, but they go along, particularly when they observe the increased number of medal jobs early in 1929.

However, after the stock market crash and the onset of the depression years, medal business falls off. Trees struggles to keep the company afloat. He becomes even more aggressive as a salesman.  In 1933, for example, he learns of a medal job in Chicago. He grabs Mint Engraver John R. Sinnock, and the pair train to Chicago. He meets with the client who has a model portrait he is not satisfied with. He sets up Sinnock in a hotel room to create a new model. Two days later he is back in the client’s office with a model that sells the job.

Even with declining business  Trees tries not to fire employees. He establishes a policy of work a few hours a day on the jobs on hand, and take the rest of the day off. It’s short pay but his workers are not unemployed. As for the formal business Trees puts a board of directors in place, composed of :

Earl Brandon Barnes (1881-1966) lawyer, boyhood friend of Trees.
Warren Rollin Voorhis (1873-1953) a relative of Trees.
William M. MacCleary (1903-1983) a relative of Trees wife.
Jac C. Patten (who served only a short term).

If the depression years were difficult, the years of World War II were even worse. Employees leave to enter military service.  But bronze – the major composition of al medals – becomes a strategic war material and  is rationed. With few employees and no bronze, Trees limps along, striking a few medals in silver or whatever he can get.

Following World War II become boom years for Medallic Art Company. The magic word is “decorations.” Medallic Art makes military service medals, campaign medals, decorations of honor by the millions.  The plant runs three shifts around the clock. Trees rents apartments near the plant on East 51st to set up women sewing ribbon drapes on looped medals and boxing these for shipment to Quartermaster Corps in Philadelphia.

It makes Trees wealthy and he buys real estate. Two of his purchases are adjacent tracts on East 45th Street, acquired in 1946.  He remodels these and joins the two to make a single building with a plant on the first floor and offices on the second. By 1948 he moves all operations to this 325 East 45th location.

1960-1972  William Trees Louth

Trees later years are met with a growing business. His wife dies, and after a respectful time, he marries his secretary, Francis Kimmerle. Perhaps in recognition of his own mortality he puts his personal and business life in order. The real estate on the plant on East 45th Street is deeded to his daughters, Harriet List Trees and Mary Chapline Trees.

For the business he had put together a trio of management. He had been training his nephew, William Trees Louth, since he got out of the Naval reserve in 1948 in sales and advertising. His wife, Francis Trees, remained in the business and was in charge of the office and financial affairs. For production he promoted his oldest employee, Julius Lauth, to vice president of production.

Clyde Trees died October 2, 1960.  His office remained empty for three months or more. Until the trio realized time for mourning was over, they must move forward for the sake of the business.

Bill Louth was named president. Julius vice-president. Frances secretary-treasurer. The three were equal owners. Francis also assumed the same title that Clyde had occupied as treasurer of the National Sculpture Society. That act tied the firm to the sculpture organization more than decade prior. During their combined treasurership the organization flourished as had the medal firm. The symbiotic relationship was inevitable.

During Bill Louth’s presidency two directors were named:

Robert Homes Platt (1921-1982)  the president of Magnavox since 1963, he was also a director of Lincoln National Life, where Bill Louth had met him, also a director of Lincoln National Life.

Eva Adams (1908-1991) after her term as 27th Director of the United States Mint was over in 1969, Bill Louth named Eva Adams a director of Medallic Art in 1970. A year later she wanted to run for a political office – the board of American Numismatic Association. She felt her MACO directorship would be in conflict with the ANA board. She easily won the election. But her resignation letter devastated Bill Louth; he carried her letter around in his suit pocket for days before he told anyone.

1972-1989  Donald Schwartz

Bill Louth and Donald Schwartz were both members of the New York City Rotary Club. The two became friends. Schwartz ran a family printing equipment business and had recently purchased a legal publishing firm. He was looking to purchase another business.  He set his eyes of Bill’s family firm.

In the early 1970s the American bicentennial of 1976 was looming with a tremendous potential for medal demand. It was going to require a very large cash infusion to the little company on East 45th Street in Manhattan and an aggressive sales campaign.

Schwartz told Louth he could provide both, but he wanted to purchase the company. It was an ideal time for both parties. Medallic Art was sailing along with about $10 million in yearly sales. Perhaps it was time for the trio owners to sell.

