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King George III silver peace medal / European

Essay/Description

A King George the III silver medal cast in 1860. Inscription on the front reads, “Georgius III Dei Gratia Britanniarum Rex. F. D.” On the back is a coat of arms and the date 1814.

Indian warriors were recruited by the American and British in the War of 1812. This large, well designed medal showing the “old head” of King George III was struck in great quantity near the end of the war and was given to many warriors, not just chiefs.

Although this medal was actually struck in 1814, it was not presented at that time. The crown and date of 1860 in front of King George’s bust indicates that it was used to commemorate the visit to Canada by the Prince of Wales in 1860.

Silver peace medals were given to influential Native Americans as a symbol of friendship and allegiance with the United States government or foreign power. Medals were given on important occasions, like the signing of a treaty, and then only to very influential members of the tribe. The medals held even greater importance than normal during times of war or tension, particularly between the US and Great Britain. The countries would compete for the loyalty and friendship of the tribes, and a chief trading in British medal for a US one signified a change in loyalty (Prucha 2000, xiv). Gradually, the medals original meaning diminished, and they were given as rewards for good behavior. The practice was discontinued in the late 1800s.

Native Americans placed great significance on the peace medals and viewed them not only as a sign of friendship, but of power. A suggested reason for this is the connection they saw between these medals and the shell gorgets worn and decorated to represent power. The gorgets, which typically only chiefs and the elite would wear, held a supernatural power source. Images on a gorget gave the wearer the power of what the image represented. Similarly, to the Native Americans, the image displayed on the medal, the head of the president or king, gave the wearer the leader’s power (Reilly III 2011).

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Title(s): 
King George III silver peace medal
Culture: 
European
Date: 
1860
Period: 
American Colonial
Place: 
England
Materials/Techniques: 
silver
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
65.15
Department: 
Not On View

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