A December 17, 2019 PCGS blog article by Jay Turner discusses two recently-certified gold medals relating to early alcohol-fueled automobiles. -Editor
The debate about environmental issues, natural resources, and technological improvements are more relevant than ever before. Yet, two French gold medals submitted for
certification to the Shanghai, China, PCGS office are evidence of the technology that existed 120 years ago.
Using alcohol or ethanol as fuel is not new technology. Ethanol was isolated in the 12th century and was common by the 17th century as an easily burning fuel for lamps and
cooking. Use of ethanol for internal combustion engines began as early as 1826. Many early cars were ethanol fueled due to its ease of access. However, the discovery of abundant
oil and excessive taxes on alcohol in the United States allowed oil-based fuel or gasoline to undercut the use of ethanol fuel from becoming the dominate automotive fuel.
Nevertheless, before the dominance of oil-based energy, alcohol fuels seemed to be the dominate and preferred source of energy. In 1901, the French Ministry of Agriculture
offered prizes for the best alcohol-fueled engines and household appliances. In 1902, the Paris Alcohol Exposition featured alcohol-powered cars and machinery, including lamps,
stoves, heaters, irons, and even coffee roasters. The exhibit would travel Europe and eventually end up at the Jamestown, Virginia, Tricentennial events in the United States in
PCGS received two medals in October at the Shanghai grading event. A gold medal prize from the 1901 Ministry of Agriculture and a 1902 Paris Alcohol Exposition gold medal.
The 1901 medal was designed by Hubert Ponscarme and it features a female effigy of Liberty on the obverse with "REPUBLIQUE FRANCAISE" above. The reverse displays a caduceus
intertwined with leaves, wheat and grapes. A centered rectangle serves as a plaque inscribed "CONCOURS D'APPAREILS A ALCOOL 1901 AUTOMOBILES" around the reverse "MINISTERE DE
The 1902 medal was designed by Alphee Dubois and it features two women, one pointing to a book with the word "SCIENCE" on the spine, and another female figure holding a bundle
of wheat, likely representing the Greek goddess Demeter. In the background, a boy is sowing seeds and written above is "REPUBLIQUE FRANCAISE." The reverse features a cluster of
wheat, leaves, and grapes, with a central plaque. A ribbon scrolled below "SCIENCE LABEUR" and around the reverse is "MINISTERE DE L'AGRICULTURE." The plaque reads "CON. INT. D
AUTOMOBILES A ALCOOL 1902 TOURISME 3. CATEG. Ste DELAHAYE." The 1902 medal was awarded to Delahaye, a French automotive manufacturing company founded by Emile Delahaye in 1894.
The company would produce cars until it went out of business in 1954.
To read the complete article, see:
Ahead of its Time – The Alcohol-Fueled Car Medals of 1901-1902
Wayne Homren, Editor
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