THE PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD HEROIC SERVICE MEDAL
Paul Moller writes:
I am a collector in Calgary Alberta and have come upon a Pennsylvania Railroad Medal for heroic service. It has no name engraved so it is obviously an unused blank. I was told
you might have some knowledge or history of this medal. Any help learning what this is would be appreciated.
Well, I'm afraid I've never seen this one before. The only mention we've had in The E-Sylum is to an exhibit at the 2013 American Numismatic Association
World's Fair of Money in Rosemont, IL. A search of the Newman Numismatic Portal uncovered two listings in a Stack's Coin Galleries sale on 4/15/1998 (lots 1551 and 1552).
Lot 1551 is illustrated and it is also unawarded. Below is the lot description. -Editor
Pennsylvania Railroad Historic Service Medal. 1922 Bronze 70mm. Uncirculated. steam locomotive, 1922 on cab, headlight, quote from Roman sage Livy. Rv. Keystone,
award inscription. Red-gold patina. Struck by Medallic Art Co.
Lot 1552 is described as "A second example of this powerful design", and I agree with that assessment. Great medal. The prices realized are $330 and $357.50,
respectively, hefty prices for 1998. Perhaps readers can fill us in on more recent sales records. Who designed this piece?
Some 51 issued examples are mentioned in a 1926 article found online. Here's an excerpt. -Editor
Decision to award medals to employes of the Pennsylvania Railroad, who perform unusual acts of heroism in connection with their regular duties, or while on the Company's
property, was announced July I, 1923, by G. L. Peck, Vice President in Charge of Personnel, following authorization by the Company's Board of Directors.
The motive of the Directors in establishing the award was to accord proper public recognition to those who, in connection with the discharge of duty, perform extraordinary
service in the protection of life or property at the risk of their own safety or even of their lives.
Referring to the purposes of the Directors in authorizing the award of medals for heroic service, Mr. Peck said:
"Notwithstanding the provisions of mechanical safeguards, the nature of railroading itself is such that opportunities to protect life, limb and property occur in the
ordinary course of a day's work, and Pennsylvania Railroad men have never been found wanting in the performance of their duties in this respect.
"The record of the Pennsylvania Railroad in protecting the life and property of its passengers, shippers and employes is an achievement of which the management is justly
proud. It is a tribute to the zeal and fidelity of Pennsylvania employes."
Recommendations for the award of Heroic Service Medals are made by employing officers to a special committee which, in turn, investigates the merits of each case and then makes
a recommendation to the Board of Directors. All officers and employes are requested to report any act of heroism which they believe merits consideration by the special
Henry M. Crossman, of East Aurora, N. Y., a machinist in the Ebenezer shop, Buffalo division, is the father of the Pennsylvania Railroad medal for heroic service. It was from
Mr. Crossman's suggestion that the plan of awarding medals, as finally authorized by the Board of Directors, was developed.
A general notice to all employes of the Central Region was issued in November, 1921, by Vice President J. A. McCrea, now dead, officially commending an outstanding act of
heroism performed by a crossing watchman in saving a little girl from being run over by a passenger train. After reading this notice, Mr. Crossman wrote to Mr. McCrea and
suggested that medals of appropriate design be awarded in the future, in cases similar to the one described in the general notice. He also suggested that presentation of a medal
such as he had in mind should be made in a formal ceremony.
Mr. McCrea recognized the merit of the general plan as outlined by Mr. Crossman and he later submitted a recommendation to the Board of Directors. The plan was favorably
received and the award of medals for heroic service was formally authorized after a detailed program of procedure had been worked out and an appropriate design for a medal
Awards of the medals have thus far been made on two occasions. The more recent was February 10, 1926, when twenty-four were presented. The first was on May 28, 1924, when
twenty-seven medals were awarded. In each case, the presentations were made by the President of the Company in the presence of the Board of Directors and the higher executive
I also reached out to medal researcher Harry Waterson. -Editor
Harry Waterson writes:
I own one of these medals (unnamed) but the real maven is George Cuhaj. He has chapter and verse on these medals. In fact, he has bios of all the recipients. I suspect George
was the exhibitor in 2013 in Rosemont.
Indeed George was the exhibitor and he has a great deal of information on thee medals. Below is a short excerpt of what he was able to send me. -Editor
Harry is right. I've been a bit over the top on these medals, having published articles in both the TAMS Journal and the Keystone publication of the
Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society, as well as an educational exhibit.
The medals were struck by Gorham & Co.
PRR records (split between the PA state archives in Harrisburg and the Hagley Museum & Library in Wilmington) record 111 were presented starting in 1926 (for actions going
back to 1923) and 1953. The pre-war medals use an insert die technique for placement of the name and date of event, the postwar medals observed have the name and date engraved.
Two heroism events between 1954 and 1957 note in the employee publication that only a Carnegie Medal was awarded (Some PRR folks received both, others did not).
This makes the sixth unawarded medal known (The ANS has one).
One named medal is known from 1928 for which there is no documentation (applications in archives) or board minutes (citations were read into the minutes and medals presented at
the end of board meetings).
I have developed a 36 page booklet listing a nice history and award citations.
George supplied a great deal of information, but I'll just add this fantastic image of a Long Island Railroad awarded medal. Thanks! -Editor
To read the complete article, see:
Pennsylvania Railroad Medals for Heroic Service, 1926, Article
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
EVENTS AT THE 2013 CHICAGO ANA CONVENTION (http://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n33a03.html)
To read the complete Coin Galleries auction lot listing, see:
Ancient and Modern Coins of the World and the United States, Paper Money and
Wayne Homren, Editor
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