The sale took place in January 1972 and the firm moved into a new plant in Danbury Connecticut in June that same year. Sales did rise for the bicentennial years peaking on July 4, 1976, but declined afterwards. The company was sold in 1989.

1989-2009  Robert Hoff

Hoff purchased the assets of Medallic Art Co from the bank which held most of MACO’s debt.

June 16, 2009  Ross Hansen

Now in the hands of Ross Hansen the company is poised for great potential growth.

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The year was 1972. Rumors were flying all over. In the press and broadcast. Johnny Carson was dissatisfied and wanted to leave The Tonight Show. Oh No! Say it isn’t so!

The show’s 10th anniversary was approaching and his contract was up for renewal. After The Tonight Show had gone through two previous hosts – Steve Allen and Jack Paar – Carson had molded the show into one of the most profitable broadcast properties. Advertisers were plowing millions into NBC coffers for a chance to get their messages on the popular late night TV show.

Perhaps the rumors were just a negotiating ploy, but Johnny was legitimately dissatisfied. The executives at NBC knew if Carson left The Tonight Show, ratings – and those lush advertising dollars – would decline. Carson’s agent, managers, and lawyers knew that as well. Millions were at stake.

NBC executives started piling dollars into the offer for signing a new contract. Still that didn’t seem enough.

The call came to Medallic Art Company and was directed to the vice president of sales, Lindsay Latham. The NBC executive wanted Medallic Art to strike a special medal for Johnny Carson on his Tenth Anniversary. Trouble was, they wanted it in a week’s time. Money was no object.

Lindsay gave the standard boilerplate reply. “All our medals are made from sculptors’ models. It takes a minimum of two months for the sculptor and another month for us to produce it.” In other words, impossible in a week’s time.

The executive was insistent. “How can we shorten that time? We need this in a week’s time.”  Lindsay: “No way.”

“What if we had our NBC artists come up with the design – do the art work – would that work?”

“No, we have to make dies, strike the medal, finish the medal. That takes more than a week.” The implication was still – impossible.

“Isn’t there a way of making a medal without dies?”  “We don’t do that at Medallic Art Company.”

The NBC executive was insistent. Find a way. Get it done. Money was no object. We need that medal by next Wednesday. You have got to do it! Lindsay didn’t have to stretch his imagination to detect the earnest pleading of the NBC executive. This guy was

serious with a capitol S. Their need was urgent, and we needed to produce a miracle for them.

“Well… there may be one way.” The executive pleaded to learn more as he detected a glimmer of hope. “If you can get us the art work tomorrow by noon we will try. But it has to be a graphic design, two-dimensional, no relief.”

“I knew we could count on Medallic Art Company.”

The drawing for the two sides arrived on time, but it was huge for a medal. It must have been eight inches. Lindsay called his contact. “Do you want this reduced? What size do you want this medal?”  The answer was: exact size – do not reduce.

Whether Medallic Art had on hand, or had to order a strip of copper that size I don’t know. But the craftsmen at Medallic Art cut two large eight-inch discs. This was sent – along with the black-and-white drawing of the two sides – to Malcom & Hays, a firm two blocks away that had photo-etching equipment. Instructions: “photo-etch those graphic designs into the two discs of copper as deep as possible… and we need this right away.” In New York City, particularly in industries serving the advertising field, everything is needed right away. It’s the pace of life here. Every business is geared up for speed.

That task took a couple of days, however. The photo-etched plates were returned to Medallic Art. Now the real work began. The two plates had to be affixed together, in proper orientation. The edges had to be smoothed, made completely round and cover that seam where the two plates came together.

Then the entire ensemble had to be silver-plated – silver for the tenth anniversary. The silver plating took more than a day. After the piece came out of the plating tank, it had to be highlighted – finished – and lacquered.

It was done late Tuesday afternoon. It had to be in NBC offices by 9 a.m. Wednesday morning. I walked downstairs to leave for the day and found the medal lying on the table in the shop office ready to be wrapped to be sent over by messenger in the morning. Instead of rushing to Grand Central Station to board my commuter train, I made a quick decision.

“Give me that,” I told the shop foreman, “I want to photograph it.”  I didn’t say where I wanted to photograph it.

