Archive for September, 2011

Timelines or chronologies are extremely useful for any writing project. Here is the first of a number of timelines for the two founders of Medallic Art Company and ultimately for Clyde Curle Trees and William Trees Louth as well. The facts listed in these timelines will be woven into the history of Medallic Art Company in due course.

1867 (December 18) Born Hoboken, New Jersey, second son of Leon and Bella Bur Weil; family returns to France when Henri 6 weeks old.
1872 Early schooling in France until age 12.
1879 (November) Family returns to America, lives with aunt in New York City, schooling in New York City.
1884 Apprenticed to sculptor George Wagner (married to Weil’s older sister) as parents and brother Felix move to Covington, Kentucky, where father works for Hemingray & Sons glass works.
1888 Henri works for Gorham & Company in Providence Rhode Island as Wagner leaves for long stay in France.
1891 Joins a group of sculptors assistants who travel to Chicago to work on sculpture for the Chicago World’s Fair.
1894 Works for a terra cotta factory also in Chicago before returning to New York City, where he works for a French firm creating decorations on Waldorf Hotel building.
Finds Employment with Deitsch Bros
1902 Works for Deitsch Brothers to make silver ornamentation for ladies leather handbags by casting. On trip to Paris learns of Janvier die-engraving pantograph, informs employers who order machine and instruct Henri to learn how to operate it; he is trained at Janvier Paris factory.
1902 (August) Janvier lathe is set up, Deitsch Bros advertise for jewelry trade to come inspect machine in operation at their building.
1903 Henri makes patterns and cuts dies for handbag ornamentation struck at less cost with finer detailed than casting, but fashions change demanding less ornamentation, Janvier thought to be useless.
1905 Henri Weil begins work with Augustus Saint-Gaudens on the Benjamin Franklin Bicenennial Medal; because of delays by sculptor St-Gaudens this medal is delayed past its 1906 due date and not delivered until 1907.
1906 Convinces Deitsch Bros to let him reduce models and cut dies for sculptors to make medals; first work for Bela Lyon Pratt and Adolph Weinman.
1907 First medal is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Medal by Pratt for Tiffany & Co.; also American Institute of Architects Three Heads Medal for Weinman the same year.
1907 (Spring) Henri travels to Philadelphia and the U.S. Mint to train engravers there in the use of the their Janvier engraving machine;after he returns from lunch he discovered someone had molested his settings, later learned to be Charles Barber, who believed the machine threatened his work and his control of engraving department.
1908 Cuts dies of model by Jules Roine (his brother’s business partner in Weil & Roine) for American Numismatic Society’s Grover Cleveland Memorial Plaquette; also Archdiocese of New York’s Centennial Medal, also by Roine.
1909 Extremely Active and Productive Year.
1909 Reduces model of Lincoln cent for sculptor Victor David Brenner; makes galvano casts and reductions for Brenner before submission to U.S. Mint; then cuts hubs for Mint..
1909 Makes galvano casts and cuts dies for four medals – all by Jules Roine – for Hudson-Fulton Celebration, two of Hendrik Hudson, two of Robert Fulton.
1909 Makes Lincoln Centennial Medal dies – again all from models by Jules Roine – for four clients. One a plauette for American Numismatic Society.
1909 Henri makes dies of Lincoln Centennial Medal for Grand Army of the Republic with several varieties with and without M.A.C. monograms, plus a variety struck from cancelled dies.
1909 Henri meets and becomes friends with Lincoln medal collector Robert Hewitt Jr, who orders two different Lincoln centennial Medals, again by Roine, these are to be mounted inside books publish and distributed by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
1909 Deitsch Bros orders a model by Roine, which Henri reduces; medal states MEDALS AND STATUES REDUCD AND ENLARGED, it also carries Medallic Art Company name (unknown if any medals actually struck) but this image used in Deitsch Bros advertising.
1910 In contrast to these 1909 medals, Henri cuts a small Lincoln Centennial token-medal die for coin dealer Thomas Elder.
