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Archive for the ‘Pantograph’ Category

IN RESEARCHING the early activities of what was to become Medallic Art Company in preparation for a history of the company, and the two Weil Brothers – Henri and Felix – one fact became quite evident. The pair continued to do what they had done for as long as they had been in New York City. They served at the direction of sculptors.

The Weils acquired art training in different ways. Henri had apprenticed to sculptor George Wagner, married to their sister, and served as his assistant for four years. Later Felix was also apprenticed to his brother-in-law as well. Each morning their job was to unwrap the clay model their brother-in-law was working on. At the end of the day they would moisten the clay and wrap the clay for the night.

Odd jobs around the studio occupied their daytime activities. It was impossible, however, to work for a sculptor and not observe the techniques and learn the ability to model the clay into final form. Henri was assigned small parts to model, which would be applied to a larger model. Later Felix did the same, perhaps inspiring him to become a sculptor. He enrolled at New York’s Cooper Union for nighttime studies.

At Cooper Union the pair met other aspiring sculptors, Felix’s fellow students. Not only did these people become close friends to the Weil brothers, these same artists were to gain fame later in life. While sculptors were competitors for art commissions, they tended to congregate in New York City, center of American business at the turn of the 20th century.

After leaving the Wagner studio Henri worked for a Belgian sculptor creating statuary for the 1892-93 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. When he returned to New York he is employed by a sculptural firm preparing all the decorative work for the Waldorf Hotel.

Felix struck out on his own, left his brother-in-law and went to work for sculptor Alex Doyle, who had a commission for a Yorktown monument. After a brief period at Cooper Union, Felix also studied at night at the National Academy of Design. As work at Doyle’s studio declines he applied to Philip Martiny, who also had commissions for work at the Columbian Expo. He is sent to Chicago with Martiny‘s models, ultimately to work in the same building with his brother, each for a different sculptor.

Following a bicycle accident in Chicago, Felix spends a year in Mexico City, then returns to New York City to form a sculpture business with Jules Edouard Roiné, a partnership, Roiné & Weil to last for a decade.

Henri joins the Deitsch Brothers, ladies handbag manufacturers, as a sculptor for the fine decorative silverwork attached to their handbags, then in fashion. As often happens, fashions change neglecting the need for such decoration. Meanwhile Henri, at his employers’ insistence, imported the first Janvier pantograph to America.

To save his job, Henri suggested what he knew best: solicit work from sculptors for work for the new Janvier. Success was slow at first, but sculptors started bringing their models to Henri to cut dies to strike medals. This work from sculptors lead to the beginning of Medallic Art Company.

What I have learned was the procedure of how the Weils obtained work after they acquired ownership of the Janvier and the company name. The artists brought the work to the Weils. They knew the Weils as friends, and as part of the sculptural community in New York City.

The sculptors drove the business. This was to continue for two decades. The Weils were serving in a capacity they knew well, and did well. They could take a sculptor’s bas-relief model or models and do whatever the artist wanted, cast a galvano metal relief, or make the dies and have medals struck. The Weils had taken their talents from sculptors’ assistants to furnishing a finished sculptural product at the highest level of sculptural accomplishment.

Below is a list of 63 sculptors for whom the Weils did work – galvano casts or die-struck medals — that first two decades of the firm.  Later, after the Weils had hired Clyde Curlee Trees in 1919, he compiled a list of sculptors in 1927 who could be added to this list, prospects for new work for the Weils’ talents. Both lists follow.

Artists of MACO Medals

First Two Decades

Robert Ingersoll Aitken  (1878-1949)
Evelyn Longman Batchelder  (1874-1954)
Chester Beach  (1881-1956)
Gutzon Borglum  (1867-1941)
John Joseph Boyle  (1852-1917)
Victor David Brenner  (1871-1924)
George Thomas Brewster (1862-1943)
Richard Edwin Brooks  (1865-1919)
Roger Noble Burnham (1876-1962)
Henry Kirke Bush-Brown (1857-1935)
Charles Calverley  (1833-1914)
Pierre J. Cheron  or Pierrez Cheron (?)
Gail Sherman Corbett  (1871-1952)
Russell Gerry Crook  (1869-1955)
Leonard Crunelle  (1872-1944)
Ulysses S.J. Dunbar  (1862-1927)
Ulric Ellerhussen  (1879-1957)
Paul Fjelde  (1892-1987)
John Flanagan  (1865-1952)
James Earle Fraser  (1876-1953)
Laura Gadin Fraser  (1889-1966)
Daniel Chester French  (1850-1931)
Johanes Sophus Gelert  (1852-1923)
Louis Albert Gudebrod  (1872-1961)
Ernest Eimer Hannan  (1875-1945)
Jonathan Scott Hartley  (1845-1912)
Eli Harvey  (1860-1957)
Ernest Bruce Haswell  (1889-1965)
Henry Hering  (1874-1949)
Anna Hyatt Huntington  (1876-1973)
John Milton Jehu   (fl 1912-13)
Jeno Juszko  (1880-1954)
Thomas Hudson Jones  (1892-1969)
Gozo Kawamura (1886-1950)
Charles Keck  (1875-1951)
Ernest Wise Keyser  (1876-1959)
Isidore Konti  (1862-1938)
H. Augustus Lukeman  (1871-1935)
Edward McCartan  (1879-1947)
R. Tait McKenzie  (1867-1938)
Herman Atkins MacNeil  (1866-1947)
Paul Manship (1885-1966)
Joseph Maxwell Miller (1877-1933)
John Mowbray-Clarke  (1869-1953)
Josephine W. Newlin  (?)
Allan Newman (1875-1940)
M. Devoe White Peden [Mrs.] (?)
Attilio Piccirilli   (1868-1945)
Bela Lyon Pratt  (1867-1917)
George DuPont Pratt (1869-1935)
Steven Augustus Rebeck  (1891-1975)
Ulysses A  Ricci  (1888-1960)
Jules Edouard Roiné (1857-1916)
Augustus Saint-Gaudens  (1848-1907)
Hans Schuler (1874-1951)
Janet Scudder  (1869-1940)
Theodore Spicer-Simson  (1871-1959)
Jonathan M. Swanson   (1888-1963)
Lorado Taft (1860-1936)
Fred Martin Torrey  (1884-1967)
Adolph Weinman  (1870-1952)
Julia Bracken Wendt  (1871-1942)
Emil Robert Zettler  (1878-1946)

Additional Artists 
Trees Published in 1927

Mrs. Oakes Ames
Caroline Peddle Ball
Madeline A. Bartlett
Paul Bartlett
Edward Berge
Roger Nobel Burnham
Jules Leon Butensky
Gaetano Cecere
Rene Chambellan
Edwardo Conta
Joseph Coletti
Henri Crenier
Jorgen C. Dreyer
Antony de Francisci
Louisa Eyre
Robert Everhart
Sally James Farnam
Beatrice Fenton
Alexandra Finta
Edwin Frey
Harriett Frishmuth
Sherry Fry
Emil Fuchs
John Gregory
Beatrice Fox Griffith
Francis Grimes
Fredric V. Guinzburg
Charles Andrew Hafner
C.A. Hamann
John Hancock
Walter Hancock
Rachel M. Hawes
Leon Hermant
Frederic C. Hibbard
Charles Hinton
Malvina Hoffman
Victor S. Holm
Karl Hlava
Mrs. William Fetch Kelley
Josephine Kern
Henry Hudson Kitson
Isidore Konti
Gaston Lachaise
Anna Coleman Ladd
Albert Lasalle
Jack Lambert
Lee Lawrie
Arthur Lee
Alfred Lenz
George Lober
Frederick W. MacMonnies
Sue Watson Marshall
Joseph Martino
Herman Matzen
Harriett H. Mayor
Alfred Mewett
May Mott-Smith-Small
Mary Mowbray-Clarke
Joseph C. Motto
Eli Nadelman
Berthold Nebel
Josephine W. Nevins
Charles H. Niehaus
Violet Oakley
Sashka Paeff
Ernesto Bigni del Pratta
Ferrucio Piccirilli
Furio Piccirilli
Albin Polasek
Phinister Proctor
Brenda Putnam
Edmund T. Quinn
Frederick G. R. Roth
Charles Cary Rumsey
Antonio Salemme
Victor Salvatore
Anton Schaaf
Otto Scheizer
Ruth Sherwood
Emil Siebern
Walter A. Sinz
Karl F. Skoog
Ishmael Smith
Mrs. Lindsey M. Sterling
Eliza Talbott Taylor
Count Leo Tolstoy
Leilah Usher
Bessie Potter Vonnoh
Albert Weiner
Alice Morgan Wright
Enid Yandell
Albert C. Young
Mahonri M. Young
Marco Zim

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two-pound modern British coin bears the edge lettering WE STAND ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS, a quote attributed to Sir Isaac Newton. By fate, we find Sir Newton one of the participants in the development of the field by his position as Warden, later Master, of the London Mint (see entry for 1696).

A variant of Newton’s quote is “We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us – we provide the shoulders for those who follow us.” Because of that truth, the development of art medals will continue as a vibrant field in the future.

Art medals, like their brethren coins, document current people and events and last forever! The longevity of both diminutive sculptural objects are unsurpassed by any other art media or form of artistic expression.

We know what figures of history really looked like — Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, obscure Kings of the Middle Age, Columbus — by their portraits on coins, and medals. (Cleopatra was not the raving beauty of an Elizabeth Taylor!)

We learn that this documentation of human events by the artistic expression of bas-relief on small permanent metal artifacts become the thrust of museum acquisition. Further we celebrate why these objects hold such fascination for individual collectors. Art medals are preserved, venerated and intended to be viewed forever! I have tried to identify the 100 most important developments of the past six and one-half centuries — and the people involved — that have brought us to our present position in the field of art medals. We are standing on the shoulders of a small group of dedicated artists, artisans, mechanics, innovators and inventors, authors and administrators who came before us.

Some objects called “medallions” were created in the Roman world. But that development did not have a follow up. Scholars tend to give Pisanello credit for the invention of the art medal as the first of a continuous movement of an image and caption preserved in metal as art medals.

Numismatists, writers and catalogers in the field will find this chart useful. It pinpoints the year in which a technology was placed in use by advanced medalists or a first event which influenced the issuance of some medallic operation or class of medalllic items.

As an example, electroplating first occurred in England in 1840. Thus any medallic item made before 1840 cannot be goldplated or silverplated. (It was FIREGILDED.)

Medallic technology is still advancing. The 20th century was known as the century of the die-engraving pantograph (not entirely replacing hand engraving of previous 25 centuries). The 21st century will be known as the century of computer engraving. We continue to advance.

The symbol ► leads to the next related development. Books are cited from author’s master bibliography with a letter-number bold-face catalog number.

