The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 9, February 26, 2012, Article 11


Walter F. Rutkowski, Executive Director and Secretary of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission in Pittsburgh shared with me an article from the upcoming March 2012 issue of the commission's ImPulse publication. With permission, here are some excerpts and great photos of the Commission's 1912 Titanic memorial, which comprises a gold medal mounted on a bronze tablet. It was given to the Smithsonian Institution for display in its Museum of American History. But alas, it will not be on display in this centennial year of the disaster, and these photos may be the closest anyone gets. -Editor

Carnegie Hero Titanic medal Carnegie Hero Titanic medal

Within two weeks of the sinking of the Titanic in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912 - one hundred years ago next month - the president of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, Charles L. Taylor, appointed a committee of three to explore what action the Commission might take to recognize acts of heroism performed in the rescue of the tragedy's survivors.

Providing recognition for individual heroes was not within the scope of the eight-year-old Hero Fund, whose awarding requirements limited consideration to acts of heroism occurring "in the United States of America, the Dominion of Canada, the Colony of Newfoundland, or the waters thereof." Four hundred miles off the Great Banks of Newfoundland could not be considered "the waters thereof."

The special committee reported on their thinking to the Hero Fund's standing Executive Committee on April 30. From the minutes of that meeting: "A general discussion followed as to whether any action should be taken...and many views were expressed on both sides of the question. Finally, a motion was offered that the Executive Committee, having been authorized to act for the Commission in this matter, decide to recognize the acts of heroism performed by members of the ship's company of the S.S. Titanic. Motion carried." The motion, which was later adopted by the full Commission, is as follows:

"WHEREAS, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, under the terms of its foundation, being unable adequately to recognize the sublime self-sacrifice displayed by passengers, officers, and crew of the Steamship Titanic, lost off the Banks of Newfoundland, April 15, 1912, nevertheless desires to record its admiration for their acts of heroism, and to commemorate these great and inspiring examples of exalted womanhood and manhood; therefore be it

"RESOLVED, that a gold medal be issued by this Commission, appropriately inscribed to the heroines and heroes of the Steamship Titanic and deposited in the United States National Museum at Washington, and that a record thereof be placed on the Roll of Honor of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, as a lasting memorial of those whose chivalrous conduct and self-sacrifice have profoundly moved the civilized world."

The gold medal was inscribed, "In memory of the heroines and heroes of the Steamship Titanic, lost off the Banks of Newfoundland, April 15, 1912." It was mounted on a bronze plaque that was designed and made by J.E. Caldwell & Co. of Philadelphia, which a few years earlier designed the Carnegie Medal and was awarded the contract to produce it. According to the Hero Fund's records, the cost of the memorial was $575, including the $275 cost of the gold medal.With gold prices today ($1,663 as of this writing) about 80 times the price in 1912 ($20.67 at year-end), a replacement medal weighing nine troy ounces would cost $15,000.

The memorial's design was endorsed by Charles D. Walcott of the Smithsonian Institution's U.S. National Museum, Washington, D.C., in a visit to the Hero Fund's offices in 1912. He acknowledged receipt of the memorial in a letter dated Dec. 19: "The medal, with the tablet and an appropriate label, will be placed on exhibition at once in the Hall of History of the National Museum where it will constitute a permanent monument to the self-sacrificing chivalry exhibited by those who voluntarily yielded up their lives for others."

Dr. Paul F. Johnston, present curator of maritime history for the National Museum of American History, recently informed that although the museum has Titanic material on permanent display in its maritime hall, it is not planning anything special to mark the centennial of the Titanic's sinking and that the Hero Fund's memorial is not available for public viewing.

TitanicMedalObverse closeup

For more information on the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

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