1910 (February 10) Henri marries Marie Cazes in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Weils Acquire Medallic Art Company
1910 New friend Robert Hewitt Jr visits Henri often and suggests Deitsch Bros start issuing a series of medals like those in Europe, the Circle of Friends of the Medallion is organized.
1910 Hewitt also suggest to Henri to buy Medallic Art Company from the Deitsch Bros, even offers to be a silent partner. Henry approaches the Deitsch with offer to buy MACO, they refuse but offer him 49% . Hewitt advises against this.
1910 Without Henri’s knowledge the Deitsch Bros sell all dies Henri had made to Davison’s Sons in Philadelphia. Since they already had a Janvier they did not want this machine, so the Deitsches sell the Janvier to Henri, who thought he got the name along with it. They objected, demanded $1,000 more for the name alone.
1910 Henri and Felix incorporate Medallic Art Company as a New York State corporation, each with half interest, but Felix continued to work with partner Jules Roine at Roine &Weil with the agreement they would share income no matter where it was earned, in effect Felix helped subsidize the new company until it became viable, this continued for five years.
1911 Henri’s first customer under his ownership was the American Numismatic Society, for whom he reduced model by Jules Roine and cut dies of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Plauette.
1913 A most notable medal was by John Flanagan for the Arthur Henry Rostron Titanic Rescue Medal authorize by U.S. Congress. Henri reduced Flanagan’s models and cut dies for the U.S. Mint to strike the medals.
1915 Felix’s partner Jules Roine becomes ill and wants to return to France, if effect dismantling the partnership. Felix then agrees to join with Henri to work full time at Medallic Art Co.
1915 They obtain a second Janvier, refurbish they galvano tanks, and did all medallic work except for the striking.
1918 A medal the pair had struck during World War I – the Foch Golf Medal — made them realize the need for a press to strike medals as well as perform all other steps of medal production. But they needed more capital. They entertained offers from Greenduck in Chicago, but refused that as they would have to relocate to Chicago. Also a similar offer from Davison’s Sons in Philadelphia fell through.
Clyde Trees Joins the Firm
1919 Through an attorney, Warren Rollin Voorhis, recommended by a sculptor friend, the Weils set forth their proposition for an associate who could help managed and provide the needed capital. The attorney mentioned a distant relative who might be of interest, Clyde Curle Trees.Voorhis sent Trees a letter, who came to New York and met with the Weils. Trees wanted references, American Numismatic Society and sculptor James Earle Fraser were given to him.
1919 A new corporation was formed — Henri as president, Felix as vice president, Clyde Trees as secretary treasurer. Weils held 51 %, Trees (and his backers) held 49% ownership.
1920 Trees finds new location for shop at 137 East 29th Street, two floors and a basement, made suitable alterations, hires the first full time employee, John Hartl, and finds a WW I surplus press available in Worcester, Massachusetts.
1920s Relationship between the two Weils and Clyde Trees were often strained. Trees wanted to advertise and promote, issue commissions to artists after receiving orders for medals; Weils wanted only to serve sculptors as they had in the past. Offers were made to buy out each other.
1929 Trees raises additional money from family in Indiana, Weils finally agree to sell their shares to Trees. Trees demanded that at least one Weil be in attendance at all times. This suited the Weils just fine as it gave each Weil a six-month vacation, often spend back in their native France.
1937 (December 18) A birthday anniversary lunch and employees dinner t5hat evening was given in honor of Henri Weil’s 75th birthday.
1938 (January 1) John Flanagan sends a letter to Clyde Trees in tribute to his friendship with Henri since “the first years of this century” – and his first medal – the Circle of the Friends of the Medallion – made by Henri.
1949 (July 27) Henri died White Plains, New York on visit to his daughter.