Year Innovation
1439 Pisanello [Pisano, Antonio(1397?-?1455) Italian sculptor, painter, inventor] creates first art medal of John Paleologos by lost wax casting in bronze from wax pattern. (►1888)
Circa 1450 First medallic plaques and plaquettes cast in metal (usually bronze) from single-sided wax pattern similar to cast reliefs which had been made for centuries. Medallic plaques bore inscriptions which previous reliefs had not.
1500 Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Famed Florentine artist, engineer and scientist envisioned blanking, coining dies, striking presses and hydraulics. He made drawings of these, published in his notebooks. He recorded the earliest theory of blanking and coining presses, no documentation exists of da Vinci actually building or using these innovations. However, he created some highly thoughtful solutions to coin techno- logy problems. A model of his blanking press was built from his drawings (financed by IBM) now on view in the Smithsonian Institution. It shows two blanking heads back-to-back that could accomplish dual blanking on the same strip. Leonardo’s screw press for striking papal seals is on view in the museum in his home town in northern Italy, Vinci. (►1520s)
1506 The first screw press for striking coins, seals and medals was developed by an Italian architect, Donato Bramante, and by 1506 he was blanking sheets of lead for striking seals for Pope Julius II (1503-13). Other early screw presses where built by Nicolo Grosso and used at the Florence Mint for blanking at approximately the same time. (►1520s)
1520s Striking medals with dies in a screw press, rather than producing by casting, becomes common particularly in Rome where Cesati, Leoni and Cellini struck papal medals. This developed independently from a struck Carrara medal of Padua in 1390 and a Sesto medal of Venice in 1393. While still of small module, early medals take on a bolder appearance than coins and ultimately are struck in larger diameters.
1530 The principle of the screw press illustrated and described by Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1574) in his work on goldsmithing; he used a screw press this year for striking lead seals for Pope Clemente VII (1523-34). (►1550)
1550 Max (Marx) Schwab, Augsburg, Germany, develops screw press for striking coins exclusively. Builds these, and roller presses, as first supplier of mint machinery. He was rebuffed in Germany and Italy, Schwab sells French Henri II equipment for the Paris Mint, it arrives in 1551. (►1553)
1552 Antoine Brulier in France develops the first blank cutting equipment; although primitive, it works, in contrast to da Vinci’s blanker of 1500, illustrated in his notebooks but apparently never built. (►1790)
1553 Mint technology is spread among many European countries by Etienne Bergeron (active 1550-63), an Augsburg mechanic who brought mint technology to the Paris,Troyes, Lorraine mints. Gifted mechanically, he was able to produce well-struck coins at each of the mints he set up. This was, in effect, the birth of milled coinage. (But he was driven out of Paris in 1560 by the moneyers whose technology he replaced.) (►1555)
1555 In Paris, Aubin Olivier attempts to use a screw press to produce an engraved edge on a special collar, perhaps before the blank is struck with obverse and reverse dies. (►1651)
1560 Eloy Mestrelle (?-1578) developed first screw press for the Tower Mint of Elizabeth I. In 1570 he struck a medal to complain his tools were confiscated. The obverse bore a bust of the Queen along with the inscription: WHAT ARE WE WITHOUT THEE? The reverse’s central device is the Tower with the plea: WHAT IS THIS WITHOUT TOOLS?
1562 Dissatisfied with existing methods of suspending medals for wearing (by drilling a hole in the medal), Dutch and British medalists began attaching a loop to the edge of medals. William Herbert First Earl of Pembroke Medal by Steven von Herwijek contained an integral loop. (Eimer 44).
1663 Louis XIV establishes the Academie des Inscriptons to devise legends and images for his comprehensive series of medals celebrating the major events of his reign.
1684 First calendar medal issued as medals were the ideal device to bear a calendar to identify a date. A British manufacturer, W. Foster, made his first calendar medals this year. Despite their apparent uselessness after the year portrayed they are widely collected as a popular topic or thematic.
1696 First branch mints established by Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) the first year he was named Warden if London Mint (named Master 1698). While dies were made in London, coins were struck at Bristol, Chester, Exeter, Norwich and York for the same reason of branch mints anywhere: to meet local demand for coin, to reduce costs of transporting bullion or struck coin.
1750 Heavier screw presses with cast iron frames were made of a single piece for greater strength at the mint in Kremnica. It could strike a coin or medal up to 40mm diameter. (►1812)
1756 English manufacturer Benjami Huntsman (1704-1776), invented a method of making crucible steel that proved most useful for dies. Matthew Boulton used Huntsman steel for his dies at his Soho Mint. Huntsman’s firm supplied steel suitable for dies to mints and medal makers throughout the world for nearly 200 years, until 1950.
1762 First proof surface struck on a medal made in England for the Pitt Club (it was placed in a watch crystal to protect the delicate reflective surface). (►1855)
1775 Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) and James Watt (1736-1819) in Birmingham join forces for building steam engines, the forerunner of using steam power for minting, and of the establishment of their private Soho Mint for the manufacture of coins, medals and tokens. (►1788)
1788 In their pursuit to manufacture products using steam power Boulton and Watt obtain a screw press, and within a year they had devised a way to use their steam engines to power a screw press powerful enough to strike coins and medals. (►1789)
1789 Matthew Boulton establishes Soho Mint in Birmingham. With partner James Watt, he built factory to build steam engines (1775), used these to go into metalworking, button making, and ultimately into coining; built coining presses and executed his first coin-age contract (1786), in effect establishing the first private mint, Soho Mint (1789), Boulton hires accomplished engravers, first Jean-Pierre Droz (1789), then Conrad Heinrich Kuchler (1793), won British coining patent (1790), struck Britain’s (cartwheel) copper coinage (1797). Boulton was considered to perform the coinage for the fledgling American nation – even establishing a branch mint in America – because of his quickly earned reputation as the most technically advanced mint any where by 1791 (Thomas Jefferson opposed this, so a federal mint was established in Philadelphia in 1792 but obtained blanks and technology from Boulton, Jefferson even tried to hire away Boulton’s chief technician Droz). Boulton helped rebuild England’s Tower Mint (1805), constructing all coining machinery and installing steam power. So efficient were his coining presses constructed at this time, they lasted until 1882. Boulton made tremendous improvements in diemaking, hubbing, blanking, coining and striking both coins and medals. A leader in the Industrial Revolution he is recognized for creating the first private mint and is considered the Father of the Modern Minting. (►1799)
1789 Boulton hires Jean-Pierre Droz (1746-1823) a Swiss die engraver, engineer, from the Paris Mint to prepare dies, improve minting equipment and help obtain business for their fledgling mint (and become the first factory artist). Droz was exceptional in that he had great talent for die engraving, but also rare mechanical aptitude. He invents the first split collar (virole brisée) in 1783 for edge lettering and submits this to Paris Mint. At the Paris mint, Droz and mechanic Philippe Gengembre devised a way to feed the blanks and remove the struck pieces while the press was still manually operated. Droz adds his feed and delivery system to a screw press which Boulton had automated with steam power, in effect creating the first automated coining press. He prepares many patterns for coins and medals and installs equipment and processes making Soho Mint the most technically advanced in the world. Somewhat unhappy, however, in his position at Soho Mint and his relationship with Boulton, Droz returns to France. (►1799)
1789 First use of clad metal for medals. Newly hired Jean-Pierre Droz uses Barton’s metal to strike the George III Recovery Medal in 1789 (Brown 311). Barton’s metal was formed by rolling strips of silver or gold on a copper core, with adhesion much like that used for Sheffield plate.
1793-5? First noncoin item struck at U.S. Mint, the Rickett’s Circus Medal (Jaeger-Bowers 23rd Greatest American Medals & Tokens). Not only is it the first medal, but also the first private (nongovernmental or national medal) struck by the U.S. Mint. Medals continue to be struck of both kinds (national medals struck continuously thereafter, private medals until 1956). (►1855)
1795 The hydraulic press is invented in England by Joseph Bramah; but it is not fully used by the British Royal Mint until more than fifty years later, and a century later at the Philadelphia Mint in America. (Great Britain ►1850s; United States ►1892)
1799 Jean-Pierre Droz returns to Paris from his employment with Matthew Boulton at the Soho Mint in Birmingham. He becomes General Administrator of the coins and medals, keeper of the mint museum and consultant to mints of the world for processes and equipment for making coins and medals.
1805 Matthew Boulton, at his Soho Mint produces his first edge lettering in raised letters on a medal he created in Birmingham. He gave to each of the officers engaged in the Battle of Trafalgar a medal that bore a portrait of Lord Nelson. Around the medal was the edge lettering: TO THE HEROES OF TRAFALGAR FROM M BOULTON. This was accomplished by the segmented collar (virole brisée) technology he learned from Droz, but occurred after Droz had left his employ. (►1850)
1812 In Germany, mechanic Diedrich Uhlhorn (1764-1837) builds his first coining press based on a knuckle-joint rather than a screw for power in one of the most important breakthroughs in minting technology. (►1817)
1815 Medallist Benvenuto Pistrucci (1784-1855) was commissioned to create a medal commemorating the battle of Waterloo. He took over three decades to fulfill the commission. Pistrucci had engraved dies so large – 5½ inches – it could not be struck. So in 1849 Pinches wisely made the Waterloo Medal in galvano form. (►1849).
1816 Steam power arrives at United States Mint at Philadelphia for most machinery. Up to this time about half (including the screw press) were powered by man, others run by horse power (as a gin with horses walking around in circles). More powerful steam engine is build at the Philadelphia Mint (►1874).
1817 Diedrich Uhlhorn, patents his knuckle-joint press and paves way for creating an advanced coining press (surpassing the screw press) and establishes a factory for their production. His press (called a “lever press”) utilizes a flywheel to transfer power to the die by a knuckle-joint hinge. His factory is active for more than 60 years supplying 57 presses for coining to nine European mints by 1847. He had died in 1837, but the factory is continued (Uhlhorn & Sohn) by his sons, who had built and sold 200 more presses by 1876. The firm is out of business by 1882 but its influence on coin and medal making was unprecedented in history.
1819 Dupeyrat sells his die-engraving pantograph to the British Royal Mint (30 years after selling one to the private Soho Mint); also to the Karlsruhe Mint in Germany, and other European mints at same time. Italian medallist Benedetto Pistrucci, who is proficient in the use of the reducing pantograph, installs the machine and instructs workers at Royal Mint in its use. (►1824)
1820 In France an ingenuous machinist Ambrose Wohlgemuth builds a “medal and cameo reducing and engraving lathe.” He used modern principles of reduction but still employed pedal power, as had all previous copying machines. (►1830)
1825 French sculptor David d’Angers (1788-1856) creates his first portrait bas-relief of what was to become his Gallery of Contemporaries, a first sculptural portrait series of famous contemporary persons.While his relief portraits were similar to a medallic format – in effect the forerunner ofan art medal series, they were originally cast – it was not until later they were electrolytically cast as portrait galvanos. Although his relief creations preceded those of Ponscarme’s, those of d’Angers series were not credited with the innovation of modern art medals. (►1868)
1828 In Britain, first medals issued in series sold by subscription to the public by publisher Edward Thomason (1769-1849):. In all he produced three medallic series: 1) Medallic Illustrations of Science and Philosophy, 2) The Kings and Queens of England, plus 3) Thomason’s famed Medallic Bible. Previous medal series were papal medals since 16th century and Napoleon medals issued in France
Circa 1830 Medallist Armand Auguste Caqué (1793-1881), working in the Paris Mint, used the Hulot machine there; makes mechanical improvements on their pantograph copying lathe. (►1836)
1836 First die-engraving pantograph developed which employed a rotating cutter in effect making the pantographic reducer a mechanically controlled milling machine instead of a copying lathe. The inventor, Contamin (no other name or dates known) was French; he had adapted an earlier French mechanical pantograph by Jean Baptiste Dupeyrat, ca 1788. Contamin’s engraving pantograph was in widespread use for over 60 years sometimes in competition with the English mechanical engraver developed by C.J. Hill. (►1840)
1837 A German physicist and engineer, Moritz Herman Jacobi (1801-1874) develops an electrolysis process he calls “galvanoplasty” which today is known as electroforming, widely used for making oversize coin and medal patterns to be pantographically reduced. Process is ideal because it reproduces fine detail in hard metal necessary for coin and medal patterns. (►1840)
1840 George Richards Elkington and Henry Elkington (cousins) receive the first patent for silverplating, marking the date for the development of electroplating. Early electroplating was done with primitive batteries until commercial electricity became available. (►1889)
Circa 1840 Medallist Jean Baptiste Maire (1787-1859) in France, makes improvement on the reducing machine, has knowledge (or machine) of Contamin and/or Caqué. It is Maire’s (or Contamin’s) engraving pantograph that is first to use a hard metal pattern made by electroforming – Jacobi’s process – (previous patterns were cast metal). (►1842)
1842 The German-American painter Ferdinand Pettrich (1798-1872) was the first use of a fine artist to directly model a design in relief for an American coin or medal, the John Tyler Indian Peace Medal (Julian IP-21). He modeled a relief portrait that was cast in iron then reduced on the Philadelphia Mint’s Contamin lathe by Franklin Peal , who cut the Tyler Medal in three sizes. (► 1851)
1849 Pinches wisely made the Waterloo Medal in galvano form. The world’s most famous electroform was electrolytically cast by Pinches in a double-sided electrotype after Benvenuto Pistrucci engraved a die too large to be struck (but later stuck in smaller size (►1972).
1851 In England machinist C.J. Hill (active 1851-1866) begins work on his die-engraving pantograph, continuing to improve it, perhaps inspired by a Contamin or the reducing machine improved by James Watt at Soho Mint. (►1856)
1851 British improvement of hubbing, hobbing and the first use by this term; actual copying of relief designs in metal (iron) had been done (530 B.C.) almost since first coins (as hubs have been found of coins of 530 B.C.). Strong screw presses had been used for hubbing since the first screw press had been developed (1506). (►1892)
1855 A separate department for striking medals was created at the Philadelphia Mint by Mint Director James Ross Snowden. This despite the fact the Mint had made medals since its very inception. (►1879)
1856 C.J. Hill perfects his die-engraving pantograph. Solicits die work he can perform on his machine, preferring not to let the machine out of his control. (►1866)
1861 First medal design patented in America, the General Winfield Scott Patriotic Medal of 1861 by C.G. Quilfeldt and J. Lebretton. This 2½-inch white metal medal bears the legend in tiny letters on the reverse: “Entered According to Act of Congress in the Year 1861 by D.E. Hall in the Clerks Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.” (The use of the first copyright mark was not to come until 1909.) No national coin or medal needs to be copyrighted, they are protected by counterfeiting laws, but the design of private medals were protected, first by patent, then by copyright laws.
1863 First formal training in creating medallic art taught in Paris at Ecole Des BeauxArts where a studio was established for medal engraving. In 1868 Hubert Ponscarme was named professor in charge of medallic training where artists Bottee, Charpentier, Daniel-Dupuis, Roty and others were trained. (► 1868)
1866 C.J. Hill obtains a British patent on his die-engraving pantograph, then sells the machine and all rights to medallist William Wyon (for 2000 pounds). (►1867)
1867 United States Mint purchases Hill pantograph from William Wyon, September 1867. It is received and placed in use in 1868, but mint engravers still use the Hill pantograph like they had used their Contimin: only to make reduction punches of design devices from oversize models (and add lettering and figures with punches). In his 1867 annual report Mint Director Henry R. Linderman says “this important and interesting machine … reduces copies of bas-reliefs by which the freedom of execution of the larger model is susceptible in the hands of the artist, can be preserved in the most minute proportions … to the face of the coin for which it is designed.” (►1902)
1868 Hubert Ponscarme (1827-1903) considered the founder of modern art medalswith his creation of a medal for the Academy of Inscriptions for Belle-Letters bearing the portrait of Joseph Naudet (the Academy’s secretary for fifty years). Ponscarme rejected the staid design style existing for French state-sponsored medals, employing instead a new freedom in medallic design so different it launched the art medal movement.(►1899)
1878 After years of extensive research author Joseph Loubat (1831-?) published his sumptuous work on American national medals with the second volume containing line engravings of all 86 medals. M2 {1878} Loubat (Joseph Florimond) The Medallic History of the United States of America, 1776-1876. New York: privately published. 2 vols, pages. Reprinted (1967): New Milford, Conn. Norman Fladerman.
1879 The United States Mint strikes its first U.S. oval medal struck within an oval collar, the Rutherford B. Hayes Indian Peace Medal, 1879 (IP-42). In an attempt to imitate the hand engraved Indian Peace Medal bearing George Washington’s standing portrait, Mint authorities instructed chief engraver George T. Morgan to create the oval design and produce oval tooling (blanking dies, oval collar and housing). After some delays, the first oval medal was struck in November or December 1879. It first went on sale to the public (along with the oval Garfield Indian Peace Medal of 1881) in 1883 and continued to be offered until the stringent cutback of List Medals in 1986). (An earlier oval medal had been made at the mint, American Centennial Massachusetts Tree Medal, 1876, CM-38, but only 420 pieces were made, it is doubtful a collar would have been made for such a short run; these were probably trimmed oval after being struck on round gold and silver blanks.)
Circa 1888 French medallists refine process of artistic patina (similar to that placed on statues) to be applied to medals of exceptional artistic quality. Medallic portraits in the Famous Celebrities series by David d’Angers were electrolytically cast as galvanos were among the first medallic items to be patinated. (►1930)
1889 Commercial electricity became available in America ultimately to power machinery at U.S. Mints. It also eliminated the use of batteries for electrolysis work. (We have Thomas Edison to thank for much of the pioneering of commercial electricity, 1889, as generating stations, transmission of electric current and, thusly, modern electrolysis, despite his choice of direct current. It was, however, George Westinghouse choice of alternating current for commercial transmission required rectifiers to convert to direct current for electrolysis.) (►1901)
1892 Columbian Exposition in Chicago spawns tremendous activity in coin and medal field. Medal issuers as far afield as Europe and South America strike medals: engravers emigrate to America (as August Frank) for the purpose of this gigantic medallic opportunity. The number of famous firsts inspired by this World’s Fair is legion:

