Dick Johnson submitted these thoughts inspired by a recent Coin world article. Thanks!
Coin World this week (in February 13th issue) has a great page one article on the surfacing of the Wilson die for the obverse of the Manila Mint Opening Medal of 1920. The long article by CW staffer Erik Martin relates how the die was brought home as a wartime souvenir from World War II and saved by the soldier's family, often used as a paperweight.
Unfortunately Martin repeats an error promulgated by previous writers by calling Clifford Hewitt the designer of the medal and a "chief engraver." He was neither "chief" nor "engraver." He had been assigned the task to build the necessary equipment to establish a mint in the Philippines, to be located in Manila, the first such branch mint outside of the U.S.
Hewitt had no experience to design a medal. He was a machinist. To his credit Bill Swoger in his recent work, National Commemorative Medals (published 2008), rejected the fact that Hewitt designed the medal, that it was entirely the work of Morgan. He stated Hewitt was a "mint technician" and began his construction work in 1915 at the San Francisco Mint.
Following the construction of the necessary coining equipment at the San Francisco Mint he was assigned the task to install the equipment on sight in Manila and teach the local craftsmen how to use it.
It stands to reason such a person familiar with minting machinery was sent to Manila to set up a mint rather than an engraver. Later research revealed Hewitt was foreman of machinists at the Philadelphia Mint. Again, no documentation of being an engraver.
If Hewitt had any contact with George T. Morgan at Philadelphia perhaps it was in conversation as "show the president on one side and the Philippines as an infant and the U.S. as the Motherland on the other." Morgan interpreted this as Lady Liberty or Lady Justice (with scales).
The design is distinctly Morgan, in typical Morgan style. The Wilson portrait was modified from a Wilson portrait by Morgan appearing on the Assay medals of 1914, a fact omitted by Martin in his article.
I have been unable to track back who first called Hewitt a "chief engraver." It was not Hibler and Kappen, published in 1963, but may have been Aldo Basso in his Coins, Medals and Tokens of the Philippines published 1968. Swoger states It was repeated by Neil Shafer.
What has not been revealed is any vita on Hewitt. Can any E-Sylum reader uncover Hewitt's dates of birth and death for example?
Also I would like to know: When was commercial electric generation first available in Manila? Was it in time for that 1920 mint opening? Was all that machinery equipped with electric motors? Remember it was not until 1901 that the Third Mint at 16th and Spring Garden Streets was completely electrified (one of the first electric plants in America!). Prior to that all machinery was run by steam power (and that Corliss steam engine at the Second U.S. Mint) and belting. Was the 1920 Manila Mint run by belts or electricity?
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