William Trees Louth was president of Medallic Art Company. The middle name Trees was significant. It was his mother’s maiden name, and her brother, Clyde Curlee Trees, had a profound influence on the life of Bill Louth. Bill was to inherit the family business from Clyde Trees.
Bill Louth graduated high school near the end of World War II and immediately joined the U.S. Navy. He was placed in the V-12 program with intensive training at several colleges. He refused a lieutenant’s commission at the end of training so served the remainder of his two-year enlistment as a seaman.
Discharged from the Navy June 1946 he entered DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, near his home of Kokomo, Indiana. At DePauw he studied business, economics and music. At this time he also met his future wife, Ellen Mather, from Kansas City.
Bill’s life was about to change as Uncle Clyde was to extend his first influence on Bill’s life. He asked if Bill would come to work for him in New York City at Medallic Art Company. No he didn’t ask, he demanded. Clyde had no son, only two daughters. He wanted a family member in the business that he had built through the tough times of the depression and World War II.
The business had turned successful just after the war with a tremendous demand for war service medals. Medallic Art Company was running three shifts around the clock producing Victory Medals, plus the many campaign medals required by the government for the military personnel who served in World War II. In all the firm was to produce more than four million military medals.
Fresh out of college, Bill showed up for work at the plant on New York’s 51st Street in mid-town Manhattan. It was among this frenzied activity Bill entered the business world. The need for workspace had long since outgrown the little shop on 51st Street with rented apartments nearby and a larger loft downtown where ladies worked sewing ribbons on medals and packaging them for shipment to the Quartermaster Corps in Philadelphia.
Clyde poured the profits from the military medals into New York City real estate. He had purchased two adjacent parcels on East 45th Street with the idea of locating the medal manufacturing plant there. It required extensive renovation. The two buildings had to be joined, make room for presses and other equipment on the first floor, and build offices on the second floor.
Bill was sent to this location. One of his first jobs was in the die vault. Steel shelving for heavy dies needed to be built. “Drill holes in the concrete for the bolts to hold the shelving” was his instructions from the foreman overseeing the construction. Bill spent several weeks in that die vault, amid the rising dust and ear-splitting noise, but the shelves got built.
It took two years to complete the new location. Presses and equipment were moved from the old location to the new. All production was done on the first floor. Die engraving machines in a separate room. Blanking. Striking. Finishing. Electrolysis tanks. Annealing. Finishing, A tool-and-die department. A shop office. An inspection table. A shipping department. All on the first floor.
No family favoritism from Uncle Clyde — Bill got the toughest jobs, and the least praise. But he marshaled on, doing Clyde’s bidding no matter what, until he got to actually work at attracting new customers, building new business.
One of the first, Bill recalled in later years, was the National Collegiate Athletic Association. They were to make their trophies. Eliminate the towers of pot-metal athletic figures. Instead he worked with company artists to create a new form with relief galvanos mounted on walnut boards.
Bill’s contribution was the shape of the boards. An artist – in this case Robert Weinman – created a separate relief for each sport in about a six-inch size. This was surrounded by a wreath all made by the electrogalvanic process. When these were finished and relieved the brown galvanos looked stunning against the dark grain walnut stands. This proved to be an early success for young Bill and a sustained business for as long as he was connected with Medallic Art.
Promotions did not come fast for Bill from Uncle Clyde. Twelve years after he came to work for him did Clyde grant Bill’s first promotion, to Advertising Director. This increased his sales responsibility.
Clyde had changed the method of getting new customers when he purchased the firm, in 1927, from the funders, Henri and Felix Weil. The Weils were originally sculptor’s assistants, and relied on sculptors to bring the medal business to them.
When Clyde got control, he wanted to sell the medal jobs, then commission the sculptors to prepare the models. He did this and he became a tenacious salesman. Once he learned some one or some firm wanted a medal, he took an active plan to capture that business. This was difficult to do in the early 1930s when the nation slumped into a depression.