  • First commemorative coins issued by U.S. for the Exposition and the first for three commemorative denominations: quarter, half and silver dollar.
  • First product medal at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition..
  • First stamp and stencil medal for Expo delegates.
  • Aluminum first used extensively for medals made for this event.

The activity – industrial, commercial and artistic – generated by this event is unprecedented in history, reflected by the vast number of coins and medals issued for this event, unsurpassed until the American Bicentennial. (►1976)

1892 U.S. Mint at Philadelphia receives its first hubbing press devoted exclusively to hubbing working dies for coin production and a more powerful hydraulic press for striking medals. While these presses can entirely replace screw presses, they still remain in use in the engraving department. The new presses are now powered by electricity for the first time. (►1901)
1892 Victor Janvier (1851-1911) establishes his atelier in Paris to produce three-dimensional reliefs, models and statues. He begins experimenting with existing die-engraving and sculpture-reducing pantographs, develops his revolutionary twin-cone drive. (►1899)
1898 American engraver Victor D. Brenner travels to Paris to study medallic art under Louis Oscar Roty, world’s leading medallist; to learn how to model bas-reliefs oversize and have models reduced by die-engraving pantograph; he also studied with Alexander Charpentier and at Julian Academy. Brenner – under Roty’s guidance – models his self-portrait in a pallet shape, reproduced only in galvano form (electrogalvanic cast) in Paris; second self-portrait this year, in two methods.
1899 Brenner creates first medallic model: Motherhood, modeled from a similar work by Roty; it was pantographically reduced and 3-inch die cut; [later issued in America 1911as fourth medal in Circle of Friends medal series; replicated by Medallic Art Company in 1929, even made into a silver plate by MAco 1976].
1899 Victor Janvier patents his die-engraving pantograph creating the most successful reducing machine to be used by mints and medal makers throughout the world during most of 20th century; establishes factory to manufacture his pantograph machines. (►1902)
1899 French art critic Roger Marx creates first art medal society series, the Société des Amis de la Médaille François (Society of Friends of the French Medal).The series ran from 1900 to 1920 with 63 medals by 56 artists. Its history was published by Nicholas Maier, 2010. It spawned similar art medal societies in Belgium, Austria, Germany, asubsequent series sponsored by the Paris Mint, and, ultimately the Circle of Friends of the Medallion in the United States.(►2010)
1900 Universal International Exposition at Paris made extensive use of art medals for award medals and extensive exhibits of medalli c artists’ work of both European and American medalists. A medallist from each nation exhibiting was selected as a “president” of his nation’s exhibiting artists. Bronze medals were awarded to every exhibitor, silver to previous exhibitors, plus a gold GRAND PRIX for the most outstanding.
1901 First fully electrified mint in the world built in Philadelphia for the Third U.S. Mint, on Spring Garden Street, replaced the Second Mint that had become overcrowded and inadequate. The new building and new source of power created many opportunities for innovations. In his annual mint report for 1902, Director George E. Roberts related some innovations of equipment and processes installed in the new mint building:

  1. Heavier blanking presses, permitting dual blanking and sometimes even three blanks cutout with each press cycle of all dimes and quarters (larger size coins and all gold still blanked one at a time) [minor coin blanks still purchased by private metal suppliers].
  2. Automatic weighing machines; six new Seyss scales installed for weighing blanks – sorting out underweight (to be remelted), and overweight pieces (to be adjusted or remelted) – and to check weight of struck coins.
  3. Automatic adjusting of blanks, not by hand, but by shaving slightly overweight blanks in new upsetting machines.
  4. Gas furnaces replaced coal and wood burning ovens, for both melting metal alloy formulations and for annealing strip and blanks.
  5. Electric motors directly connected to all equipment including rolling mills, presses, blanking, upsetting – all now electrified.
  6. Electric generation, the Mint installs their own equipment to generate electricity, all mechanical equipment has individual motors – no longer were shafts and belts necessary to transfer power from their monster Corliss steam engine.
1902 First Janvier pantograph imported to America by Dietsch Brothers in New York, operated by Henri Weil (to produce die-struck decorations for lady’s handbags) and firm offered to cut dies for the jewelry industry. Weil cuts dies for decorative accessories until fashions change, offers to make medal dies. (►1907)
1902 England Spinks begins the serial book publication of mammoth work on world medalists by Leonard Forrer (1869-1953). E3 {1902-30} Forrer (Leonard) Biographical Dictionary of Medallists, Coin, Gem and Seal-engravers, 500 B.C–A.D. 1900. 8 volumes. London: Spink & Son. Reprinted editions (1965) London: Spink Son; (1970) New York: Burt Franklin; revisededition (1980) London: Baldwin & Sons and A.G. van Dussen (Maastrich). 5,2 pages, illus.This is the preeminent reference work for engravers, diesinkers and medallists. International and covers all time periods, from ancient to date of public tion (early 20th cent). Forrer began running biographical information in Spink & Son’s monthly Numismatic Circular as early as 1892. These were gathered in bound volumes beginning in 1902, and continued through 1930. Volume 1 was revised slightly in the 1980 Baldwin/van Dussen reprint (volume 1 page references may be different in other editions). An Index of 311 pages (compiled by J.S. Martin) was added to the 1980 set.Forrer’s style is eclectic; he included excerpts from many sources (now called “cut and paste”) These are often in the language of the original, thus styles of listings are those of the original source. Errors are amazingly light for such large volume of data, but he does include some nonexistent artists (e.g. “Beach, J.”) and medals that are not those of the listee (e.g. Sneider, Robert contains medals he sold rather than he created). One idiosyncrasy: All artists from North and South America are all classed as American.
1907 First medal cut on Janvier pantographin America portrays Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Produced by Henri Weil (employed by Dietsch Bros. in New York), for sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt. His oversize models of complete design for bothsides of a medal replaced need for hand engraved dies or dies made by reduction punches with lettering added later by letter punches. Medals struck by Tiffany & Co with Weil’s dies. (►1910)
1907 The United States Mint, Philadelphia, purchases its first Janvier pantograph at the insistence of President Theodore Roosevelt who learned from sculptor Augustus St-Gaudens of its existence. St-Gaudens model for high relief $20 gold coin was to be the first American coin reduced on the Janvier. Medallic Art founder Henri Weil, who had instructed mint engravers on how the Janvier pantograph was operated, was later asked by St-Gaudens assistant, Henry Hering, for assistance in lowering relief. Chief engraver Charles E. Barber professed St-Gaudens’s model was still unsuitable, the relief was too high, ultimately lowered for the two varieties of this coin in 1907.
1909 First American art medal series, Circle of Friends of the Medallion issued in New York City with Hudson-Fulton Medal by John Flanagan and struck by Medallic Art Company. Twelve medals were issued by eleven artists, two a year until 1915. Medals house in books written by Charles deKay. It was the forerunner of the Society of Medallists. (►1930)
1910 Medallic Art Company is incorporated under control of Henri and Felix Weil who acquired rights to the name and the Janvier lathe former owned by the Deitsch Brothers. As sculptors’ assistants, their intent is to offer their services to American sculptors for making bas-relief productions either as galvano casts or struck medals, literally the first firm in America devoted exclusively to art medal manufacture. (►1930)
1910 International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals at ANS, lasted less than a month, but of profound influence in the numismatic field; an extensive illustrated catalog published the following year. NE2 {1911} American Numismatic Society. Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals … March, 1910. New York: American Numismatic Society. With introduction by Agnes Baldwin Brett. (1911), 412 pages, illus.[2,052 numbered items]. Often cited “ANS (IECM)” initials of title. The medallic work of 194 medallists of Europe and America (56) who accepted an invitation to exhibit in NYC; this catalog is an expansion of a brief list published before the exhibition.
1910 United States commission of Fine Arts established. An arbiter of taste in all federal projects including coins and medals, as well as rchitecture and sculpture.
1914 First use of term “art medals” in an article by U.S. Mint curator Thomas Comparette; he listed one year’s numismatic creations in three categories: coins, commercial medals and art medals issued in 1913. N7 {1914} Comparette (Thomas Louis) Coins and Medals Produced in the United States in 1913, American Journal of Numismatics 47: (1914) pp 142.
1919 Saltus medal established by the American Numismatic Society to recognize American medallic talent. The J. Sanford Saltus Medallon was created by Adolph A.Weinman, who won the award the following year, 1920.
1929 American engraver, medallist, chief engraver, U.S. Mint John R. Sinnock (1888-1947) first to use ART MEDAL as inscription on two portrait medasl of Thomas Edison.
1930 First issue of the Society of Medalists, founded by art patron George DuPont Pratt and Clyde Curlee Trees, president, Medallic Art Company. It issued two medals a year continuously for 75 years, reproducing the medallic creations of the top Americansculptor-medallists of the 20th century. Each medal was given a special patina.
1946 The first commercial epoxy resin is offered by Ciba, based on 1936 patents of Pierre Castan of Switzerland and S.O. Greenlee of the United States. Industry gradually adopts this “plastic tooling” for making molds and master models, among other uses. However, it was not employed by mints and medal makers for casting bas-relief coin and medal models until the late 1960s (as the use of plaster casts and galvano molds continued). It was more readily accepted after 2000 when the “clay and plaster” method of modeling was replaced by computer engraving for less than artistic models (as for coin relief models).
1947 Fédération Internationale de la Médaille (FIDEM) is founded to encourage art medal creation by world artists, ultimately to hold biannual meetings and exhibitions, issuing a conference medal for each meeting. Sites rotate among European countries and America. Conventional art medals later supplemented by increasing number of medallic objects. (►1965)
1961 In Poland the first art medal with pierced open work is created by Bronislaw Chromy, Animal Lovers bearing three owl-like creatures on the obverse – the piercing allowing the third to be seen on the reverse bearing the inscription: PIERWSZA WYSTAWA RZEZBNA PLANTACH KRAKOW 1961, 0.6KG.
1964 An International exhibition of coins and medals was prepared by Dr. Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli, Curator of Monetary History and Medallic art at the Smithsonian. Shown at the ANA convention in Cleveland, over 20 nations participated with six of them exhibiting medals—Denmark, France, German, Great Britain, Greece and Italy. This was the first exposure the American collectors had to the modernism of art medals of the French, the Italians and the Dutch. The French mint picked up many new American members for their Society of the Medal.
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 William Trees Louth and the Medallic Art Company for the intended replications. The two literally had to invent a new art form! The Medallic Object was born. A10 {1965} Bryant (Edward) Christmas For Connoisseurs, Art In America 53:6 (December–January 1965-66) pp 38-44 [advertisement p 136].\In a rare collaboration between Art In America and Medallic Art Company, the art publication commissioned seven artists to each create a medallic relief. This was the birth of a new art form in America: the medallic object. (►1966)
1966 The following year in France, Roger Bezombes creates his first medallic object, the first art-numismatic item reproduced by a national mint. The Paris Mint, under director Pierre DeHaye encourages their creation and sponsors mostof them, ultimately producing over 300medallic objects in two decades. (►1969) O45 {1985} Hôtel de la Monnaie. La Médaille-Objet With introducition by Jacques Campet, Director. Paris: Monnaies et Médailles. 216 pages, illus. The work of 124 artists — all reproduced by the Paris Mint — covering the new art format of medallic objects
1967 With active art medalists in Finland the Finnish Art Medal Guild is founded. It issues an annual art medal.
1967 The first hologram in a work of medallic art appeared in a highly creative art medal by Israel’s Yaacov Agam, titled And There Was Light Medal.
1968 The first high relief proof surface art medal struck by Medallic Art Company in New York City. The 1½-inch medal was the Martin Luther King Junior Memorial Medal (MACO 1968-056) by Abram Belskie. It was issued by International Numismatic Agency (Neil Cooper) who wanted something different to make this medal stand out among hundreds of other medals issued on the death of the Civil Rights leader. Medals as large as six inches were ultimately struck with proof surfaces.
1968 The first free-standing art medal in America was created by Roy Lichtenstein called Salute to Airmail on the 50th anniversary of airmail carried by flight. It was electrolytically cast by Medallic ArtCompany (their Catalog # 1969-154) and issued by International Numismatic Agency. It was followed by an issue of The Society of Medallists issue #115, Cat and Mouse in 1988, also free-standing. (►1976)
1969 The first multipart medal was created Kauko Rasanen of Finland. His first of the new medallic form was the two-part medal, Jonah in the Whale. This inspired a number of these creative medallic objects and Rasanen continued to create many innovative forms in multiple parts, often fitting together like a puzzle. He was honored with a Saltus Medal by the American Numismatic Society in 1986.
1971 First book on art aspect of coins and medals, Cornelius Vermeule’s Numismatic Art in America is published 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. Major work as historical overview emphasizing art and style in American coins and medals. Author creates term Federalist style to describe early American productions. [94 artists cited]
1972 Franklin Mint acquires Pinches of London and one of the first medals the acquired firm strikes is a reduced version of the Waterloo Medal of Benvenuto Pistrucci. (FM PWM-1)
1974 On December 31st the United States changed its gold policy. Gold is allowed to trade freely and U.S. private citizens are permitted to own gold. The immediate reaction was issuing gold medals and the American public could purchase gold in any form and any amount (lifting the ban in effect since March 1933). At one minute after midnight in the new day, Franklin Mint began striking gold medals for sale to the public.
1976 Great outpouring of art medals for American Bicentennial issued by every entity – national, state, local municipalities, organizations, institutions, even individuals – in every medallic format.
1976 Working independently, the first free-standing medal outside America was created by Alex Shagin. While still at the Lenningrad Mint, he ceated an art medal to stand as sculpture. It was to be exhibited at FIDEM 1977; but, according to Shagin, the authorities would not allow such a dramatic departure from Socialist Realism to be exhibited at an international meeting. Unfortunately, when Alex Shagin came to America, the Soviet government would not allow him to take these medals with him.
1977 United States Mint’s medal issues over 100 years documented and illustrated in book by Robert Julian published by TAMS. M37 {1977} Julian (Robert W.) Medals of the United States Mint, The First Century,1792-1892. Token and Medal Society. 424 pages. [573 items, 69 artists, index of artists, p 418-419, compiled by DWJ] Monumental work on 19th century mint medals. Artists are identified for 412 items; 161 items have unknown artists.
1979 Mark Jones’ book, first entirely on art medals published in England. A26 {1979} Jones (Mark) The Art of the Medal. London: Published for the Trustees of the British Museum by British Museum Publications Limited, 192 pages, illus.
1982 American Medallic Sculpture Association (AMSA) is founded to promote art medal creation by American artists by frequent exhibitions. Dr. Alan Stahl organized its first exhibition at te American Numismatic Soceity where he was curator. Exhibit catalogs issued, AMSA Members Newsletter published.
1982 Similarity in England the British Art Medal Society (BAMS) is founded. It promotes itsmembers’ creations and issues an annual medal.
1984 First International Medallic Workshop with concurrent exhibition “Resurgence of The Art Medal” was held at Penn State University in America. The symposium brought many international teachers to America and exposed American artists to art medals. The exhibition, traveled to four museums and had a great influence on American artists.
1987 Beaux-Arts Medal Exhibition at ANS; catalog by Baxter. 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]
1988 First Medals in America Symposium held at American Numismatic Society. MA1 {1988} Stahl (Alan M., editor) The Medal in America. New York: American Numismatic Society. Coinage of the Americas Conference, Sept 26-27, 1987.
1996 Marqusee Collection donated to Cornell University’s Herbert Johnson Art Museum. C14 {1996} Marqusee (John E.) One Hundred Years of American Medallic Art, 1845-1945; the John E. Marqusee Collection. Ithaca, New York: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. 98 pages. [138 artists listed, 416 items].Collection in Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University. Margusee was a friend of sculptor Leonard Baskin who simultaneously donated a rare Saint-Gaudens medal which became the keystone medal of the Marqusee collection with a full-page catalog description of the medal (written by DWJ).
2010 First book published on French art medal series by Nicolas Maier. M65 {2010} Maier (Nicolas) French Medallic Art, 1870-1940. Munich: Author (2010) 415 pp, illus, in three languages: German, English, French. Discusses development of art medal in France, leading up to establishment, in 1899, by art critic Roger Marx, of Soceiet des Amis de la Medaille Francois (called SAMF throughout the book); illustrates 63 medals in SAMF series by xx artists until series halts in 1930. Author continues numbering system for medals of prominent French medallists (1863-1940) for a total of 336 medals by 73 artists.
2012 First American art medal with color applied by pad printing issued. The Guide Book of United States Coins – universally known as the “Red Book”– is illustrated in red and gold color on an art medal bearing portrait of editor Kenneth Bressett for his 50th year in this position. Sponsored by Rittenhouse Society, Bressett’s published books are listed on spines of books shown on medal’s reverse. Medal was struck by Medallic Art Company.
Acknowledgements: Art medal scholars Donald Scarinci, Alan Stahl, Ira Rezak and Harry Waterson aided the author in reaching the goal of 100 leading developments in the art medal field.