Read Full Post »

Janvier Die Engraving Pantograph

Janvier Die Engraving Pantograph

The computer might possibly be the “magic machine” for die engraving in the 21st century, much like the Janvier die-engraving pantograph was the magic machine of the 20th century. Computer engraving has come such a long way the Philadelphia Mint has mothballed all their Janvier machines and now rely entirely on the technology of computer engraving for all their needs in our national mint’s engraving department.

What’s more, they are phasing out all the “clay and plaster” modeling of coin and medal models. Two of the engraving staff now work, they tell me, exclusively on the computer. The other three clay and plaster modelers will continue, but will not be replaced by such artists in the future. All will model on the computer.

This hasn’t improved design or beauty of our coins and medals – they can just be produced faster is all. (I wrote of the U.S. Mint’s inherent design mediocrity here.) Design by computer only is certain to continue this trend.

Nevertheless, existing mint engravers encourage me not to sell computer engraving short – it is a major tool in their engraving toolbox.  Not all engravers use it; not all understand it yet. That is but one reason I would like to propose a convention with the theme of computer engraving so more people – including myself – can learn more about the technique, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it can benefit future die engraving.

Here are some suggestions:

General chairman.  John M Mercanti, former U.S. Mint Chief Engraver, resigned from the Mint December 31, 2010. He would make an ideal general chairman. He has stated he wants to stay in the field and is writing a book. We assume he has time now in his retirement to take on this responsibility.

An excellent co-chairman would be Donald Scarinci, who is also qualified and strongly involved in the art medal field. John has the contacts in the engraving field, Don has contacts in the art medal field.

Both gentlemen have administrative ability for this project.

Convention location. Both of these gentlemen live in New Jersey, which would make an ideal location for such a convention. Northern New Jersey has a number of venues, some near Newark airport, ideal for those who fly in. Also that location would be close to the international airports in New York City for those who come from other countries.

Length of convention.  Three or four days. The days of the week would be determined by availability of the site.

Time of convention.  Also determined by the availability of the site. Ideally Spring or Fall.

Dual concepts of the convention.  Computer engraving is somewhat new, less than two decades old. But the technology has progressed from use at mints and medalmakers around the world. A major shortcoming is that the beauty or attractiveness of the designs being created has not increased, but mints are benefiting from the savings in time it affords. But not every medallic artist is using computer technology.

Combining an art medal show with computer engraving would instill in the minds of engravers, would be engravers, the artists who attend, that beauty should become more of a goal than time-saving. These craftsmen would be exposed to the best of the past, and learn what is currently being produced around the world.

Dual audience appeal of the convention.  The target audience for the convention is likewise two fold – artists who create the coins and medals and those who collect and sell art medals. By bringing the two groups together, attendees learn the full scope of the field. Artists should learn what collectors want. Collectors should become appreciative of the effort that goes into creating coins and medals.

Workshops. These are mandatory to allow artists to get hands-on exposure to using the computer – and the software available for this technology – and would be a major function of the convention. Workshops would be conducted both by representatives of the software companies and by artists who are actively using this technology, who are experienced and qualified.

Two names come to my mind. Daniel Carr of Colorado is an independent medallist who has a decade of experience in using computer engraving for the medallic items he has created. The other is Joseph Menna of the U.S. Mint who has been using this technology even before he joined the Mint in 2005. Others would be added until at least two days of workshops would be filled.

Artists should bring their own laptops, software would be furnished, for some hands-on training in computer engraving design in the workshops.

Lectures.  Obviously lectures and workshops would cover computer engraving technology and the art medal field. I think it important that both the “how to” use the technology be combined with “what has been created.” Experts from both fields would participate. In addition, art authorities should be invited to discuss what is good medallic art and how to achieve it in designs currently being created.

Also important is to have a sufficient number of lectures to fill every day of the convention.

Some Proposed Lecture Topics.

How to Add Charm and Beauty to Your Coin and Medal Designs.
How Computer Engraving Differs from Clay and Plaster Designs.
It’s Still Bas-Relief!
Ten Tips to Improve Your Coin and Medal Designs.
Taboos and Restrictions on Coin and Medal Designs: You Can’t Say
That! You Can’t Show That!
What Art Styles Are Appropriate to Medallic Art.
Why Graphic Artists Don’t Make Good Medallic Artists.
How To Think in Two-and-a-half Dimensions.
21 Things to Consider for Your Next Medallic Design
Add Texture, Contrast and Detail to Your Next Coin and Medal Design.
The Importance of Allegory and Symbolism.
Perfect Your Portrait Ability – You’ll Do Lots of Portraits.
Study Calligraphy To Improve Your Lettering.
Modern Art in Medals – Medallic Objects.

Potential Sponsors.