He learned International Harvester was celebrating the centennial of Cyrus McCormick’s invention of the reaper. He didn’t let up until he captured the order. He tried to make a medal for International Harvester to give one to every farmer in America. That didn’t entirely happen. But he did strike three-quarters of a million medals in 1931, when his firm desperately needed work.
Clyde’s sales activity began by researching the founding date of a business firm or organization and contacting them prior to that time for an anniversary medal. Bill amplified such research and made it the chief duty of one salesman (Ernest Ackerman). Then they would divide up the leads among all salesmen to call on those leads.
Bill further developed new business by printing a brochure at least every fourth year. This became so established, they would set aside a fourth of the cost of that brochure’s mailing each year to sustain the cost of that expensive mailing. Bill endorsed these two methods throughout his tenure at the company.
Clyde Trees died October 2, 1960. He left the business to his nephew Bill, his widow Frances Trees, who had been in the business for fifteen years, and his oldest employee, Julius Lauth, who had been with the company since 1930. Bill was named president October 31, 1960.
Bill was now responsible for the company’s success. He assumed the part as chief salesman and accepted a territory along with a staff of three other salesmen.
Bill’s personality as a charmer now came into play. Firm, fair and charismatic, he more often than not got what he sought after, including many orders for medals. Business flourished under Bill’s control.
It was on one sales trip that I first met Bill Louth. In college I was elected president of the local coin club, the Missouri Numismatic Society. From that I was named a director of the Central States Numismatic Society.
In my capacity as director, and unsatisfied with our existing map logo, I had asked Bill to redesign it with the thought of making it into a medal. He had the firm’s sketch artist create a design of a paddle wheel river boat – that was indeed symbolic of our territory. I loved it and presented this at the next Central States board meeting. The board wanted to keep the map logo and tabled the proposed design.
But Bill remembered that. Couple years later we were both in Kansas City at the same time. It was where my parents lived, and Bill’s wife’s parents lived. We met at a downtown hotel.
You can’t help but like Bill. Right from the time you first meet him. As I said he was a charmer. We hit it off together. Fast forward to 1966. Bill was asked to be the educational speaker at the national convention of the American Numismatic Association in Chicago. Bill asked if I would write the speech for him.
We discussed several themes and selected two – using the term “art medal” and the upcoming American Bicentennial in 1976. Bill gave the speech and both themes were endorsed. The numismatic field began using the term “art medal” on a regular basis. And the Bicentennial was a reason for a tremendous outpouring of fine art medals.
Months after that speech, Bill offered me a job at Medallic Art. Ernest Ackerman had died, the salesman that had done all that founding date research.
Bill asked if I could do that. Could I develop those sales leads? Absolutely!
He also had a shopping list of chores he wanted me to do for the company. Could I build a company archive of all past medal issues? Could I issue press releases on new medals? Could I write more speeches for him? Could I be staff numismatist? Could I attend numismatic conventions and help sell medals?
Yes, yes and yes! This would be a fun job and I would be ideally suited for it. He offered me the job in November and I moved my family in December. I went to work first week in January. He set me up in Ernest Ackerman’s old office. I learned the founding date research right away.
In addition, I had to develop leads on organizations which would be prospects for issuing an American bicentennial medal. The first to do so was the Daughters of the American Revolution – bless them! – issuing a Bicentennial Medal in 1972.
Bill and I did travel to numismatic conventions together. Bill would meet with the general chairmen prior to these conventions and secure the order for the convention badges. I witnessed first hand how he pitched these people for the medal job. Later the decision was made by the organization’s national headquarters. Medallic Art had a string of eleven years in a row (1960-1971) in which it produced the convention medal, and related medals.
I enjoyed working with Bill Louth, he was like family. He, and vice president Julius Lauth, taught me a great deal, about medals and medal manufacturing. I gained hands-on experience in this field. That knowledge meshed well with my numismatic knowledge, which I had gained as a collector since 1939. It was indeed a pleasure, being able to put that avocational interest to work in a vocational way.
