Jefferson Medal by John Reich (Medals & Medallions)

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

Artist/Maker: John Reich (1768-1833)[1]

Created: 1802

Origin/Purchase: United States

Materials: solid silver

Dimensions: 4.5 (1 3/4 in.)

Owner: American Numismatic Society

Historical Notes: Jefferson's presidential medal was among the first commemorative works to be struck at the United States mint and probably the first medal executed here b the recent German emigre engraver John Reich.[2] The medal's obverse is based on Jean-Antoine Houdon's 1789 bust of Jefferson, and the reverse celebrates twenty-five years of American independence and the documents that secured, it, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The medals were available to the public in February 1802, and Jefferson sent one each to his daughters Maria and Martha, and his sister-in-law Elizabeth Eppes. His letter to Martha best describes his opinion of Reich's work: "I inclose you a medal executed by an artist lately from Europe and who appears to be equal to any in the world."[3] Martha thought the medal was a good likeness, but "as I found fault with Houdon for making you too old I shall have the same quarrel with the medal also. You have many years to live before the likeness can be a perfect one."[4] Maria's letter of thanks to her father reveals the medal's importance to the family from which Jefferson was often absent: "I received your last with the medals which I thik very much like you. Mine will be very precious to me dear Papa during the long separations from you to which I am doomed..."[5] None of the medals owned by Jefferson's family are known to survive.

Footnotes

  1. This article is based on Stein, Worlds, 240.
  2. R. W. Julian, Medals of the United States Mint: The First Century (El Cajon, CA: The Token and Medal Society, Inc., 1977), xx, 77. Noble Cunningham raises the possibility that Jefferson's Indian Peace Medal was Reich's first project in the United States. See Noble E. Cunningham, The image of Thomas Jefferson in the public eye: Portraits for the People, 1800-1809 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1981), 73-74.
  3. Thomas Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph, Washington, April 3, 1802, in Family Letters, 221.; Jefferson to Maria Jefferson Eppes, Washington, March 29, 1802, in Ibid.; Elizabeth Wayles Eppes was also Maria's mother-in-law.
  4. Martha Jefferson Randolph to Jefferson, Edgehill, April 16, 1802, in Ibid, 222.
  5. Maria Jefferson Eppes to Jefferson, Eppington, April 21, 1802, in Ibid, 224.

Further Sources