Copyright © 2012 by D. Wayne Johnson

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This is the first of several reports on the basic information, the basic knowledge, of minting coins and medals. These facts are so important they should be embedded in the repertoire of everyone associated with the medallic field and, certainly, everyone within the firms which make these.

EVERY coin and medal struck for the last 2,650 years – since the first coin was struck in 640 BC – exists because of one technique:  engraving. Creating the lines and cavities in a die to reproduce a design in objects struck from that die is the result of engraving.

The surface containing the relief design rises and falls from a background is a special form of three dimensions called bas-relief (the “s” is silent, its pronounced baa-relief). I prefer the term modulated relief for the images of devices and lettering of varying height shown on that surface.

Medallic Art Dies

Medallic Art Dies

Three stages.
Die engraving over time has evolved through three stages.  For the first 2500 years the only method to create those dies was for a skilled craftsman to hand engrave them — to carve away little portions of the surface of iron to form a completed die. By the use of hand tools he crafted a die with cavities the exact size of the object to be struck from that die.

Because this work was tedious, mechanically inclined craftsmen sought a method to mechanize the hand work. A progression of instruments were developed, the most successful were those that cut a die from an oversize pattern, in effect a die-engraving pantograph which cut the surface of the die from a much larger pattern.

The large pattern from which the die is engraved was created by a sculptor, who in effect, replaced the hand engraver. The pattern was mounted in a reducing pantograph by a craftsman who set the machine to operate. With an electric motor it operated unattended cutting a die any size desired. Also the pattern could be used again so several size dies could be made from a single pattern. Or it could cut a hub or master die from which many dies could be made.

At first it was the central design, the device alone, which was  modeled as the pattern to cut into a die. Lettering and stars or ornamentation was added later, by hand punches. It was not until 1899 that a French inventor, Victor Janvier, patented his die-engravng pantograph that could cut the die entire, lettering and all. His “Janvier” machine dominated die engraving for the entire 20th century.

With the 21st century we see the rise of computer engraving. The image is entered in a computer as X and Y coordinates for height by width. The depth of the image is the Z factor. Three factors at each point of the image, and as many points as the resolution of the image requires. This data is then fed into a controlled milling machine which cuts the entire surface image into the die in the size die required.

  1. Hand Engraving Only method of engraving for 2500 years, still used infrequently at present.
  2. Die-engraving Dominated all die making 1900-2000; cutting Pantograph devices alone at first, then entire sides, everything at once.
  3. Computer Engraving Increasingly used to cut dies to be major technique following year 2000.

Engraving Terms.
Cutting a die by hand is called hand engraving. Engraving dies to be used in striking is called diesinking. Engraving dies by use of master punches is called hubbing. Engraving by various mechanical implements is called machine engraving. And now we have COMPUTER ENGRAVING.

Engraving an existing item – a medal say – to personalize it after it is struck or cast (as name of a recipient) is called inscribing. One “engraves” a die, but “inscribes” a medal.

Die engraving is different from “engraving” found in most reference works, which refer to the preparation of printing plates for prints or paper money; we call this flat engraving (as for line or surface engraving). This engraving has no relief. It creates two levels of surface: one surface that prints and one that does not.

During the 19th century “engraving of dies” and “diesinking” were considered the same, synonymous (and listed as such in trade directories). Later in that century diesinking came to mean hubbing of dies. These terms now all have more explicit meanings, all within the required duties of the engraver and the overall concept of die-making.

Die Engraving Overview.
Engraving of dies was always done in iron before the development of steel (and always in steel afterwards). Iron and steel have the amazing property of being hardened and softened at will by heat treating. Thus the engraver can cut the design in soft iron, it can then be hardened and thousands of impressions can be made from that iron die.

Engraving of dies is considered a form of carving, cutting away small bits of metal to form the relief design. More often than not, this is negative carving to strike positive objects. But some hand engravers are so skilled they can carve positive – called CAMEO ENRAVING – or negative with incised cavities.

The engraver must know his tools (see list). These implements are also made of steel, but obviously are harder than the iron DIE BLANK the engraver is cutting. These tools create the lines and cavities that reproduce the relief design and lettering by creating modulated relief surface.

Burin.  An engraving tool with a diamond or lozenge shaped cutting edge, often used for engraving lines, lettering or fine detail in dies.

Burin

Burnisher.  The tool for polishing the surface of metal; made of metal or stone, a burnisher smooths a metallic surface to effect its polish.

Burnisher

Burnisher

Chisel.  A tool, flat and pointed at the end, used by engravers to handcut a die, or by chasers in their work.

Engravers’ Ball, Engravers’ Block.  A vise to hold a die or medallic item while some form of hand work is performed on it – engraving, chasing, inscribing, proof polishing or such.

Graver.  A cutting or shaving tool used by an engraver to handcut metal (as a die or flat engraving).

Milgrain Tool.  A beading tool with a wheel of hemispherical cavities that leaves a trail of precisely and uniformly formed beads.

Oil Stone.  An abrasive stone for sharpening engraving tools, a whetstone.

Punch, Puncheon.  A tool made of steel containing a letter, figure, dentile, ornament or a part of a coin or medal design used to press into softer steel to make a die, or to counterstamp a numismatic item.

Spitz, Spitzstick.  A pointed graver; an engraving tool with a long sharp pointed end.

Transfer Wax.  Wax in ball or sheet form used by engravers to transfer a drawing, design or lettering to the surface of a die to be hand or machine engraved, or to the surface of a medal to be inscribed.

Basic die engraving techniques.
The engraver is responsible for the steel he must use and the preparation of a blank die he must make into a suitable die. The choice of the steel is most critical. The best iron or steel available must be employed, otherwise in use the image will sink during prolonged striking, or worse of all break, starting at an edge.

Prior to 1756 all dies were made of iron; in that year an English manufacturer, Benjamin Huntsman (1704-1776), invented a method of making crucible steel that proved most useful for dies. Matthew Boulton used Huntsman’s steel for the dies at his 1790 Soho Mint and the mints throughout the world used Huntsman steel for a century and a half – until 1950!

Steel for dies is ordered from steel manufacturers by type of steel, diameter, hardness, and whether oil or water hardened. It usually is supplied in long rods called bar stock, although other shaped stock has been used for dies, as square or hexagonal. (Round is ideal for many steps in making and using a die, turning on a lathe, locking in the press, and as a final point, orientation of the obverse and reverse properly.)

The bar stock is cut on a band saw to approximate height of the finished die. Next it is milled smoothed and both ends made exactly parallel. The working end where the design is to be cut is polished. If the engraver does not do this, then it is done by a tool and die worker, a separate person in a large mint or medal plant. At this point it is a die blank, ready to be engraved by any method, hand or machine engraved.

Laying out the design for hand engraving.
The surface of the polished die blank is next coated with Chinese white, a watercolor paint. An engraver will wet the tip of his finger and spread an even coat over the entire surface to be engraved. It dries quickly and the design can be drawn with a pencil right on this white surface. (Or the engraver may use dye blue if he wishes, but in this case he must inscribe the design with a sharp pointed spitzstick or scriber.)

What the engraver draws is an outline of the intended design. This is called a cartoon. (One might think this word was named after comic cartoons but it’s the other way round – die engraving cartoons came first.)

The engraver can actually draw an original design right on the die. He will include lettering in its proper place in addition to the main device and all subsidiary devices – stars, dentiles and whatever else. Including too much detail at this point is not necessary as this surface will be removed for the most part before he gets to these.

Or, if the engraver has an exact size cartoon on paper, he can transfer this pencil drawing to the white coated die surface, called design transfer. This is accomplished by coating the back of the paper with graphite, laying this on the coated die and tracing the design. (This technology was used before carbon paper was invented, which, of course, could be used.)

If the engraver wishes to transfer an incuse image, say from another die, to an uncoated fresh die he fills all cavities with precipitated chalk, wipes off the excess, lays on this a thin sheet of transfer wax, places this on the bare die, and burnishes the back of the wax sheet with a burnisher.

Removing metal.
At this stage occurs what everyone typically attributes to an engraver – removing tiny bits of metal to form the design in modulated relief. The cartoon indicates where most of the unwanted dead metal is to be removed, mostly background cutaway. Formerly this was done with hammer and chisel, modern engravers now have pneumatic gravers that remove gross metal from the die surface in quick time with less muscle power.

At this point the engraver does not worry about the ridges left from the chisel or graver, however it is quite critical how deep he carves. The depth of this cutting will ultimately be the background or field of the piece struck from this die. The tool marks are removed by later lapping or stoning.

Then he turns his full attention to the main device. Here is where he cuts the modulated relief of the design with burin or graver. Each tiny bit of metal removed is called a bite. His skill and talent come into play in carving the portrait or feature of the design. The engraver must be an artist at this stage employing all his artistic ability. He is creating a miniature relief by sculptural carving, often in the negative.