In September 2006, long after we had both left Medallic Art, Bill wanted me to come visit him in Cape Cod. He was terminally ill, he wanted to give me one more writing assignment. “I want you to write my obit,” he said.
“Bill you ain’t dead yet,” I said, trying to make light of a very serious request. He insisted, and I complied. He died seven weeks later.
Attached below is a chronology of the life of William Louth. Charming man. I had the pleasure of knowing him and working with him.
|1926||(February 25) Born Kokomo, Indiana, to Lelah Maude (Trees) and Maurice E. Louth; attended schools in Kokomo.|
|1943||Seventeen-year-old Bill wins an oratorical contest sponsored by the Howard County Indiana American Legion.|
|1944||Bill Louth named an honor student to appear on the Chicago Tribune’s WGN radio program Citizens of Tomorrow broadcast in June that year, just prior to his war time graduation from Kokomo High School.|
|1944||(June 17) Immediately inducted into military service, sent to Purdue University for training in Navy V -12 program, transferred to Central College, Fayette, Missouri, again transferred to Notre Dame University, South Bend Indiana. He was at Notre Dame at time of Japanese surrender; he refused to accept a second lieutenant commission at that time so was transferred to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. From there he was send to Camp Shoemaker, Livermore, California.|
|1946||(June 16) Discharged from Navy at Camp Shoemaker with rank Seaman Second Class.|
|1946||Entered DePauw University where he meets Ellen Bradley Mather of Kansas City. He is member of Beta Theta Pi and national honorary music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha.|
|1948||(June) Graduated DePauw University with a BA degree in economics.|
|1948||(July) Offered position as salesman by his uncle, Clyde Curlee Trees, and went to work for Medallic Art Company, New York City.|
|1948||(October 30) Married Ellen Mather in Kansas City; couple lives in New York City.|
|1949||Ellen Louth takes active part in the corres- pondence of the Society of Medallists, a series of fine art medals made by the firm.|
|1952||(April 14) Son born to couple, Bradley Emerson Louth, in New York City.|
|1954||Bill and Ellen Louth move from Stuyvesant Town, NYC, to nearby Pelham, New York.|
|1956||(February 17) Second son born to couple, Thomas Mather Louth, in New York City.|
|1956||Bill promoted to Advertising Director with increased sales responsibility.|
|1958||Bill Louth named president of the Sons of Indiana Society of New York.|
|1959||Clyde Trees promotes Bill to Vice President and Director of Medallic Art Co, in his plan for ultimate transfer of company ownership to his nephew, widow, and oldest employee.|
|1960||(October 2) Clyde Curlee Trees died.|
|1960||(October 21) William Trees Louth named President and Director as one of three owners of Medallic Art Company, including Frances K. Trees, Vice President-Treasurer, & Julius Lauth, Vice President-Art Director, fulfilling Clyde Trees intended plan.|
|1960||(November) Bill Louth becomes a member of American Numismatic Association, ANA assigned membership number 40561.|
|1961||Louth joins National Sculpture Society as patron member; he follows interests of his uncle Clyde Trees who was a officer (treasurer) of the sculpture organization.|
|1962||Louth joins Token And Medal Society.|
|1963||Creates Hall of Fame series of medals in a consortium of Coin and Currency Inc, as distributor, National Sculpture Society, which furnishes artists to create designs and models, and the New York University where the Hall of Fame is located.|
|1964||Bas-relief portrait of Louth created by Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, Gilroy Roberts; prepared as a galvano and diestruck medal (MAc. 1964-152).|
|1965||(Fall) Bill Louth co-developer of entirely new medallic art form. At urging of Art in America magazine, museum curator Edward Bryant (representing modern art field) and Louth (representing medallic art produc- tion), i. 1965 initiates a series of seven creations, the first ever medallic objects. The seven works of art by modern artists, issued in galvano form, twelve to fifteen inches in size; two were selected to be diestruck medals, the same two issued as jewelry pins in gold, all forms produced by Medallic Art Co. The modern artists included: Chryssa, Roy Gussow, Constantino Nivola, Harold Tovish, Ernest Trova, Elbert Weinberg, and James Wines. Published in Art in America, December-January. 1965-66) p 38-44, 136.|
