The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 16, April 22, 2007, Article 21


Web site visitor Dave Lanara writes: "Yesterday I discovered the
E-Sylum story on the American Numismatic Society's Lincoln peace medal
with the Indian/bullet and was stunned beyond belief.  The reason is
that I have been searching for this medal for over twenty years. It
was part of a huge number of artifacts that belonged to a Denver
businessman who wrote an account of his acquisition of the medal
in the 1870s.  Are you interested in the details that seem to be
lacking in the ANS records?"


[I said yes in a heartbeat.  Here's the story,
copyright 2007 David A. Lanara.  -Editor]

"There is an Indian Peace medal in the ANS collection that is
very special.  One of the original Lincoln peace medals, it bears
the scar of a bullet strike at two o'clock on its reverse, with a
major portion of the bullet still imbedded.  According to the ANS
site, this medal was obtained from an Ute Indian who said it was
"bad medicine."

"J. Sanford Saltus purchased the medal in 1917 and donated it to
the ANS, where it has resided ever since.  A note with the history
was supposedly attached to a box in which it was received, but that
note has been misplaced, rendering the complete history of the
medal unknown.

"My interest in the medal began in 1980, when I was researching
the man who obtained it from the Ute Indian.  John P. Lower was
a Denver gun dealer from 1876 through to his death in 1917. He
wrote an article for the Denver Republican in 1913 that described
the circumstance surrounding the acquisition of the medal and
several others.  Here is the actual text of that portion of the

"...I was [the Ute Indians'] trader for many, many years.  I was as
fair and honest with them as with their white brothers.  For this
kindness they brought me their rare and beautiful furs, and many curios.
It was in this manner that I was given the information that Washington,
Ute chief, was the possessor of one of the original Washington medals.
This rarity had come out here in the far West through the channels of
Indian trading, warfare, and bloodshed.  Early in the 50s, Washington,
then a young buck, with another name, took this medal from the neck
of a dead Arapaho after a battle with a war party at Whisky Gap, Wyo.
After he had worn it for some time he was given the name of Washington
by Indians and whites alike.  He was a grand old chief.  I opened
negotiations for this medal in 1872 and did not secure the coveted
relic until 1876.

"I had it in the store and kept it locked carefully away.  Among
the men that were my regular visitors was Emil Grainier, a wealthy
mining man engaged in the business of mining at Atlantic City, Wyo.
He saw that medal and literally talked me out of it. I sold it to
him for $50, the price of the stuff that I had traded old Chief
Washington for the medallion.  Shortly afterward he left for Paris,
his home.  He advised me that he had stopped in Washington, called
upon the treasury department, and the Smithsonian institution and
had the authenticity of the piece proven.  The Smithsonian offered
him $1,000, which he refused.  Then, when he showed it to the
historical academy of France, they immediately offered him $2,500,
and kept on increasing their offer until the figures went into the
five thousands.  The last time that I heard from him, this piece
was his most treasured possession.  These medals were the most
valued of all things in the mind of the Indian.

"I have here in my safe four of the rarest Indian medals that are
in existence.  Two of Lincoln, one of Andrew Johnson and one of Grant.
The story of how I acquired them all would fill a volume in itself.
I doubt if there is a like collection anywhere else in the world.
Each one has its peculiar associations and history. (Authors note:
It is probable that J. Sanford Saltus obtained all of these medals
after Lower's death.)

"Of course, I consider the Honko, Ute chief medal of Lincoln, my
prize curio.  At 2 o'clock on the medal you see the greater part of
an ounce ball imbedded.  It is bent from the shock of the impact of
this bullet.  It was at the battle of Cheyenne Wells that the Utes
and Arapahoe-Cheyennes met in deadly conflict.  During the engagement
Honko was struck by a ball and after some weeks he came into the store
and said to me, after showing me the bent silver medallion:  "Heap bad
medicine.  Bullet him knock me dead.  Squaw poured heaps and heaps of
water over me.  No dead after two hours dead.  No want.  Much bad
medicine.  Trade!"

"After the usual dickering and argument I received the prized piece.
I consider this relic the most valuable of any in the entire world.
It is the most valuable to any collector on account of the unusual
circumstances that surround it.  There is no like medal in existence.
There never will be another.  In years to come its value will be greater
than the Washington relic.  The letter that accompanies the medal vouches
for the absolute worth and authenticity of the near death of a famous
Indian chief."  (The letter referred to was written by an Indian scout
named Clarke who witnessed the battle and the recovery of the chief.)"

Dave adds: "I hope you have enjoyed this lost piece of numismatic
history.  Mr. Lower's vision of the medal's future has come true."

To view the ANS museum catalog entry for the medal, see:
 ANS museum catalog entry

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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