I stuck it in my briefcase and walked the six blocks to the New York Times building at Times Square. I knew my way around the Times building. No guards then, no screening, no check point. I took the elevator to the third floor and asked the receptionist for the coin columnist. He was not in. Is the stamp columnist available? He was, and I showed him the medal. Wow! Was he impressed.

He took the medal to his photo department to have it photographed, and returned it to me after ten minutes. So, somewhere in the Times photo archives is buried those photographs of Johnny Carson’s Special Medal. Unfortunately they never published it in the Times (which was my intent for bringing it to them).

I returned the medal to the shop office, and it was wrapped and delivered the next morning.

I never knew what Medallic Art Company billed for that medal, but it was probably in the high four figures.

The medal was presented to Johnny Carson in an elaborate ceremony. He signed the contract, and The Tonight Show went on. We didn’t know it at the time, but one of the provisions in that contract was that the show could be moved. Later that same year, 1972, The Tonight Show moved to Los Angeles. The show went on, as we all know, for another twenty years. Johnny retired in 1992 after thirty years, saved, we like to think, because his ego was massaged with a special medal – made in a week’s time! – at Medallic Art Company.

Interestingly, while the show was in New York, all that time from 1962 to 1972, Johnny Carson lived a block and a half from Medallic Art’s East 45th Street location, a mere half block from the United Nations. Immediately north of the UN was a sixty-story luxury apartment building. Johnny Carson lived in that building. In effect, we were neighbors.

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French Mint Influence Credited

As old or as young as they are, medallic objects have not yet come of age. Roger Bezombes created his first medallic object in 1966. France, in a single sanctum, the Paris Mint, has been their nursery. The Paris Mint’s greatest 20th century Mint Director, Pierre de Haye, certainly had the most profound influence, and should be given much credit for the development of medallic objects. Artists and craftsmen he commissioned were creating a new medallic object every new day for the latter part of his tenure as head of the Paris Mint! One new medallic object a day!

Quite reasonably, it can be said, the Paris Mint has enabled medallic artists to have a free hand in trying something new without restraints that their creation must be commemorative, or celebratory, or memorializing, or honorary, or even pretentious, or whatever the cumulative scope of what a medal must be.

The Paris Mint solidified the name medallic objects for the field with the publication La Médaille-Objet in 1985. This catalog manifested the world’s finest medallic objects produced in the previous two decades. Not only did the French name these art objects, the Hôtel de la Monnaie inspired artists from around the world to embrace the new genré even if it was the only entity that would produce them at the time.

Since credit has now been given to the Paris Mint, we can also acknowledge the support of the international organization of medallists and medal publishers, Fédération Internationale de la Médaille (F.I.D.E.M.). Their biannual conclaves have become showcases of what medallists from around the world are currently creating.

What were once biannual displays of circular and nearly square objects have now become a plethora of irregular shapes and medallic formats of great variety. Virtually all new work displayed in medallic exhibitions – by F.I.D.E.M. internationally, American Medallic Sculpture Association in America, and similar organizations in Canada, England, Netherlands, Finland, Poland and other countries – can be classed as medallic objects.

New Art to Live With

The new medium is an ideal collectible, highly desirable. Its diminutive size is in contrast to other art. Once his walls are covered with paintings, and his private gallery is filled with sculpture, the typical art collector can still feed his hunger for acquiring additional art for a small space. Perhaps best of all, is their projected longevity, like coins and medals, these objects will outlast every other art form! While paintings and sculpture have not survived fires and floods, disasters and the vicissitudes of time, coins and medals have. So should medallic objects. They will still be around a couple millennia from now.

Medallic objects are often created by well-known artists.  For these highly imaginative innovators is perhaps a chance to try something different, no longer routine, to express their creativity in a different mold.  Famous artists, sculptors from around the world, abound in this highly creative glyptic field, alongside artists of medallic specialty only. Newcomers are welcomed. Talent and innovation are the only requirements for creating the new art form.

Notably medallic objects are not intended for the collector’s cabinet – to co-exist with medallic art of past years. More often they will be found on the mantel, tabletop, bookcase, desktop, or other decorative spot, to be easily seen, never put in a drawer, or, heaven forbid! never in a numismatist’s safe deposit box. They must be displayed, to be seen, to be appreciated, to be venerated, to be enjoyed, to be loved. The new media is art to live with. Medallic art to live with. Let them be seen!

