DATE: March 1783                                                                                Please visit our sponsors:

TOWN:  London 

SOURCE: The Gentleman's Magazine

 

The Libertas America Medal

NOTES:  The most famous of all American medals is the Libertas Americana medal of 1783.  Designed and promoted by Benjamin Franklin, the medal commemorates the British surrenders at Saratoga (1777) and Yorktown (1781).  "The extinguishing of two armies in one war," he wrote from Paris in 1782, "is what has rarely happened, and it gives a presage of the future force of our growing empire."  

Franklin represents America as the infant Hercules, fighting off twin serpents representing the formidable armies of Burgoyne and Cornwallis.  The infant is vigorously defended by France, who holds off a leopard, representing Britain.  

A preliminary sketch was drawn by painter Esprit-Antoine Giblein, and the medal dies were engraved by Augustin Dupre.  Examples struck in gold were presented to the King and Queen of France.  

The obverse device of Liberty is believed to be the creation of Dupre.  Her hair flowing, she holds a spear topped with a Phrygian cap, an ancient symbol of liberty.  Dupre's design inspired the Liberty Cap designs of the U.S. Mint (Half Cent 1793-1797, Large Cent 1794-1796.  

Reference:  

Clain-Stefanelli, Vladimir and Elvira, Medals Commemorating Battles of the American Revolution, The National Museum of History and Technology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1973  

See also:  

Betts, C. Wyllys, American Colonial History Illustrated by Contemporary Medals, 1894 (reprinted by Quarterman Publications, Boston MA, 1972)  

Loubat, J.F., The Medallic History of the United States of America 1776-1876, 1878 (reprinted by N. Flayderman & Co., Inc, New Milford, CT, 1967)  

Zigrosser, Carl, The Medallic Sketches of Augustin Dupre in American Collections, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol 101, No. 6, December, 1957  

In commemoration of the American war, and the independence of America that succeeded it, Dr. Franklin has caused a medal to be struck.  It represents Hercules in his cradle, strangling two serpents; a leopard, amazed at his strength, is about to fall upon him; he is repulsed by France, who, under the figure of Minerva, turns her shield, on which are three fleurs de lis, towards him.  At bottom are the years 1777 and 1781, epochs of the capitulations of the armies of Burgoyne and Cornwallis, represented by the two serpents.  On the other side is Liberty, emblematically portrayed by a fine woman; and in the exurgue, Libertas Americana. 

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