He holds the burin or graver in the palm of his hand with his index finger lying along the shank of the tool. He points with this finger to where he wants to cut. He pushes with his hand down into the metal and scoops out a tiny bit of metal. This action is called palm push because the palm of the hand pushes on the handle forcing the point of the tool into and up out of the metal die surface.

We have assumed here the artist is cutting intaglio, carving the relief design in the negative for all the above. However, the artist can cut cameo, in the positive. Cutting a positive cameo die eliminates the need for frequent proving. The image is always in view. The cameo die has another advantage, it can serve as a device punch to hub into the working die.

Carving and using punches.
Before 1950 there were commercial punches of letters and figures engravers could obtain from typographic houses (which made type for letterpress printers – the rise of lithographic printing however made all letterpress obsolete and type houses went out of business). For most engravers the desired type, style and size, it seemed, was never available. Thus the engraver had to carve new punches for the correct lettering style and size he was seeking.

Imagine a letter on the end of a pencil point. In a sense, this is what the engraver must carve, exact size, and a different one for each different letter. (Thank goodness he can use the same “E” punch or any other repeated letter over and over – he only needs one for each letter.) It is “carve away” engraving to make a letter or figure punch and the final punch must have a sloping contour with a proper bevel, often turned on a lathe.

The layout for lettering will have a guide line or base line drawn or lightly inscribed on the face of the die where the bottom of each letter must appear. He may also inscribe a second guideline for the top of the letters. He does not punch the letters in order they appear on the die; instead the engraver most likely will choose a letter with a flat base, as an “E” to start (where top and bottom must line up with the two guide lines). Each letter is punched into the die individually.

When punching the lettering the engraver must be aware of four things at once: (1) the letter must rest on that base line, or fit precisely between the two if there are two  guide lines, (2) he must not tilt the letter, it must be upright, exactly perpendicular to the base line, (3) he must be aware of interletter spacing [“IE” should be further apart than say “OO”], (4) he must sink the punch to the same depth as all other letters. The last is most important because an “M” requires more pressure to sink than an “I” for example.

To insure correct positioning the engraver lightly taps the letter punch to get a faint image on the surface of the die. If it is correct in all respects, he replaces the punch – it must “seat” in that same impression – and taps the punch to the proper depth. If it doesn’t seat properly, or he moves the punch between blows, he will create a double image for that letter. Punching letters and figures requires experience; lettering by an amateur engraver, who perhaps cannot control all four requirements at once, is very obvious on the struck piece.

Diesinking and hubbing.
The engraver does not have to engrave every element on the face of that one die blank (although he can if he so desires). He can carve separate elements and bring them together by sinking them into that master die blank. He can engrave the device separately (even in cameo) making it a device punch. By diesinking he can get that image into that die; obviously it is too much to sink it by hammer blow, he must hub it by using a press, a screw press – or for even greater pressure a hydraulic powered hubbing press – to impress the device punch into the die.

The device punch must be hard and the die blank must be soft, thus heat treating is important at this stage. The two – punch and die – are positioned in the press and are squeezed to drive the punch into the die. Often a retaining ring is necessary to hold the punch in position during hubbing (creating this tube-like collar is the responsibility of the engraver or tool and diemaker). This is the hubbing function of diesinkning.

Hubbing always changes polarity. A positive punch creates a negative element in the die. The device punch carved cameo is ideal for pressing into the negative die. The negative die, then, can be used for striking. Or, instead it can become the master die and a hub can be sunk from it. Then working dies can be made from that hub. By the process of hubbing the engraver can go back and forth with a change of polarity each time. Multiple working dies are necessary for long production runs. A master die is “insurance” that another die can be easily sunk if the one in use breaks or deteriorates.

Proving.
At any step along this process the engraver can examine the state of his work by proving. He can push soft material, clay or wax, into the die cavity or the surface of the die to give a quick look. For more detail, which is usually the case because the engraver is working on tiny areas of carving, he will want to make a metal proof. These can be a hot tin impression, called a splasher, which he can do right at his workbench; or a lead proof if he places the die in a press and softly impresses the lead.

The closer the engraver gets to the finished die, the more proofs he will make. He seldom makes any proof until well into the process. He usually does extensive carving in the die, then he makes a proof to check on his progress. This continues until he is completely satisfied with the total image. He will then harden the die and it will be ready to be placed into production.

Use of Sculptured Patterns in Engraving.
In an attempt to relieve the tedium of hand engraving, engravers and mint workers looked to the pantograph, the die-engraving pantograph, to aid in cutting dies. In constant development from its early crude form for nearly 150 years, these machines were in use at mints in Belgium, France and England. It required, however, a pattern in hard material to reduce the image while it cut the relief.

Engravers and mint officials turned to sculptors and wax modelers to create these patterns. It was not, as some believe, a model for the engraver to handcut the image in reduced size, but rather a three-dimensional surface that could be reduced by stylus tracing and mechanical pantographic reduction.

What the sculptor created was a bas-relief – a design of modulated relief attached to a solid background. Sculpture in wax was ideal, as well as those in clay and other media (the use of plaster of Paris came later). However, this had to be converted to a hard surface of the image for the stylus to trace over. These were cast in metal, iron was the first to be used, later copper was found to be more ideal for the stylus to ride over.

The first sculptor to prepare a bas-relief for medals in America was Ferdinand Pettrich (1798-1872). In 1841 he created a relief portrait of President John Tyler in wax for the Indian Peace Medal Series. At the U.S. Mint Franklin Peale (1795-1870) cast this in iron and used it to cut three size DEVICE PUNCHES of the 1842 Indian Peace Medal (on the Philadelphia Mint’s newly acquired Contamin pantograph, well suited for cutting multiple size hubs from the same pattern).  Each of these device punches was sunk into an appropriate size die blank and lettering added by punches.

Sculptor Pettrich’s presidential portrait was followed by John Gadsby Chapman (1808-1889) who furnished President James K. Polk’s portrait in 1846 for the same series. In 1849 Henry Kirke Brown (1814-1886) created Zachary Taylor’s portrait, but these portraits were surpassed by Millard Fillmore’s, Franklin Pierce’s and Abraham Lincoln’s portraits by Salathiel Ellis (1803-1879) both in quantity and quality. It is believed the Philadelphia Mint replaced iron cast patterns with copper ELECTROFORMED patterns (GALVANOS) from Ellis’ models.

Rise of electroformed patterns.
Using iron patterns proved unsatisfactory, not only for the stylus drag, but also for the lack of finite detail. Models cast in iron could not reproduce the fine detail in the sculptor’s models. Reason for this was the meniscus formed at the juncture of all angular corners and, on coin and medal models in particular, where relief meets the field (called corner radius). This rounding of angles and corners occurs in all metal casting. It cannot reproduce sharp detail, notably the pointed junctures at the edges of relief and corner radii.

Fortunately an event occurred in 1837 to affect this. A German physicist and engineer, Moritz Herman Jacobi (1801-1874), developed an electro chemicalprocess he called “galvanoplasty” which today is known as electrolysis. This is the process by which electroplating takes place. But it can also be employed for forming objects from a mantel, core or pattern.

The technology was rapidly employed in England, for the silverware industry, but in France it was employed in the art field. Before long it was in use at the Paris Mint for making patterns for use on the die-engraving pantograph from sculptors’ models. Here it was ideal because all the detail in the sculptors’ models were reproduced in a copper pattern in far greater fidelity (in micron width!).

The metal pattern was called a galvano (from Jacobi’s “electrogalvanic” process). If the newly created pattern was positive to cut a die, it was also called a dieshell, if it was negative to cut a hub, it was a hubshell. (Electroforming changes polarity.)

This technology was in use for cutting dies on the die-engraving panotograph for the remainder of the 19th century and all the 20th century. It was replaced, only partially at first, by the use of epoxy for creating coin and medal patterns following World War II when it was developed.

Engraver’s use of engraving machines.
Because sculptors were asked to furnish relief models of portraits, more than any other subject to be made into patterns for dies, the first die-engraving pantographs were called portrait lathes.The engraver would make a hard surface cast of the sculptor’s portrait model and place this on the reducing machine.

In all instances these early engravers would utilize the sculptor’s bas-relief pattern to cut a positive image in steel. This reduction punch would then be hubbed into the master die. Lettering, subsidiary devices and rim elements would be added afterwards by punches and hand engraving.

In America, use of the die-engraving pantograph continued for 80 years to make reduction punches. This technique continued through the 19th century. It wasn’t until the invention of the Janvier pantograph that the entire die could be reduced and cut from the sculptor’s model of the entire design, lettering and all.

Tracer controlled pantographs.
In the last decade of the 19th century engravers and machinists devised pantographs to aid diesinking. One type of these was a tracer controlled pantograph where an oversize template model and template letters controlled a router that removed all the dead metal. It could carve out letters and leave the design as a flat undisturbed surface that required further diecutting.

The pantograph operator would have to manually control the router to mill away not only the background cutaway but also the surface metal to create the design. In effect this made this craftsman controlling this machine by hand as the engraver of the die. While this was quite satisfactory for letters, logos, architectural and other flat designs, it was left to the skill of the operator to create portraits, scenes and designs of highly modulated relief. Gorton was the major manufacturer of this style of pantograph.

Modern improvements of this machine, even computer control, have made this a quick and low-cost method of die engraving. Ideal for most dies, medal manufacturers use this in contrast to sculptured models. However, it produces less artistic, somewhat flat, mechanical images, particularly of portraits.

Computer engraving.
The computer will not design a coin or medal, but, like a burin in the hand of the engraver, it will aid the engraver to enter the design and determine the amount of depth each point should cut into the die or matrix.

Mints and medalmakers around the world were eager to accept the new technology, the most recent step in replacing the tedious act of hand engraving dies. The success of computer engraving may yet be proved to be limited, much like the use of the tracer-controlled pantograph introduced a century earlier. Both technologies have their place and will continue to be employed by the minting industry. They will not, however, replace the artist who must create the design nor the sculptor-medallist who creates more advanced designs.

The advantages of computer engraving is not only “fast and cheap” but also its versatility to alter a design, to modify it, to test a new concept, to hone the relief to a satisfactory image. As such it is ideal for simple images, as graphic designs, most trademarks and buildings. Where it falls short are very complex or highly detailed designs, but most notably, portraits!

One word describes what a sculptor working in clay or wax can accomplish that a computer cannot: vivify. In art it means “give life to.”  A sculptor can give life to a portrait, make an image of a real person, so it seems the person is staring back at the viewer. He is alive in sight of the relief. In contrast, computer generated portraits are stiff, frozen and lifeless.

Computer Technique.
The computer engraver can start with a flat drawing, a cartoon, or create this on the screen. At each point on the design, called a pixol, X and Y coordinates are determined by the computer. The operator chooses the depth at this point, the Z coordinate, to fix the sculptural or dimensional effect, creating a bitmap. All these coordinates are stored in the software. A visual image is shown on the screen of the CPR. The operator moves through the design indicating the modulated relief.

When finished, the accepted digital design will then be transferred to a milling machine which does the cutting as controlled by the digital file. Afterwards, burrs and rough corners from the milling tool must be worked as with any other touchup of dies.