But should their destiny be assigned to the art field, or to numismatics? To medallists? Or for art collectors or art museums ? Who will be the market and the makers for the new media in the future?

What about their creators? Should these artists be called object medallists? They dream in spatial relationships. They craft in soft models to form metal patterns. They breathe innovation. Their mind and hand create objects of immense charm.

Characteristics of Medallic Objects

Never larger than 15 inches, medallic objects resonate as intimate art. Examined close up, they can best be appreciated within arm’s reach. In this respect they are much like a coin or medal (none, however, require the magnification glass so necessary for coin enthusiasts or worse yet, the microscope that magnifies surface scratches to trench-like proportions).

Because they are such a new art, they have yet to be tested in the crucible of the art public. Their acceptance must yet come from both critic and collector. They should be examined for their beauty, their perception, their newness, their charm, their desirability, perhaps, in addition to their content.

Medallic objects may have a topic, subject or theme. They may be non objective or representational. They may even be ephemeral medallic beauty – if you wish to call them that – in effect, chewing gum for the eyes.

Medallic Object Characteristics

1)  It Must Be Reproducible.
2)  It Must Be Attractive (or Not).
3)  There Are No Restrictions On Its Creation.

There Are No Other Characteristics

But For Who?

Just what is the charm medallic objects possess? Who wants to own, who wants to acquire these pieces? This is yet to be learned. What has been established is the wide interests among medallic practitioners around the world. They wish to set free the medallic fetuses within them.

We foresee that once a collector has a taste for medallic objects he will profess addiction. Like the possession of any collectible, every art collector – and certainly every numismatist – should have one or two medallic objects. Not only will they be conversation pieces for the collector’s guests, friends and fellow collectors but perhaps symbolic of their membership in a world-wide network of enthusiasts bound by the new medallic genré.

For many medallic artists their creations reside in their studio where they came to life. The artist may create only a single specimen, often for display in some national or international exhibition. In some instances the artist himself will want to replicate the medallic object in his own atelier. For editions of any size, however, he must turn this chore over to special medallic firms or mints that understand the new media.

A collector like New Jersey medallic object enthusiast Donald Scarinci often has to cajole the artist to sell him a piece from the artist’s studio. In one instance it took a year for an artist to agree to sell him the desired piece. (Amazingly, it took another six months for the artist to submit the invoice.) Perhaps this is why art galleries should be purveyors of the new genré, as were the galleries who vended the creations of the first seven art medallists prompted by Art In America magazine. But gallery officials must understand the new media.

While building such a collection, it should be noted, the new owners may be acquiring glyptic art objects – like the original 1965 inspired American creations – slightly ahead of their time. The medallic field is positioned for some interesting time ahead; medallic objects will certainly be a forerunner of that interest for objects that will last for a very long time.

References:

Bryant (Edward) Christmas For Connoisseurs Art In America 53:6 (December–January 1965-66) p 38-44. Documents the birth of medallic objects without mention of the term (coined two decades later).

Hôtel de la Monnaie.  La Médaille-Objet. Paris (1985) 216 pages. This catalog of the

Paris Mint displays the heyday of Medallic Objects with the work of 124 world artists, all of which are illustrated. First use of the term “medallic object.”

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INSPIRED by traditional medallic genré, medallic objects are art medal creations without restrictions, other than of course, they must be permanent, capable of being reproduced, usually made of metal and, for most issues, have multiple sides. Other than that, they are as removed from medals, which spawned them, as medals are from coins (which are overburdened with restrictions such as size, weight, denomination, tolerance, height of relief, coinability, vending machine suitability, recognizability, circleness, nationalistic propriety, surface resistivity, shall I go on?).  Medallic objects break the rules of coin and medal design, go beyond any limitations, transcend any technical restraint, overcome medallic bias, all the while becoming interesting, aesthetic objects for the eye to behold.