The Engravers Journal.
American Medallic Sculpture Association.
British Art Medal Society.
And similar medallic art organizations in Canada, Europe and Japan.
National Sculpture Society.
Token And Medal Society and its publication, TAMS Journal.
Medal Collectors of America and its publication, MCA Advisory.
American Numismatic Association and its publication The Numismatist.
American Numismatic Society and its many publications.
KR Publications, and its many publications.
Whitman Publishing.
National Mints around the World.
Private Mints in America.
Computer Companies.

Cooperation of World Mints.  We can assume mints of the world would want to send their engravers and die making technicians. The scope of the convention for them would be more symposium where the attendees would learn the new technology and be exposed to beautiful medals of the past, as incentive to create more beautiful coins and medals in the future for their own country.

Perhaps the Mint Directors’ national meeting could be persuaded to meet at this same time and place. It would be to their benefit to know of this aspect of their mint activity. Also this would increase the number of exhibitors and booth rentals.

Booth rentals.  Vendors of computer engraving software are obvious exhibitors (for booth rentals). Among art medals would be art medal dealers. This would be a first as there has never been a separate art medal convention with dealers vending their wares.

Financial considerations.  Cost of the convention would be covered by booth rentals and registration of attendees of all kinds and classes.

Read Full Post »

When we read about Renaissance medalists and the earliest examples of art medals, we encountered the term “school of art.” Many of these early medallic artists were said to be a member of a certain “school of art.”

This was an attempt to bring together the medalists who had a similar style. The term was created by art historians and writers who grouped artists by their style and techniques used in the creation of their medallic works of art.

No “school” was involved. If any training was involved, it was not in a formal academic setting. Instead the artists talked to each other and shared methods and techniques about how they accomplish their tasks. This interchange of methods resulted in similar appearances of their final work. The work of two or more artists all began to look alike.

Often the style is the result of a technique of modeling or production which is intentionally passed along – or copied – among friendly artists, often repeating desired mannerisms. Art historians recognize this similarity and class these artists as members of a “school of art.”

Early Italian medals were studied, for example, by British Museum curator George Frances Hill who coined the name of a dozen schools of Renaissance medalists. Hill’s Corpus includes medallic works up to 1530. Later work by Alfred Armand continued to use some of Hill’s designated names of Renaissance schools of art. These were: Mantuan, Neopolitan, Venetian, Bolognese, Milanese, Roman, Florentine, Paduan and Emilian.

The name of the school as evidence here is a geographical name, the artists must exist close to one another at the same time and place to be able to exchange methodology. Infrequently they are named after a founder or leader of the artist group.

Schools of art do not last for more than a generation or two, but their influence may last longer or be more widespread, as succeeding artists emulate a favored style. The common denominator, of course, among members’ work is its similar appearance, a result of using a common style or technique in the creation of their art works.

Such was the case in America where a beaux-arts school of art existed near the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. With Augustus Saint-Gaudens as the forerunner, it included a dozen American medalists, including John Flanagan, Chester Beach, Daniel Chester French, Adolph Weinman, Victor David Brenner, James Earle Fraser, and ultimately Paul Manship.

These American medalists’ work were all characterized by an idealism and naturalism of their subjects rendered in a softer modeled technique. It took the French name and was influenced – if not in direct imitation of French medallic art of a previous generation. The style was greatly influenced by French medalists David d’Angers, Henri Chapu, Jules Clement Chaplain, Alexandre Charpenter and particularly Louis Oscar Roty.

This United States school of art has been documented by two numismatic writers in the field. Cornelius Vermeule, a classical curator at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, who had a fondness  for American medallic art, wrote a book Numismatic Art in America  (1977),* where he traced the development of styles in all our coins and medals. These ranged from what he called “Federalist style” of our earliest coins, to the 20th century medals of the above mentioned beaux-arts style.

The other work was by Barbara Baxter, a graduate art history student, entitled The Beaux-Arts Medal in America [see citations at end]. This was a catalog published in conjunction with an exhibit of this class of art medals she helped prepare at the American Numismatic Society in 1988.

What has not been published anywhere before is that another native school of art preceded the American beaux-arts movement. While the author was cataloging consigned lots for his auction sales when he was a medal dealer (1977-89) he noticed the similarity of a large group of American medals. These were all from a period following the Civil War until the end of the 19th century.

