Collection of Benjamin Weiss
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
WRIGHT, Charles Cushing: USA, ca 1851, Bronze
(copper electrotype), 92 mm
This medal is the largest of the Washington series of medals and second in importance only to the Washington Before Boston medal. Baker states that the obverse bust of Washington is after Houdon and "is the best medallic portrait of Washington known to us, conveying all the truth and character of the original and is remarkable for its excellence of execution, simplicity of treatment and dignity of expression". The reverse depicts the presentation of the document to the Continental Congress by the 'Committee of Five" who drafted the Declaration of Independence. They are shown standing in front of a table behind which seats John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress. The five standing figures represent, from left to right, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston, Thomas Jefferson, presenting the document, and Benjamin Franklin.
The medal is among the rarest of Washington medals. A few exist in struck form while others, like this piece, are copper electrotypes made by George Segebaden in the late 19th century. It is believed that early in the process of striking the medals, the extremely large die broke and that electrotypes were made from the remaining struck medals.
Charles Cushing Wright, the medallist, engraved the dies for this medal for the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This copper electrotype, one of only 10-15 known to exist, is the example pictured in Jaeger and Bowers "100 Greatest American Medals and Tokens", p 77, # 66. A companion medal by C.C. Wright, on which is engraved exact facsimile signatures of all 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, exists only in electrotype form, and is even more rare, as only two examples are known.
LINK to Jean-Antoine Houdon's Bust of Washington (from wikipedia)
LINK to Text of Declaration of Independence (Indiana University School of Law)
LINK to the American Revolution (from The History Place)