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1855 Allies in the Crimea - San Francisco (Early 37mm Medal)

In the informative article in the December 2018 edition of the Numismatist on the California Union Medal (written by Bill Hyder and Mike Wehner), there is an early California medal that might be considered an unlisted so-called dollar although it's something of a war/political piece.  Made by Achille Vachon and Marc Giron (V&G to the right on the truncation, French designers/engravers of the famous San Francisco Committee of Vigilance Membership Medal), the 1855 medal marks San Francisco's celebration of the end of the Crimean War.

The Crimean War was a military conflict fought from October 1853 to February 1856 in which Russia lost to an alliance made up of the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom, Sardinia and France. The immediate cause of the war involved the rights of Christian minorities in the Holy Land, then a part of the Ottoman Empire, but Russian actions against Turkey (part of the Ottoman Empire) also threatened British commercial and strategic interests in the Middle East and India.    As a result of the war and Russian defeat, (i) Ottoman rule in Turkey was preserved until 1914, (ii) the unification of Germany was facilitated, (iii) British power increased, (iv) France (under Napoleon III) cemented an alliance with Britain, and (v) the importance of Naval/sea power in global conflict became apparent with the destruction of the Russian Navy.  Remembered in part for Florence Nightingale’s work for the wounded, and events such as "the Charge of the Light Brigade," the Crimean War reshaped Europe’s power structure.

The obverse margin reads "Manifestation in Honor of the Successes of the Allies in the Crimea."  The obverse has the British lion on a shoreline, trampling the Russian flag; cannon and arms below; ship to left in distance.  Below the truncation is "San Francisco 26 November 1855."

The reverse has the same obverse inscription except in French.  The reverse a fasces with the flags of the Ottoman Empire and France to left, flags of Great Britain and Kingdom of Sardinia to right; below, the French eagle grasps the Imperial Russian Coat-of-arms with its claws.

This rare early white metal (WM) piece from California is about 37.09mm in diameter, AU condition, and was sold in the Holabird Western Americana Collections auction in February 2020.   I think early California medals and their engravers are a fascinating area of study.

Uploaded files:
  • 1855-Allies-in-Crimea-37mm-AU58-1.jpeg

As a follow-up to my comment above about the unification of Germany, there is an interesting pair of early 1871/1872 California war-ending peace medals (not SCDs however) related to the Franco-Prussian (ie. French vs. German) War, which began in a dispute over the succession to the Spanish Throne and led to the unification of Germany.  The French loss led to the loss of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany.

Bill Hyder is writing an article on these medals, and my knowledge of these pieces is 100% the result of Bill's generosity.

The German medal (Rulau-CA-SF-30) is 30.1mm and was made for the San Francisco German Peace Festival on March 22, 1871 was designed by Albert Kuner (initials on the obverse), the artist responsible for the California state seal.  Silver medals and white metal badges with loops can be found.  The obverse features Germania with a shield and sword and a laurel wreath of victory.  The flags of five German states and the United States are behind her. The inscription, “ZUR ERINNERUNG A.D. DEUTSCHE FRIEDENSFEIER / IN SAN FRANCISCO,” translates as “In memory of the German Peace Celebration in San Francisco.”   The reverse design features a sword and the German flag crossed over a wreath of oak and laurel. The inscription, “EINIGKEIT MACHT STARK. DURCH KAMPF ZUM SIEG,” translates as “In Union is Strength. Through Strife to Victory.”

The french medal is also 30.1mm; the obverse of the medal features the head of Ceres, the symbol of liberty in the Third French Republic. “CONCO” on her head band stands for Concordia symbolizing harmony among the people, nourished by peace. The reverse wreath of laurel and oak encloses the text, “QUI DONNE / A LA FRANCE / PRETE / A DIEU.,” or “Who gives to France, will be repaid by God.” The legend above, “SON NALE DE CALIFORNIA,” translates as the “National Subscription of California.” It is signed V. & CO, the hallmark of the W. K. Vanderslice & Co., a silver manufacturing firm in San Francisco later acquired by Shreve & Co.

Several of these medals were sold by Fred Holabird in the past few years, and while not SCDs, they are American made in San Francisco and are pieces of early California and San Francisco history.

Uploaded files:
  • R-CA-SF-30-MS64.jpg
  • 1872-SFO-French-Subscription-SP55.jpg