Ironically, the artists of these medals were hand engravers all located in Philadelphia! Since that was where the U.S. Mint was located I wondered if there was any connection.

Private engravers had always existed in Philadelphia in a consistent if not vibrant trade ever since the Mint was founded in 1792. These were the diesinkers whose work was always of smaller size, and, perhaps of less importance than what was produced at the Mint.

After all, any organization or private individual could petition the engravers at the Mint to create a private medal for them and the Mint would strike the desired quantity. The reason for this was the Philadelphia Mint had a press in America capable of striking a medal larger than two inches. (Although Scovill Manufacturing in Waterbury, Connecticut, had such press equipment as well.)

Mint engravers faced some restrictions, however. This outside work could not interfere with required Mint duties. Also, the Mint could not strike any medals of political nature, no medals for any person running for any political campaign.

Philadelphia Mint in mid 1800s

Philadelphia Mint in mid 1800s

Thus the private diesinkers in Philadelphia created, on the small screw presses they possessed, the small items – tokens for merchants and medals for political candidates – among others. At the time, the custom for candidates was to issue medals, often with their portrait, always with some campaign slogan, prior to any elections. News of who was running in elections was not all that widespread in 19th century America. Distributing small inexpensive medals was an ideal way to do this.

Philadelphia engravers received a consistent flow of medallic work that was not directed to the diesinkers in Boston or New York City. If any of these medallic artists received an order for a large medal, they could engrave the dies themselves and have the Mint strike it. (If not, they had to order large medals made in Europe.)

The author’s opinion is that some technology of preparing dies was exchanged between the private hand engravers of Philadelphia and the engravers at the Mint. It was inevitable that artisans of similar craft in the same city were apt to meet and talk, to exchange ideas, to pass along tips and tasks, methods were shared.

Thus I noticed the style of private Philadelphia engravers was similar to that used by Mint engravers. I suspect their technology for creating that style was similar and shared as well.

As a result, I determined a Philadelphia school of art existed for certain engravers which were active in that city in the later third of the 19th century.

The typical style of Philadelphia School of Art medalists was most evident with a single device. Their medallic work lacked subsidiary devices; no lesser design elements supported the main device. No attributes accompanied the main device. There were no, what British numismatists call, “accessory symbols.”

No seals or logos were associated with the issuing organization and none appeared on the same side as the device. The obverse design was a bare minimum occupied by a single device only accompanied by only the necessary lettering, almost always as legend around the periphery of the medal’s edge.

The technology to produce these medals was to engrave a device punch, sink this in a fresh diestock, then add the lettering a single letter at a time with letter punches. This was all done at the exact size of the intended medal, no reduction involved.

The staid, unadorned obverse design usually accompanied a reverse of all letters. In total, it was a simple style and its execution was devoid of all unnecessary elements. In art style terms it would be called minimalist.

Perhaps the popularity of this style among Philadelphia engravers, and members of this school of art, was exemplified by the small size of the medals they created.

If I had to characterize this Philadelphia style I would say: it was the least amount of work the engraver felt he could get by with. As such the style was the opposite, the antithesis, of Great Medallic Art of larger medals, which embraced the luxury of design, highly detailed relief, strong subject matter, often extra ornamentation and full use medallic format and principles.

For the hand engravers in 19th century Philadelphia this would not come – and their style would not be replaced until the introduction of the die-engraving pantograph, notably the Janvier, was introduced to American medalists early in the following century. Highly detailed relief and luxurious designs were easily obtained by oversize models reduced on this engraving machine, replacing these artists’ simplistic medallic style.

Members of this School of Art are listed below, but this list is not all the hand engravers which could be placed within this group, all living and working in Philadelphia in the last third of the 19th century.

DIEHL, John H.  (active 1869-83) medalist, Philadelphia.
Also struck many medals engraved by William H. Key.
Diel signed his dies J.H.D.

FRANK, August Conrad  (1864-1946) German-American
engraver, diesinker.
Born Germany, 1864.  Came to America 1893.
Founded August C. Frank Company, Philadelphia, 1894.
He was probably the only engraver for the firm in early
years, later he accepted dies engraved by others that his
firm would strike. After he died the firm was operated by
his sons but ultimately sold to Medallic Art Company,
15 September 1972.
Died Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 31 October 1946.
Signed Dewey Medal A.C.F.

