Accompanying every new medal should be some addition data about that medal. The full story cannot be conveyed on the medal itself. So custom has developed that a printed sheet of information should be available with every new medal issue.
Most such data sheets are called leaflets. Printed on a single sheet of paper, it is usually folded (often many times) down to the size of the medal itself and tucked into the box containing the medal. It is called a pamphlet when it has a longer text, has several pages, and stapled to form a typical pamphlet.
Leaflets are different form sales literature. This is any form of advertisement enticing the sale of the medal, often in letter or separate sheets. A leaflet is intended for the person who has made the purchase and wants more information about the medal. However, all these printed forms offer data on the new medal, are highly desired by collectors and mandatory for the art medal historian or cataloger.
While sales literature tells what the sponsor or issuer wants the medal to be, a leaflet is somewhat more accurate in what it actually is. Both are useful because they are written by the issuer and are created near the time the medal is issued. This in contrast to a discussion by later writers.
The first “leaflet” was not a leaflet at all. It was a book. When James Mudie issued his series of 40 National Medals of Great Britain (1814-20), he wrote and published in 1820 a cloth-bound book entitled: An Historical and Critical Account of a Grand Series of National Medals Published under the Direction of James Mudie, Esq. This was the first and most elaborate medal “leaflet.”
Mudie set the example for subsequent medal publishers, particularly for those medals to be sold to the public. He also established the precedent of a leaflet for any item issued in series, as most every series publisher through the 20th century has done.
One of the most unusual “leaflets” was made in 1852. Henry Clay was honored with a gold medal for his effort in effecting the Compromise of 1850 (for new states entering the Union and whether they should be free or slave states). Clay was bestowed the gold medal by the citizens of New York and 150 copies of the medal were struck in bronze and sold to the public at $30.
Inside the lid of the medal case was a leaflet printed on silk. It contained a new account from the Washington National Intelligencer (February 10, 1852) describing the presentation ceremony, Clay’s reply, and a discussion of the medal, including the identity of the medal’s engraver, Charles Cushing Wright – all printed on the silk handkerchief.
At Medallic Art Company, leaflets were created within the firm for the two largest series the company produced, the Society of Medalists and the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. Responsibility for Society leaflets was assumed by Francis Trees, widow of the owner, Clyde C. Trees. In addition to a brief biography of the medal’s sculptor, she would ask the artist for a statement about his design and the theme of the medal.
Each leaflet, obviously with a picture of both sides of the medal, and its numerical number in the series, contained a stock statement about the company. But it was that sculptor’s statement that was most interesting. Often we learned, however, that the artist, who was most proficient in creating an excellent bas-relief, was often not all the proficient in his little essay about it. Infrequently the artist would venture into a discussion of his philosophy of life rather than the facts of his medal subject.
Responsibility for the Hall of Fame leaflets fell to the firm’s art director, Julius Lauth. This was composed of a biography of the person shown on the medal as the person honored by inclusion in the Hall of Fame, plus a biography of the medal’s sculptor, and again a stock statement on Medallic Art Co as the medallist for the series. Most of these became routine and were assembled by Julius’ secretary, Harriet Hewgley.
Preparation of the leaflet is the responsibility of the client for all private medals struck by the firm. It was their decision to have such a leaflet, and, of course, to have it printed. It was Medallic Art’s responsibility to tuck it in the box with the medal in the packaging department.
The author was assigned the chore of preparing a number of these leaflets. For the Ford Presidential Inaugural Medal I added an innovation, an official numismatic description of the medal. This I thought would be most useful for every numismatic writer and cataloger to have this in print ahead of anyone who had to write about it.
In addition to that numismatic description, the leaflet contained the usual basic information: information about the artist, the design, the occasion, history of the series, details about all the varieties – sizes and compositions – in addition to several paragraphs about Medallic Art Company and the previous official medals made for U.S. president’s inaugurations.
For the first two-part medal issued by the company, Frank Eliscu’s Pegasus, the author wrote the leaflet and it was folded in such a way it opened up to show the two interface surfaces, like the medal itself, opened to show the interface surfaces. I was so proud of this leaflet, I signed it, the only such one so signed.
Leaflets are sometimes issued with commemorative coins, but more often with new medals. They are never as permanent as the numismatic item itself. They are often separated from the item and lost. To overcome this shortcoming, some publishers, some publishers have even used an adhesive label and applied this to the back of some uniface medallic items (as did the issuer of the Theodore Roosevelt Plaque, 1920, by James Earle Fraser). Unfortunately these are just as impermanent.
Leaflets should never be discarded. They contain the most basic, useful and accurate information about the medal as possible, the most useful documentation. Most important of all, leaflets are the most excellent source of information for cataloging the medal. For collectors leaflets add to the lore of the medal, adding to the enjoyment of owning the item.
Press releases are the other vehicle of information created at the time of issue by the sponsor or publisher of the medal. This should be just as accurate as a leaflet, but of more general interest for the public. The press release should be written of all pertinent facts, accompanied by a photograph of both sides of the medal, with a second possible photograph of the artist.
If the medal is awarded, a photo of the presentation ceremonies should accompany the release as well.