View a collection of 30 rare medals, on loan from the American Numismatic Society, in Donald W. Reynolds Education Center.

Special Exhibit Showing From

Medals from the American Numismatic Society

Eighteenth-century medals helped form national identity and supported international diplomacy. Eager to establish America’s claim to nationhood, America’s founding fathers began commissioning official medals even before declaring political independence.

At the time of his death in 1799, George Washington owned an unequaled collection of the new nation’s medals. Drawing on the rich collections of the American Numismatic Society in New York, we are pleased to present a rare selection of America’s most important early medals, a miniature pageant of our nation’s history from 1776 through 1805.

Diplomatic Gifts

Diplomatic Gifts

Gift-giving was an established part of 18th-century diplomacy. Both European states and American Indian nations expected that the new nation would continue awarding medals to retiring foreign ministers and prominent leaders. George Washington’s administration faced the challenge of adapting monarchical practices to republican ideals.

Diplomatic Medal of the United States, trial impression, Lead Die engraved by Augustin Dupré, Paris 1791-1792 ANS 1935.126.23

Indian Peace Medals

Indian Peace Medals

As part of the 18th-century competition for Native American lands, trade, and military alliances, European powers presented Indian leaders with silver medals – the larger the medal, the more important the leader was thought to be. George Washington’s administration continued this practice but tried (unsuccessfully) to introduce new imagery celebrating the virtues of civilization.

Medium size Washington Peace Medal, Silver Possibly made in New York City 1760-1801 ANS 1916.999.197, Acquired from John F. Noegel

The Comitia Americana (American Congress) Medals

During the Revolution, Congress ordered gold and silver medals to honor ten commanders of six notable victories. The designs included portrait busts, allegorical figures, and battle scenes.

George Washington Before Boston, 1776, Bronze Die engraved by Pierre-Simon-Benjamin Duvivier, Paris 1789 ANS 1940.100.366, Acquired from Mr. R.J. Eidlitz

Exhibit Details

Now on display in Mount Vernon’s Donald W. Reynolds Education Center is a special temporary exhibition featuring 30 rare medals from the American Revolution and the early republic. War and Peace in Miniature: Medals from the American Numismatic Society is an unparalleled collection that highlights the remarkable heroes and events from the Revolutionary War and the new nation’s diplomatic endeavors.

An interactive touchscreen next to the display of medals invites visitors to explore these meticulously-crafted objects in more detail. The touchscreen features high-resolution images of the front and back of each medal, as well as additional details about inscriptions and symbolism.

The exhibition also recalls Washington’s own collection of medals. At the time of his death in 1799, he owned an unequaled assemblage of the new nation’s medallic art—including the only full set of the Comitia Americana series—stored with other valuables and curiosities, probably in a small closet off his study.

Exhibit Dates

On view through July 6, 2020

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