JACOBUS, Peter H.  (c1836-c1904) German-American engraver,
diesinker, Philadelphia.
Born in Prussia about 1836.
Came to America and Philadelphia before 1852.
Partner in engraving firm Jacobus & Schell (1856-59)
with John J. Schell. On his own after 1860. He engraved
a crossbelt plate for several military organizations for
Civil War and after.  He was captain in 2nd Regiment,
Pennsylvania National Guard. Philip Jacobus (q.v.)
also an engraver, was a younger brother of Peter’s.
Listed in city directories until at least 1904, but his
date of death still remains unknown.
Signed some dies with initials PHJ.

KEY, William H.  (c1820-c1902) diesinker, engraver,
Philadelphia (c1844-50); U.S. Mint (1864-1885).
Born Brooklyn, New York (circa 1820).
Learned engraving from his father, Frederick C. Key
and in business with him (1854-60) as F.C. Key & Son,
then in partnership with John C. Odling, as Key & Odling
(1863-67). Employed at Philadelphia Mint after Civil War
(1864) as assistant engraver to William Barber; he was
dismissed in 1885. Listed as engraver in city directories
until 1885, but afterwards as engineer, until 1902.
William Key signed dies with full initials WHK (and
one die KEY F, later often misattributed to his father,
Frederick). Many uniform diameter dies were often
muled, frequently with their own F.C. Key & Son
storecard die; other mules of William Key and George
Hampton Lovett (q.v.) dies. Key may have engraved
the dies for Lingg & Brother’s American Centennial
1876 medalets.
Philadelphia medalist William Warner acquired many of
Key’s dies produced privately (no Mint dies) and struck
these on his own. Key was one of the most productive
American engravers (and possibly some unsigned dies
of the U.S. Mint and of Warner were his creations).

KRIDER, Peter L. (1821-1903?) engraver, diesinker, medalist, silversmith,
Philadelphia (active 1873-1903).
Established 1850 as silversmith, first with R. & W. Wilson,
later in partnership as Krider & Biddle with John W. Biddle
(1867-72) but whose only major numismatic work was the
Cincinnati Industrial Exposition Medal of 1872 (engraved
by Anthony C. Paquet). Later in business by himself as
Peter L. Krider Company, until 1903, during which he
executed many medals.
Because of his location in Philadelphia and relationship
with Mint personnel he did medallic work that came to
the Mint but they could not do (as political, campaign
medals), he also struck private medals by Mint engravers
(Paquet, Charles Barber) and perhaps did their overflow
work as well.
Died 1903 or later.

MORIN, Anthony C.  (fl 1849-60, died 1873) Early American
engraver, diesinker, chaser, seal engraver, Philadelphia.
Signed dies A.C.M. initials.

QUINT, Silas H.  (1849-?) engraver, Philadelphia, founder
Quint firm.  Silas was the son of Louis H. Quint, an
engraver from Maine (ca1824- ), but Silas was born in Philadelphia.

WARNER, William H. (fl 1868-1899) engraver, medalist, Philadelphia.
William formed a firm, Wm. H. Warner & Brother (1868)
with brother Charles K. Warner.


* A15  {1971}  Vermeule (Cornelius C.)  Numismatic Art in America; Aesthetics of the United States Coinage.  Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (1971) 266 pages, 249 illus. Reprinted (2010) Whitman Publishing Co.
Major work on art and style in American coins and medals.
[94 artists cited]
Cataloger’s Note: Before he died, Vermeule wrote the Preface to a printed version of the Dick Johnson’s Artists Databank in which he called the compiler “the American Forrer” in comparison to Leonard Forrer, the British numismatist who compiled the six-volume work of all the world’s medalists.

M42  {1987}  Baxter (Barbara A.)  The Beaux-Arts Medal in America. New York: American Numismatic Society. For Exhibition Sept 26, 1987 to April 16, 1988. 92 pages, illus.
[112 artists listed, 368 medallic items]

Read Full Post »