The Numismatic Bibliomania Society


The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 15, April 10, 2022, Article 4


A new book on Indian Peace Medals has been published. -Editor

Indian Peace Medals and Other Medals at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, DMNS Annals Journal, No. 9, March 25, 2022, by Lawrence J. Lee and Stephen E. Nash.

Indian Peace Medals Denver book cover The Denver Museum of Nature and Science Annals is an open-access, peer-reviewed scientific journal that publishes original research by DMNS staff and research associates in anthropology, geology, paleontology, botany, zoology, and space and planetary sciences. These occasional papers typically focus on objects and specimens from within the Museum's 4.3 million-piece collection.

Annals No. 9 addresses the Department of Anthropology's large collection of medals relating to Native Americans, including Indian peace medals. Dr. Stephen E. Nash is the Museum's Director of Anthropology and Senior Curator of Anthropology; in 2017, he enlisted Dr. Lawrence J. Lee, a professional numismatist and subject matter expert, to analyze the Museum's numismatic collection. Those holdings include more than 200 medals collected by two of the Museum's primary benefactors, Mary and Francis Crane. 

The Cranes represented the last of the generation of grand amateur collectors—the elite group of bluebloods who believed their class, status and wealth were to be used to benefit all levels of society. In their case, the Cranes travel the country between 1951 and Francis' death in 1968, visiting Indian reservations, trading posts, and museums in search of high-quality artifacts that represented the finest in Native American artisanship. Their goal was to establish their own museum, dedicated to the American Indian. In this, they succeeded, establishing the Southeast Museum of the North American Indian on Marathon Key, Florida, in 1958.

Among the most revered items in their museum were Indian peace medals. The Cranes were interested in any medal pertaining to Indians, as they regularly informed their dealer network. In particular, they liked the large, silver peace medals, eventually building a sizable collection of medals from France, England, Canada, and the United States.

Lee and Nash's book traces the Crane's medal purchasing history through a number of prominent coin dealers including John J. Ford, Jr., and Katherine Bullowa, the latter one of the first female coin dealers in the business. Bullowa's 1967 sale of 17 genuine Indian peace medals to the Cranes, in a single transaction, would certainly qualify as a seismic event in the numismatic world if it were to happen today. Back then such deals were completed quietly, without broadcast by either side in the transaction.

Many numismatists will find the correspondence between Ford and Francis Crane regarding the sale and subsequent return by the Cranes of an oval George Washington Peace Medal interesting and insightful. The book also chronicles the Crane's friendship with Fr. Francis Prucha, the Marquette University scholar and leading expert on American Indian peace medals, and their friendship with Chris Schenkel, sports broadcaster and fellow collector of Indian peace medals.

Indian Peace Medals Denver sample page The book has multiple sidebars covering topics and other museum holdings relevant to the primary discussion of medals. One sidebar notes that William Clark, of Lewis and Clark Expedition fame, owned the best and earliest collection of Indian peace medals and for a time had them on display at his council house in St. Louis. In another sidebar, Nash addresses the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 and its ramifications for Indian peace medals found in burials.

Lee and Nash identify nine categories of medals in the Crane Collection, with the most important being the Indian peace medal series. Among those, the DMNS collection includes a 1789 oval George Washington medal, an 1804 Thomas Jefferson large-size shell medal, and several large Canadian medals including a rare Treaty Six medal with its accompanying certificate, flag, and photo of the medal's recipient wearing his medal. 

Other chapters in the Annals include a section on Fur Trapper Medals, where the Museum's rare Pierre Chouteau medal is described; a chapter on Objects with Imbued Power that describes how Jesuit religious medals became confused with Spanish peace medals. Yet another section tackles the awkward and difficult issue of fakes, forgeries and restrikes—the dark underside of the medal collecting hobby. There is also a chapter on Betts medals and other early colonial medals pertaining to Indians.

The book includes a glossary of numismatic terms used relating to medals and minting. An Appendix lists all the medals in the Crane Collection with descriptive data on each medal. The book is lavishly illustrated with high quality, life-size obverse and reverse images of 116 individual medals, as well as occasional detail shots, all taken by Museum photographer Rick Wicker.

Stephen E. Nash
Steve Nash is Director of Anthropology and Senior Curator of Archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, where he has worked for nearly 15 years. He conducts fieldwork and collections-based research on the ancient Mogollon archaeology of southwestern New Mexico. He has written and edited seven books on topics ranging from archaeological tree-ring dating to Russian gem carvings by Vasily Konovalenko, and from the history of museums to scholarly biography. His most recent book is Pushing Boundaries: Proceedings of the 18th Southwest Symposium, an edited volume consisting of 20 chapters on southwestern American archaeology, and which will be published in 2021.

Lawrence J. Lee
Larry Lee is a professional numismatist who works with public museums in evaluating, curating and exhibiting their numismatic holdings. He has curated 23 major museum exhibitions and authoring over 50 numismatic articles. His previous books include The Coins of Fort Atkinson: a study in numismatic archeology (2016). Lee has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Archeology and a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies. His PhD dissertation examined the historical loss of stature of American numismatics, from recognized academic discipline to nerdish hobby and subject of late-night television charlatans.

NOTE: The following link wasn't quite working at publication time, but we expect the problem to be rectified by the time most readers open their issue. Let me know if it's not working for you. -Editor

Copies of this wonderful new volume are available for free download at (ISSN 1948-9307). Paperback print copies (147 pages, 135 plates; ISSN 1948-9293) are available for purchase at for less than $30.

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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