Is it possible to look at a coin or medal and tell how it was made, by hand engraving, die-engraved reduction, or by computer design?

Diagnostics: How A Coin or Medal Was Made

No hard and fast rules differentiate a hand engraved die from one made from sculptor’s models and dies cut on the die-engraving pantograph  or by computer design by looking at any coin or  medal. The difference, if any, is quite subtle and often difficult to detect.

Technically the only difference is where the rise of relief meets the background or field (called corner radius). and, perhaps, the crevices. Because of the rounded point of the stylus and cutting point on the pantograph and computer milling machine, which cannot enter these areas, these appear less distinct, less angular and more rounded. Also sculptors tend to fill up the model with detail more so than hand engravers, and occasionally vignette the surface (detail covers more of the model with less clean field) or with texture in the field.

  • Generally, a hand engraved die will appear with sharper detail, steeper rise of relief, deeper crevices and a greater background area (smooth field).
  • Generally, a die cut on a die-engraving reducing  pantograph will appear with smoother, softer detail, slightly more sloping sides of relief, and less field area.
  • Generally, a die cut on milling machine from a computer design will appear similar to that of a pantograph, depending upon the shape of the cutting tool.

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The Field of  MEDALLIC ART – small M, small A,  is a French art. The first practitioners were French artists, as the leading medallic artists today are French.

Medallic Art  – capitol M, capitol A, the company – was founded by two French brothers working in New York City. Despite the fact Henri Weil, the oldest, was born here in America, Felix Weil, the youngest, was born back in France as the parents traveled back and forth in a ceramic business.

In studying and handling medals of the world for fifty years, I have developed a sense of nationalistic traits common to all medals of one country. Italy, for example, has the most talented medallic artists. Design of medals by Italian artists rise above all others.

At a speech given at a memorial service for Italian-born Marcel Jovine, I repeated that statement that I felt Italy produced the finest medallic artists. “There must be something in the drinking water in Italy to produce such superb artists,” I said. The audience broke out in thunderous applause as I realized most were Italian descendents or supporters.

Certainly some credit can be given to the national mint in Rome, the Zecca Mint. It maintains a school for coin and medal designers. Artists who wish to advance a career in the field, travel to Rome to study at the Zecca. American Elizabeth Jones, ultimately to be Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, was just such student at the Zecca.

While student work is often set aside for most artists in their own possession, Elizabeth tells me the Zecca school retains all the models by all the students at the Zecca. I wonder if these are used as study models by later students. They are trained to recognize good medallic art – study what has been created in the past – and to emulate only the best techniques in their own work.

German artists are technical machinists. Long noted for producing the best hand engravers, German artists continued to embrace hand engraving. Even after the French developed oversize modeling and pantographic reduction to cut dies, Germans still continued to cut their dies by hand.

One hand engraver, Fritz Eue, immigrated to America in 1926 after a successful career in his native Germany, cutting dies for four medal maker firms. It is said he could cut a die in two hours, complete. Further he could cut a die in cameo, in raised relief as well as incised, in negative relief.  He could hand engrave a die, or a hub, positive or negative, whatever was needed.

Eue’s work was typical of German medallic artists. While immensely satisfactory it didn’t rise to the artistic quality of Italian artists’ work.

Also Germans are noted for their medal making equipment. They invented the knuckle-joint press, now used for coining press technology employed throughout the world. German firms today produce the finest coining and medal making equipment.

British medallic artists’ work is stiff, prim and proper, somewhat like the British people themselves. Yet some of the greatest coin and medal artists are British. Thomas Simon (1618-1665) is an early example. In 1663 he engraved a pair of dies whose struck piece became known as the “Petition Crown.”

Simon was in competition with a Dutch artist, Jean Roettier, for the position of engraver at the Royal Mint. To prove his competence for the position he created a large silver crown with two lines of lettering on the edge of the piece pleading for the king, who was to make the decision, to appoint him over a Dutchman.

Despite a stunning portrait of the king on the obverse, the king made a political decision and Roettier got the job. But Simon’s work rose above anything Roettier ever produced.

St. George slaying the dragon on 1911 British Sovereign.

St. George slaying the dragon on 1911 British Sovereign.

While trained in Italy, the greatest British coin and medal artist of all time was Benedetto Pistrucci (1784-1855).  He created the iconic image of Saint George slaying the dragon, which became symbolic on British coins.

Pistrucci is also known as the engraver of the Waterloo Medal. Commissioned in 1815, he completed it thirty years later in 1845. It was so large – four and a half inches – they couldn’t strike it for fear of breaking the die. (It was issued as an electroform cast, and later struck in a reduced size).

British artists are also known for their family of coin and medal artists, the Pingos and the Wyons are examples. All of which held positions at the Royal Mint in London, but who also had family members who created medallic work outside the Mint.

The French artists, however, made medallic art a genre equal to painting and sculpture, and traced, as early as 1825, to the work of David d’Andres (1788-1856). His portraits were in relief in a size larger than any medal, eight to ten inches. Originally replicated by foundry casts, they were readily made as galvano casts when this technology became available, mid-century.

David d’Andes was followed by Herbert Ponsdcarme (1827-1903) who is considered the Father of the Modern Art Medal. His 1863 medal for the Academy of Inspiration for Beaux-Letters bearing the portrait of Joseph Nadet earned this title.

In the 1880s came a flood of French artists who not only practiced the art of large size medallic models (a la David d’Andres), but also adopted the new technology of pantographic reduction machines to reduce their models to a size that could be struck as medals.

The names of the French artists who became active in this period are legion: Jules Chaplin, Alexandre Charpentier, Pierre Dautel, Georges Dupre, Jean Daniel-Dupis, Rene Gregoire, Henry Nocq, Victor Peter, Georges Prud’Homme, Louis Oscar Roty, Ernest Tasset, Emile Vernier, Frederic Vernon, Ovide Yencesse.

Many of these artists embraced the technique of modeling oversize, having their models made into a hard metal pattern (by electrogalvanic casting), then mounting in a die-engraving pantograph cutting a die to be used for striking their images in medallic form.

Also at this time these artists experimented with applying a patina to their art medals. They used the same chemicals and techniques employed for their large size sculpture in-the-round. Worked just as well for for small size medals.

Here are the reasons therefore why medallic art is considered a French art:

  • The Paris Mint has struck coins and medals since the 1400s. It has been a leader in advancing minting technology and attracting the best engravers noted for their talent.
  • Indeed, the Paris Mint has a training program – not like the school at the Zecca Mint in Rome – but more of on-the-job training program that has been in progress since 1866.
  • The Paris Mint has encouraged medallists of the world to submit their models for possible striking; during its heyday in this program, administered by Piere De Hay was buying one new model a day to place into production.
  • The French artists invented the technique of modeling oversize and having these models pantograhically reduced to cut dies for striking.
  • Victor Janvier, a Frenchman, began improving the reducing machine and patents his machine 1899; became the industry standard.
  • Louis Oscar Roty trains medalists in this technique of oversize modeling; his most notable student is Victor Brenner, from New York, who travels to Paris twice in a four-year period to learn from French masters.
  • A French art critic, Roger Marx created the Societe des Amis de la Medaille francaise (the Society of French Medallic Art) in 1899, the first art medal series. It was copied by similar groups in Europe and America (the Circle of Friends of the Medallion).
  • The French created Federation International des la Medaille (FIDEM) immediately after World War II. This international organization of medallic artists sponsors exhibitions at their biannual conventions.
  • An small number of private minters, notably, Artrus Bertrand, and others, prosper in Paris striking medals for private customers.
  • At the exhibition of international contemporary medallic art at the American Numismatic Society in 1910 (IECM), 49 French artists sent exhibits almost equaling the number of Americans (56) where the exhibition was held. Frenchman Louis Oscar Roty had more items on exhibit (82) than any other artist. Five of the top ten exhibitors were French.
French Head, Medallic Art Company Logo

French Head, Medallic Art Company Logo

In an unusual conflux of words and names, the French Head, symbol adopted for Medallic Art Company by Clyde C. Trees in 1934 – but named for its creator, Daniel Chester French – continues the French Connection.

Thus the art the company produces is French and the symbol for the company is – French.

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SUPERLATIVES cannot adequately describe the exhibition of medallic art held 102 years ago in New York City at the American Numismatic Society. An extraordinary effort was extended to display contemporary medallic art from around the world.

The occasion was the dedication of their own new building. The society had occupied rented quarters for half a century, but in 1910, thanks to the beneficence of philanthropist and member, Archer Milton Huntington, the numismatic society now occupied a two-story building. It was on Audubon Terrace, Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets in New York’s Upper Manhattan, along with two other museums and three organization headquarters surrounding a terrace with a sunken sculpture garden occupied by a statue of El Cid by Anna Hyatt Huntington, Archer’s wife.

To celebrate the event, a massive exhibition of coins and medals was planned. So large was the result the coins were exhibited in a neighbor museum’s exhibition rooms at the Hispanic Society of America. Medals were reserved for the Society’s own exhibition room.

In Autumn 1909 invitations were sent to medallic artists, numismatic societies and mints of the world to send examples of their recent work. An incredible 194 artists responded from 11 countries! Along with three national mints and three medallic societies.

They sent patterns and finished work, struck and cast items, galvano and foundry casts, hand engraved and etched pieces, plus a few items in ivory, marble, terracotta, stone, and wax under glass. The Philadelphia Mint sent the oversize patterns of current coins, in an unprecedented act of endorsement.

Each artist’s work was kept intact, photographed and mounted on panels. The medallic work was shown in the main exhibit area of the new building and overflowed to a balcony above on the second floor.

Printed catalogs were planned, but when time came for the exhibition to open – March 9, 1910 – only the coins were adequately described and the printed catalog available. The medalist’s names were listed but little else, no medal illustrations.

Visitors to the exhibit could purchase the printed catalog of coins but had to subscribe for the printed catalog of medals. The catalog of the medallic works was publish a year later – in 1911. But it was worth the wait.

The catalog had sumptuous illustrations of virtually every medallic item, either individually or on the panel of the artist’s group. Full page illustrations even had tissue overlays with each item identified by catalog numbers printed on the tissue.

In every aspect, it was superbly planned and carried out with well organized detail of each item as furnished by the artist. Agnes Baldwin Brett wrote the Introduction in an overview, not only of the exhibition but also on the status of glyptic Art at the turn of the 20th century. She even covered a bit of the technology of medal making including the working of that magical medal-making machine of that era – the Janvier pantograph.

A photograph of the Janvier, the first imported into America, the very Janvier of Medallic Art Company, operated by Henri Weil, was illustrated in the Introduction.

One thousand catalogs of that medallic exhibition were printed. The Society continued to sell them well into the 1950s. But by 1960 they had exhausted their supply. Now, on the secondary book market, one of the original thousand could fetch $500 or so. In the 21st century the catalog has been digitized and is available free on the internet.

