Dick Johnson submitted these notes on the other professions of coin and medal artists.
I wrote the entry on sculptor Jamie Franki this week for my artist databank. He designed the 2005 Buffalo nickel reverse and the Jefferson portrait for the nickels that followed for the U.S. Mint. That plus five medals for ANA conventions. He pretty much followed the mold of a typical American coin and medal artist. It is not his main profession.
Like so many other artists of our coins and medals he has a full-time profession other than coin and medal design. So many are teachers, professors, instructors -- I call all these educators -- Jamie is a tenured associate professor in art and art history at the University of North Carolina. Perhaps jewelers rank second as adjunct profession. In the 19th century stencil cutting was a popular full-time profession for engravers.
It seems less than two dozen artists each century -- and that includes full-time engravers at mints national and private! -- that earn their full-time living with coin and medal creation alone. All others have a primary profession, coin and medal creation is a happy diversion.
What I found interesting among the 3,588 artists I have listed in my databank, are those other professions. Obviously most of these are art oriented: sculptor, painter, illustrator, wax modeler, portraitist, miniaturist, graphic artist, cartoonist, seal engraver, banknote (or steel) engraver, wood-carver, ceramicist, industrial designer, and such.
Two early American engravers -- Abel Buell and John Reich -- made a living as typefounders. Frank Donnelly saved his money as an youthful hand engraver to buy a saloon,
but later in life wanted a little more respect and gentility than 'saloonkeeper' offered; he demanded to be listed in city directories as a "wine merchant."
Californian Roger Nobel Burnham was an actor in the film industry. James M. Murdock Junior made branding irons. Theodore J. Harbach made candy and Christmas tree ornaments. Thomas Welland was a calico printer. William Rosenthal was a corset manufacturer.
Benjamin C. True was a justice of the peace. One sculptor I knew personally, Ralph J. Menconi was a police commissioner. We have schoolmasters, Samuel Higley, and schoolmistresses, Clara Hill. We find physicians, dentists, philanthropists, Catholic priests and missionaries in my databank file.
Plus a couple of clockmakers, Edward Dudfield and Henry Voigt. George Seymour Godard was a librarian. Samuel Higley was a metallurgist. And Helmut K. Wimmer was a museum official who managed a planetarium.
I've told the story in The E-Sylum before of Hiram Washington Hayden who was a teenage engraver for Scovill who went on in life to be an inventor, joined forces with his brother and two other entrepreneurs to start their own factories. He became a 19th century millionaire.
Robert Latou Dickinson was a gynecologist who created a medal in the shape of a female vagina. [He collaborated with sculptor Abram Belskie to make models illustrated in their book Birth Atlas and later the pair made three-dimensional models that were anatomically correct for medical students in accurate color and textural feel.]
Gotfried Mass was a straw hat manufacturer and Henry Biggins was a wellsinker.
But I've just scratched the surface. ... Wait! ... I can't say that! I have just uncovered a small portion of coin and medal artists' other professions. Interesting?
Wayne Homren, Editor
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