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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 1, January 6, 2008, Article 10

DICK JOHNSON ON MEDALS BY THE GORHAM COMPANY

Darryl Atchison asked me: "Do you know anything about the
Gorham Company - particularly anything on medals they made?
I noticed a few pieces in the Stack's December sale but had
never heard of this firm before.  There is a published history
on the company which I found on Abebooks but I don't think
it covers anything on their medals."

[I had heard of the firm but was unfamiliar with their medals,
although later I recalled the Bryan Money medals made by the
company.  I had forwarded Darryl's query to Dick Johnson, and
his response appears below. -Editor]

Dick Johnson writes: "Like their life-long competitor,
Tiffany & Company, Gorham issued medals as well - but not
as many. I have listed just over 100 medals that I can
document Gorham made, in contrast to 943 Tiffany medals.

"You must be aware there was just no firm in America which
could strike large important medals in the later part of
the 19th century. If you wanted such a medal you had to
have it struck at the U.S. Mint or order it overseas,
usually in France or England. There were diesinking firms
-- in Boston and New York City -- and a flourishing handful
of medal makers in Philadelphia. For the most part, however,
these firms did not have a press large enough that could
strike a 2-inch or larger medal.

"Thus the jewelry companies of Tiffany and Gorham filled
the niche for large and important medals. You could order
a medal from either of these -- in any size to any
specifications -- and they would solve the problem of
design, obtaining a qualified artist to create the models
and have the medals produced and finished.

"Often when the artist received such an order for a medal,
he would design and model this, then bring the models to
one or the other for production.  Some of America's
greatest artists did this. Saint-Gaudens used both firms.

"Both firms had major sales offices in New York City. But
the medals were produced elsewhere, Gorham in their Providence
Rhode Island plant, Tiffany in their Newark New Jersey
silverware plant. You could think of both firms as
'manufacturing jewelers' but often they would subcontract
actual production, in whole or in part, to other manufacturers.

"This was to the benefit to all. The customer got the best
America could produce, with the prestige of a Tiffany or
Gorham name. The jewelry firm found the best artist, the
best manufacturer, and could negotiate the best price with
these for their continued business. The jewelry firm earned
a decent profit, which they certainly deserved for either
making or administrating the making of the item, at a decent
price for the customer.

"That is how Tiffany came to use the services of a tiny
medal-maker, Deitsch Brothers and the talents of Henri Weil,
in less that a year after this medal maker was established.
Notably for Saint-Gauden's Franklin Bicentennial Medal of
1906 (Saint-Gaudens delayed its issuance to 1908 however).
Henri Weil went on to purchase the medal business from the
Deitschs and build the Medallic Art Company, along with
his brother, Felix Weil. The firm began to thrive after
World War I.

"In the 1920s medal customers began going direct to Medallic
Art Company for their important medals.  In early 1930s
Tiffany gave up any direct manufacturing of medals and
sent all their medal jobs to be made by this firm, even
though the name Tiffany & Co would appear on the medal.

"Gorham did less subcontracting and more production of
medals by casting for which they were so proficient. Thus
Saint-Gaudens sent them his 1906 Massachusetts Civil
Service Reform Association Womens Medallion to be cast.

"Among Gorham's first medals were for two New York City
theaters (1876), they did medals for five American
Expositions (from 1895 Cotton States to 1909 Alaska-Yukon-
Pacific), a large number of anniversary medals. But were
extremely active in producing municipal war service medals
for returning WWI servicemen, as was Tiffany.

"An interesting medal history is the William Henry Nichols
Medal for the American Chemical Society New York Section.
It was first produced by Marcus & Co (a minor jewelry firm)
from 1896-1901, then by Gorham from 1902-1937, and finally
by Medallic Art Company after 1938.

"Gorham employed their own factory artists who created
models, Florent Antoine Haller (late 1880s) and Edwin E.
Codeman two decades later. Most medal work was by outside
artists for the most part."

For more images of Tiffany, Gorham Bryan Money medals, see:
More Images

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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