Here is the citation for that catalog:

American Numismatic Society.  CATALOGUE OF THE INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION OF CONTEMPORARY MEDALS … MARCH, 1910.  New York: American Numismatic Society.  With introduction by Agnes Baldwin Brett. (1911) 412 pages, illustrated.

It had 2,052 numbered items listed, nearly every one of the items exhibited. These were the finest examples of medallic art at the beginning of the 20th century, the best medallic work of 194 medallists of Europe and America who accepted an invitation to exhibit their creations in New York City.

Perhaps because the full name is a mouthful, “Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Contemporary Medals,” it has been abbreviated to “IECM” by curators and writers in the numismatic field.

It was highly industrialized countries whose artists responded to the Society’s invitation they were all from Europe. Here are some facts;

IECM Statistics

Participating Countries 11
Medallic Artists Exhibiting 194
Mints Exhibiting 3
Medallic Societies Exhibiting 3
Medallic Items Exhibited 2,052
—- Coins Exhibited 3,506
Days Exhibit Open 24
Museum Buildings Involved 2
Number visitors 5,547
Catalogs Printed 2nd Edition 1,000
Types of Medallic Items Exhibited:
Struck items 44.94% 918
Cast items 30.30% 619
Galvano items 15.61% 319
Plaster models 6.75% 138
Hand engraved items 0.39% 8
Jeweled items 0.39% 8
Wax models 0.34% 7
Terracotta items 0.29% 6
Porcelain items 0.15% 3
Ivory items 0.10% 2
Other 0.73% 15

One could speculate if a similar exhibition could be mounted today. While 56 American medallic artists exhibited in 1910, today, six times that number of medallic artists exist in America alone. Current FIDEM exhibitions draw just under 1,000 items on exhibit. In theory, exhibited item are supposed to be recent work of the previous two years between FIDEM exhibitions (but this restriction is often overlooked).

A major exhibition of the magnitude of that 1910 ANS exhibition could well be five thousand items (instead of two thousand) from more than five hundred artists worldwide.  A formidable undertaking!

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Ever since 1789 and the founding of the first private mint in the world – Mathew Boulton’s Soho Mint in Birmingham – has the world benefitted from private mints. These factories are in contrast to the national mints which strike coins to circulate as money to aid a nation’s commerce.

While private mints can strike coins – and indeed some do for countries that do not have their own national mints as evident by the outpouring of coins from America’s Franklin Mint in its 1960s and 70s heydays – private mints can produce just about anything that can be made by a pair of coining dies – coins, medals and tokens for the most part. In a previous article, June 21, 2010, I listed 101 objects that could be made with a coining press, most all of which are numismatic, and have some appeal as collectors’ items.

But while national mints, and some of these have “Royal” in their name for a national mint in a monarchy, these institutions are less concerned for innovation, doing something in a new way or embracing a new technology. As we shall observe, private mints are more attuned to stretching the technological envelope by creating innovation in what they produce.

National mints are concerned with production, striking the vast quantities of coins to supply banks and business firms with the medium of commerce. Private mints are concerned with “what can we make different? What can we make to appeal to a discerning public? How can we make it better?”

Coins of a national mint are thrust on a public – they have little say in its form or appearance. Products of a private mint are selected by its public. They have a choice in its acquisition, thus a private mint’s product must have greater appeal.

Innovation at national mints is driven to implement production and make coins faster. Innovation at private mints spans every aspect of production, including the complete spectrum from design to delivery.

With the notable exception of the Paris Mint in the mid 1700s where considerable development in press design and operation occurred. A feeding mechanism was created to feed blanks to the screw press then in use, followed by a delivery system after the coins are struck. Much of this was the inventive genius of Jean-Pierre Droz, a Swiss engraver-machinist working with mechanic Philippe Gengembre, the pair mechanized the method of coining over manual methods previously employed.

Matthew Boulton Portrait

Matthew Boulton Portrait

While in Birmingham, Matthew Boulton had accepted part ownership in the patent for the steam engine in payment for a debt, he persuaded the inventor of that steam engine, James Watt, to join him at his factory to capitalize on his creation. The pair joined the steam engine to the screw press and they had the means then to strike small objects. This led to Boulton’s desire to first strike buttons until he set his goal on striking coins.

To accomplish this, and to establish his mint, he enticed Jean-Pierre Droz away from the Paris Mint, to come help him create his Soho Mint. This was inspired for several reasons: Droz not only prepared dies, but also built and improved equipment, created new coining methods and processes. Droz inspired Boulton and Watt as what could be done at a private mint. Overall Boulton made tremendous improvements in diemaking, hubbing, blanking, coining and striking.

Here is a list of the major innovations that occurred at the Soho Mint:

  • Boulton and Watt devise a way to apply their steam powered engines to run screw presses, then available, also to make full use of automatic feed and delivery systems developed and brought to the Soho Mint by Droz.
  • Boulton develops first edge thickening of blanks which he called “rimming” (elsewhere, including U.S. called upsetting). The treated blanks make for a uniform roundness, helps form the rim and aids coining; striking coins in coining presses could not be accomplished without this preparatory step in blank preparation.
  • First to use clad strip, Barton’s metal, for a coin blank (in 1789) in cooperation with Droz.
  • First edge lettering with raised lettering on a medal, struck at Soho Mint in Birmingham. He gave to each of the officers engaged in the Battle of Trafalgar a medal which bore a portrait of Lord Nelson.  Around the medal was the edge lettering: TO THE HEROES OF TRAFALGAR FROM M BOULTON. This was accomplished by the segmented collar (virole brisée) invented by Droz.

Somewhat unhappy in his position at Soho Mint and his relationship with Boulton, Droz returns to France (1799) to become General Administrator of the coins and medals, keeper of the mint museum and consultant to mints of the world for coining and mint equipment.

The following chronology offers a timeline of minting innovations that have been developed away from national mints. Those that were created by private mints have been named, with the names in large CAPITOL LETTERS.

Year Innovation
1812 In Germany, mechanic Diedrich Uhlhorn builds his first coining press based on a knuckle-joint rather than a screw for power in one of the most important breakthroughs in coinage technology.
1817 Diedrich Uhlhorn, patents his knuckle-joint press and paves way for creating an advanced coining press (surpassing the screw press) and establishes a factory for their production. His press (called a “lever press”) utilizes a flywheel to transfer power to the die by a knuckle-joint hinge. His factory is active for more than 60 years supplying 57 presses for coining to nine European mints by 1847. He had died in 1837, but the factory is continued (Uhlhorn & Sohn) by his sons, who had built and sold 200 more presses by 1876. The firm is out of business by 1882 but its influence on coin and medal making was unprecedented in history.
1828 In Britain, first medals issued in series sold by subscription to the public by publisher James Mudie (flourished 1815-1820) and struck by Edward Thomason (1769-1849): Medallic Illustrations of Science and Philosophy, the Kings and Queens of England, plus Thomason’s famed Medallic Bible.
1833 As a machinist in Paris, a Frenchman with last name Thonnelier, designs an improved press for coining. These are sold in Europe and U.S. but not build in Paris (there was no factory), instead the actual construction is contracted to others. Thus each Thonnelier press is always somewhat different and the nameplate on each of these presses is usually that of the constructor, seldom is Thonnelier mentioned. (This in contrast to all Uhlhorn presses which all bear Uhlhorn nameplates.) The first Thonnelier press for the U.S. Mint was built by Merrick, Agnew and Tyler, a Philadelphia firm.
1836 First die-engraving pantograph developed which employed a rotating cutter in effect making the pantographic reducer a mechanically controlled milling machine instead of a copying lathe. The inventor, Contamin (no other name or dates known) was French; he had adapted an earlier French mechanical pantograph by Jean Baptiste Dupeyrat, ca 1788. Contamin’s engraving pantograph was in widespread use for over 60 years sometimes in competition with the English mechanical engraver developed by C.J. Hill.
1840 George Richards Elkington and Henry Elkington (cousins) receive the first British patent for silverplating, marking the date for the development of electroplating. Early electroplating was done with primitive batteries until commercial electricity became available.
circa 1840 Medallist Jean Baptiste Maire (1787-1859), in France, makes improvement on reducing machine, has knowledge (or machine) of Contamin and/or Caqué. It is Maire’s (or Contamin’s) engraving pantograph that is first to use ahard metal pattern made by electroforming – Jacobi’s process – (previous patterns were cast metal).
1856 C.J. HILL perfects his die-engraving pantograph. Solicits die work he can perform on his machine, preferring not to let the machine out of his control. Ultimately William Wyon obtains the machine and all rights to it (for 2000 pounds).
1859 RALPH HEATON & SON, Birmingham, patents a rimming machine that mechanically feeds the blanks into the machine. The patent was in the name of Ralph Heaton III and his brother George.
1861 First medal design patented in America, the General Winfield Scott Patriotic Medal of 1861 by C.G. Quilfeldt and J. Lebretton. This 2 1/2-inch white metal medal bears the legend in tiny letters on the reverse: “Entered According to Act of Congress in the Year 1861 by D.E. Hall in the Clerks Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.” (The use of the first copyright mark was not to come until 1909.) No national coin or medal needs to be copyrighted, they are protected by counterfeiting laws, but the design of private medals were protected, first by patent, then by copyright laws.
1892 Victor Janvier establishes his JANVIER ATELIER in Paris to produce three-dimensional reliefs, models and statues. He begins experimenting with existing die-engraving and sculpture-reducing pantographs, develops his revolutionary twin-cone drive.
1899 Victor Janvier patents his die-engraving pantograph creating the most successful reducing machine to be used by mints and medalmakers throughout the world during most of 20th century; establishes factory to manufacture his pantograph machines.
1965 Rise of casino gambling in Nevada required need to quickly distinguish tokens of different casinos. Joseph Segel of FRANKLIN MINT receives U.S. patent 3,350,082 for interrupted reeding to distinguish tokens by the widthsand number of reeds on the edge (each casino having a unique pattern of reeding).
1967 U.S. Patent 3,338,084 issued to Clifford F. Stegman Sr., of OSBORNE COINING COMPANY, Cincinnati, for a progressive die for striking transportation tokens. The compound tool performs striking, piercing and blanking (at separate positions) in one cycle of press. The strip advances precisely for each function to be performed at each step.
1967 The first hologram in a work of art appeared in an art medal by Israel’s Yaacov Agam, titled And There Was Light Medal.
1968 First high relief proof surface art medal struck by MEDALLIC ART COMPANY in New York City. The 1½-inch (38.9mm) medal was the Martin Luther King Junior Memorial Medal (68-56) by Abram Belskie. It was issued in bronze and silver by International Numismatic Agency (Neil Cooper) who wanted something different to make this medal stand out among hundreds of other medals issued on the death of the Civil Rights leader.
1996 England’s POBJOY MINT issues first coin with a hologram, it appears in a Viking ship’s sail on the reverse of a 140 ecu coin of Gibraltar.
200? I do not know what mint was first to use the new technology – pad printing – to add color to a medal’s surface. But chances are it was a private mint.

As Medallic Art Company has acquired this new technology we are all looking forward to exciting new products to come from this most innovative private mint.

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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.

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