|1966||(April) President Lyndon Johnson named William Louth to the United States Assay Commission, America’s oldest oversight group, it checks on the quality of United States coins struck by the country’s mints.|
|1966||(August) Bill Louth named educational speaker at the convention of the American Numismatic Association in Chicago; in this speech he asked for the return of term “art medal” for those medallic items which met certain standards, Originally invented i. 1914, the term had fallen into disuse, but the field responded and used it ever since. He also implored for the high quality of medals to be issued for the American Bicentennial, ten years hence.|
|1966||(August) Louth named to Old Time Assay Commissioner Society, a group of former commissioners, for his service that year; he donates their annual meeting medal he personally designed the first three issues.|
|1967||(December) Coinage magazine publishes “Home of the Art Medal: A Tour Through Medallic Art Company;” shows Bill Louth in his office and all departments; text by Dick Johnson, who Louth had write tha.|
|1966||ANA speech, and hired January, 1967.|
|1968||(May 6) Named Hoosier of the Year by the Sons of Indiana.|
|1969||(August) Louth invents a lady’s convention medal (of lighter weight and smaller size) introducing this medal not only in badge form for the Philadelphia convention of American Numismatic Assn this year, but also a four-medal set for medal collectors.|
|1969||(August) Named Chief Coiner [president] of Old Time Assay Commissioner Society for a two-year term.|
|1969||(September) Appoints Eva Adams, former Director of U.S. Mint, a director of Medallic Art Co on her resignation from the Mint; she resigns year later to run for ANA office.|
|1970||(February 4) Ronald Reagan, as governor of California, visits the plant of Medallic Art Company while the firm is manufacturing the California Bicentennial Medal (MAc. 1969-168); photo with Bill and the medal.|
|1970||(May) Bill Louth honored by a two-page biographical article in The Rotarian maga- zine with his portrait amid colorful medals.|
|1970||(May 7) Bill Louth at White House with sculptor Ralph J. Menconi to present gold Inaugural medal to President Richard M. Nixon; first of 3 such medal presentations.|
|1971||(October 31) Ground Breaking Ceremony for new Medallic Art plant on 22-acre tract company had purchase in western Danbury, attended by Connecticut and local officials.|
|1972||(January) Louth sells the company to a group of investors headed by Donald A. Schwartz; he stays on as president.|
|1972||(June 2) Medallic Art moves into new plant specially designed for manufacturing fine art medals located in Danbury, Connecticut.|
|1973||(June) Dedication of Danbury plant with municipal dignitaries attending; Louth master of ceremonies; Dedication Medal by Frank Eliscu issued (MAc. 1973-01).|
|1974||(July) Article in The Numismatist, page 1341.|
|1974||(Fall) Louth at White House with sculptor Frank Eliscu to present gold Inaugural medal to President Gerald R. Ford.|
|1976||(month) Louth resigns as president of Medallic Art Company, forms Trinity Consulting for real estate investments.|
|1989||(November 18) Ellen Mather Trees Louth (born January 14. 1927) dies in New Haven, Connecticut.|
|1992||(January 4) Bill Louth marries a second time to Marion Jeannette Atkins at the United Methodist Church in Westport, Connecticu.|
|1997||(August 5) Bill and Jeannette Louth relocate from Guilford, Connecticut, to West Harwich, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.|
|2003||(September 26) Bill Louth meets with Donald Scarinci, Dick and Shirley Johnson for a long interview for the purpose of providing information on the Society of Medalists for a book Scarinci plans to write.|
|2006||(September 14) Louth insists Dick Johnson visits him in Cape Code to gather his biographic details and write a draft for his ultimate obituary.|
|2006||(November 17) William Trees Louth dies; obituary by D. Wayne Johnson appears in numismatic publications and local press.|
|2006||(December 2) Memorial service held in Cape Cod at Brewster Baptist Church, Brewster, Massachusetts. R|