Usually medallic objects are free standing; indeed, they have been called “standing medallic art.” But to stand alone is not even a requirement. They are not small statues, they are not upright or overgrown medallions – medallic objects are a new sculptural entity that is just finding its niche in the art and numismatic world. The painter considers his art in color and shadows. The sculptor considers his art in forms and planes. The medallist considers his art in relief and miniature size. But the creators of medallic objects, while they may be guided by the precepts of these graphic and glyptic arts, are not bound by the restrictions of any formal art.

If medallic objects have sculptural tridimensionality it is only incidental. They are more apt to have relief on two sides, a front and a back – I won’t use the numismatic terms obverse and reverse – for their duodimensionality is often apparent only when shown in photographs (and the field is too new yet to have its own terminology). However, they could have relief designs on more than two sides, or more than two surfaces.

If I had to use one phrase to characterize their form I would say medallic objects are bas-relief unleashed.

 

New Concepts In Shape and Technique

Medallic objects often have unusual shapes or negative space. They frequently go beyond the edges of a prescribed planchet, called hyperdimensionality. Very often they have adornments, or as the French say, enrichies; they may be enameled, or bejeweled, and some practitioners like French artist Roger Bezombes have added clothing buttons or made a bird of scissors. Salavdor Dali made a medallic object  of table spoons.

Artifacts of any kind – found or fashioned – are fair game for embellishing medallic objects. Set free the artist’s imagination. Unleashed is the operative word. Medallic objects are the modern art of the medallic field.

If the object can be diestruck, that’s fine. If it cannot then it must be cast, that’s okay too, by electrogalvanic casting, or flexible molds or lost wax or ceramic mold or any of a dozen methods of casting.  If it has to be assembled or fabricated or soldered together, there is nothing wrong with that either. Technique is dealer’s choice.

The most severe restrictions for preparing coin and medal models – low relief with no undercuts and no steep-pitched relief – is negated here. No problem. Eliminate all lettering? That’s permissible. Its all image!

If I had to choose a byword or synonym for medallic objects it would be multi-something. For they always incorporate multi views, multi planes, often include multi techniques, multi finishes, multi adornments, perhaps even multiple textures, color and openwork. We have two-part medals, invented in 1969 by Finish medallist Kauko Rasanen, whose Jonah in the Whale was the first to have the obverse that separates from the reverse to reveal Jonah on the interface surfaces inside the medal. From this pioneering medallic work, Rasanen progressed to create medallic objects in many multiple parts. This form certainly typifies medallic objects and exemplifies the field’s incubation of innovation.

It is best to view medallic objects from every angle. Maybe that nickname should be multi-degree. I got it! How about “medallic polygons”? For you must examine them in all 360 degrees. All around, above and below, often inside and out. Yet they are still medallic, because they have bas-relief on all surfaces.

The new genré encourages new ideas, new concepts, new techniques, new ways of doing something within a 500-year-old glyptic medallic art field, and a 2,600-year-old numismatic coin field. We have proof finish coins today because a proof surface was first tried on medals (Pitt Club Medal, London, 1762). The first hologram in a work of art appeared in a medal, Yaacov Agam’s And There Was Light Medal (Israel, circa 1967). Medallic objects advance the cutting edge of medallic technology, a precursor of new things that can be accomplished, perhaps, for a medal or coin of the future, tried first on a medallic object.

 

Unleashed Medallic Creations

Medallic objects are issued in editions, usually less than 50 or 100, sometimes more, occasionally in precious metal, more often in bronze. The bronze is seldom intentionally left unfinished; notably something is usually wedded to the surface by way of patina, finish or embellishment – or a combination of these.

Creation of the surface, by modeling, carving or forming modulated relief in any manner, is only part of the inspirational bloom.

It is only the skin. The typical creator is never quite satisfied with naked skin. He or she has an entire paint box of techniques and treatments – texture and colors! – that can clothe the newborn creation.

The artist giving birth to a medallic object thus must have knowledge far above that of, say, a hand engraver or a sculptor creating a coin model, or a modeler of a modern medal. Such an artist must posses multiple talents of creative insight and inspiration, plus a wide understanding of spatial relationships, medal manufacturing technology, even metalworking techniques, in addition to a creative concept! Thus these ideas must be translated into a hard-form pattern. For the artist’s ideal three-dimensional image must be reproducible.

Always this artist must rise above that status of creator / technician and produce an object of his hand and mind that excites the viewer. The result often titillates the devotee of this work. “Wow! Look at that!” is often heard at exhibitions of medallic objects.

