The Coin of the Month for July is an 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition Medal designed by William Barber.
To help finance the exposition, Congress authorized the striking of commemorative medals in June of 1874. Overall, there were two different medals, each struck in a variety of metallic compositions. One medal was 38mm in diameter and the other 57mm. My Coin of the Month is the 57mm Julian CM-11 medal struck in white metal and graded MS-61 by NGC. White metal is an alloy composed of 82 parts tin, 12 parts antimony, and 6 parts copper. Mintages for the 57mm medal include a unique gold medal, nine silver medals, 7000 bronze medals, 2100 gilded copper medals, and 583 white metal medals. The original issue price for the 57mm medals ranged between two and five dollars.
Amidst a backdrop of economic depression, political scandal (William Magear Boss Tweed), and widespread tent meetings held by evangelist Dwight L Moody, America was celebrating 100 years of independence. Other events influencing American culture in 1876 were Custers defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, the Transcontinental Express traversing the North American continent in 83 hours and 39 minutes, Colorados admission to the Union as the 38th state, and the forming of baseballs National League.
To celebrate her centennial birthday on a grand scale, America was throwing the world a party by hosting her first World Exposition. Held at Fairmount Park, the exposition covered 285 acres with 250 pavilions. There were 37 nations represented and over nine million people attending the exposition held from May 10, 1876 to November 10, 1876. Of certainty, the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition lived up to its billing and did not disappoint.
On display for the entire world to see, representing Americas ascendency in mechanization was the telephone, the typewriter, and the Corliss Steam engine that provided power for virtually all the exhibits. These innovations in technology developed by American inventors ushered in a gilded age of industrialization from which grew a prosperous American middle class.
This then is where my medal so rich in history and allegorical content comes into play. Through the allegories represented on my medal, America was showing the world how liberty and freedom maximize human innovation and ingenuity to provide a prosperous life for the most people within a society. Furthermore, where the human spirit is free from the shackles of tyranny, liberty and freedom provides the fertile ground in which the arts thrive and grow. Among American arts is the literary art masterpiece, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer written by Mark Twain and published in 1876.
The reverse of my medal illustrates Lady Liberty rising from a kneeling position with a drawn sword preparing for battle against the enemies of liberty. Her left arm reaches towards a glory of thirteen stars in which her gaze is fixated. From the united circle of stars representing the thirteen colonies, Lady Liberty receives her strength and resolve. Underneath Liberty is the date 1776 representing the year of our Declaration of Independence. Around the perimeter of the reverse are the words of Virginian Richard Lee to the Second Continental Congress on June 7, 1776. These United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, Free and Independent States.
Lady Liberty with her sword sheathed is the central image on the obverse of my medal. Resting against Lady Libertys left leg is a Union Shield representing the United States. Kneeling to Lady Libertys left is a feminine allegorical representation with a palette of paints at her feet representing the arts. Kneeling to Lady Libertys right is another feminine representation. With an anvil at her side, she is illustrated holding a hammer and a large gear to represent industry. Together Lady Liberty is crowning Arts and Industry with laurel wreaths to represent victory, fame, and achievement. Etched on the platform of which Lady Liberty is standing is the date 1876. Around the perimeter are the words, In Commemoration of the Hundredth Anniversary of American Independence. Thus, this medal represents the first 100 years of American history by first illustrating Americas fight to obtain liberty and 100 years later reaping the rewards of liberty.
In summary, I wish I could say that America had always lived up to her promise of liberty. Yet in 1876, the newly freed slaves did not fully enjoy the guarantees of Liberty. Neither did Native Americans who were herded into reservations. In fact, their internment led to the death of George Custer at the early age of 36. Nevertheless, in spite of these wrinkles in American history, nothing takes away from the truth of Liberty. Therefore, no matter where in the world Liberty is espoused, people prosper. This then is not about governments or governmental systems, its not about money either, but about individual liberty and the right of self-determination. Liberty then is precious and needs protection because the enemies to liberty are always on the prowl to enslave people under the yoke of tyranny, be they governments, religions, or dictators.
Finally take time this Fourth of July to remember those who sacrificed the most for us to enjoy liberty and freedom. It is during this time of the year that I most often think of Lee Greenwoods song, God Bless the USA. Somehow hearing this song causes my eyes to well up with pride for the country in which I live. God bless the USA!
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