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U. S. Grant presidential medal / United States


A U. S. Grant silver medal. The front has the bust of President Grant and the words, “U. S. Grant President of the United States.” The back features the words, “Liberty the True Foundation of Human Government. Let Us Have Peace.” Medal series of the U.S. Mint.

The Grant medal was designed by the President’s cabinet rather than engraver, Anthony C. Paquet. The portrait of Grant is surrounded by a laurel leaf crown that symbolizes victory. New phrases, “let us have peace” and “Liberty, Justice and Equality” as well as the olive branch and peace pipe are multiple references to peace that may reflect the wishes of post-Civil War America rather than tribal relations.

The reverse image is ringed by 36 stars, the number of states in the reunited Union. An image of the world is crowned by an open bible positioned over a variety of agricultural tools. The biblical quote, “On earth peace – good will toward men” also highlights the desire for peace and reconciliation. President’s Grant’s name was accidentally omitted from the medal.

Restrikes in silver could be purchased from the US Mint beginning in the 1880’s. These are virtually identical to the original medals of 1871. In the 20th century, the Mint made re-strikes in bronze for purchase by collectors.

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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U. S. Grant presidential medal
United States
late 19th century
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
6526.60; 65.60
Not On View

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