Testing Ground for Medallists

Appropriately, medallic objects are a testing ground of what can be done in the medallic field, and such experimentation occurs before it is applied to a formal commission. If the technique works, then that’s fine; it can then be incorporated in a future creation, paid or unpaid, commissioned or on speculation.

If the new technique doesn’t work, that’s fine too. It adds to the artist’s total knowledge. The experience fine-tunes the boundaries to which the artist can push the limits of the emerging art. He is advancing toward the cutting edge. We learn by trying. We advance by failure. Medallic objects are welcomed into this arena wherein the field of medallic art will advance in the future.

The next multipart medal, or ball-tip arm, or cartwheel rim, or split collar, or reeded edge, or swivel loop, or proof finish, or impressed artifact, or embedded hologram, or multi-ring planchet, or colorized surface, or any of the thousands of developments – large and small – in the field of coin and medal technology is possible to appear first on a medallic object. And so it should be.

Such innovations come from stretched imaginations. What could be some of these developments of the future? Let your imagination run wild.

  • Can you bury a sound chip in a medal and have a talking medal? No need for a leaflet – the chip could provide a history, data about the artist, the makers, and the reason for the medal’s issuance. Or simply tell a story, illustrated, of course, by the bas-relief in which it is housed.
  • How about a new way of attaching a medal to a person, as award, honor, or adornment. (How would you replace the pinback, the ribbon drape, the neck ribbon or the body sash?)
  • Or a patina with an olfactory release. On one side smell of, say, burnt wood from the forest fire shown on the obverse, while the reverse gives off the fragrance of the regenerated wild flowers where devastation once occurred.
  • The inventor of the first medal made from metal fabricated in space will reap a fortune.

The artist’s own imagination and innovation prescribe the limits of medallic creations. Unleash the bas-relief is the operative phrase!

 

American Forays Into Medallic Objects

In 1965 an experiment was conducted in New York City, perhaps ahead of its time. The art publication Art In America commissioned a curator then at the Whitney Museum, Edward Albert Bryant, to manage a project of reproduced bas-relief. He sought out William Trees Louth and the Medallic Art Company for the intended replications. The two literally had to invent a new art form!

Choosing seven contemporary sculptors, the pair’s instructions to them were explicit: express yourself without restraint in a bas-relief that can be reproduced (sound familiar?). The seven reliefs ranged from a traditional Salome (by Elbert Weinberg) to a recasting and rearranging a newspaper printer’s plate (by the Greek-American artist Chryssa). The others were quite contemporary: James Wines’ Art and the Machine, Harold Tovish’s Meshed Faces, Constantino Nivola’s Classical Gods, Roy Gussow’s Water Over The Edge of a Pool, and Ernest Trova’s Falling Man.

Each work was reproduced in an edition of eight in 12- to 15-inch size (sound familiar?). Tovish and Nivola’s work were also reproduced in smaller, medallic sizes and formats, even gold pins to be worn. To the credit of the craftsmen at Medallic Art Company, they knew which to cast by molds, which to reproduce by electrogalvanic casting, and which to make into dies and strike.

But what was most notable were the finishes. Gussow’s galvano in copper was chromium plated and highly polished. Nivola’s galvano was bronze plated with black oxidized patina. Tovish’s Meshed Faces with three surface levels was given three finishes: the wide border was French antiqued, the faces in the center were reflectively polished, but the background was manually textured. Foreman of Medallic Art’s finishing department, Hugo Greco, could not satisfy a demanding Trovish with sample textures until the craftsman, perhaps in desperation, picked up a beer can opener and etched random pattern of impressed line design in the background copper surface.  “That’s it!” shouted Trova.

Two later forays for American artists in the new media were Roy Lichtenstein’s Salute To Airmail and Sidney Simon’s Five Heads Plaquette. These were created in 1968. With perhaps a later exception, Robert Weinman’s Cat and Mouse for The Society of Medallists Issue number 115, American artists innovated little, until shown by the French the extensive possibilities of the fresh media. The French, it can be said to the chagrin of the Americans, beat all world artists, including the Americans, to the patent office to lock up the title of proprietors, if not innovators, of the new invention.

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