Archive for Commemorative Medals
The year 2016 marks the sesquicentennial of the birth of Hermon Atkins MacNeil on February 27, 1886.
While we celebrate each February as “MacNeil Month,” this year is extra special as the 150th anniversary of his birth.
Several events during 2016 will acknowledge that here on HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com:
- The newly commissioned 2016 MacNeil Medallion will be available for sale on eBay. CLICK HERE
- Postings will continue to celebrate the life and art of Hermon A. MacNeil.
- Kisimul Castle the home of the MacNeil Chieftans from the 14th century, will be featured.
- The origins of the MacNeil Clan on the Isle of Barra in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides will be visited with photos and history .
- The webmaster’s ongoing travels and activity will be presented as his “Search for Uncle Hermon” continues as a odyssey of retirement.
- Antique “MacNeil Postcards” of some of his sculptures across the U. S. will be presented as features.
- MacNeil’s years in Paris will be revisited with photos of the newly restored Ecole de Beaux Arts where he studied and taught.
- MacNeil’s teachers in Paris will be featured with photos of their sculptures in the Musee d’Orsay in the center of Paris. This museum was built as the railroad station for the Universal Exposition of 1900 in which MacNeil and his contemporary sculptors exhibited and received prizes.
- Our recent Travels to Scotland will be featured with photos and stories.
- Our travels to France this year will be shared.
ALL in ALL, 2016 begins as a banner year for this website. SO stay tuned.
Better yet, SUBSCRIBE by clicking the button.
2016 marks a banner year for this website.
This February 27th, 2016 marks another anniversary of the birth of Hermon Atkins MacNeil our patron sculptor.
of the birth of
HERMON ATKINS Mac NEIL
In honor of this Anniversary, we have commissioned a MacNeil Medallion commemorating his birth and the Centennial of the first minting of the Liberty Standing Quarter.
This beautiful bronze medal features the image of MacNeil at about age 60. It is plated in nickel and measures 3 inches (77 mm) in diameter.
It is available on now eBay. CLICK HERE
The other side of the medallion celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the first mintings of the Standing Liberty Quarter. BUT More About that later.
Upcoming: MacNeil Roots and Pursuits
NOW ON eBay, (Click Here) This new Medallion is a bronze medal 3″ in diameter with nickel plating. Minted in 2016, it commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Hermon Atkins MacNeil, as well as, the 100th Centenary year of the Standing Liberty Quarter minted from 1916-1930.
The center of the face duplicates the obverse of MacNeil’s original sculpture of Miss Liberty from 1916. The “M” at the bottom (to the right of the 13th star) is the only form of signature allowed for the sculptor.
The reverse features the central image of Hermon A. MacNeil (1886-1947) and denotes the 150th Anniversary of his birth. This sesquicentennial will be celebrated here at HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com for the next 366 days of 2016. [ CLICK HERE for eBay link ]
Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947) – “Hopi” (Obverse) and “Prayer for Rain” (Reverse) Society of Medallists (SOM), Issue #3 of 1931, was based on MacNeil’s “Moqui (Hopi) Runner” statue of 1897. This was the only SOM issue that MacNeil would ever sculpt. Yet nearly fifty years later (1943), he vividly described these images of his 1895 travels to the Hopi (Moqui) Mesa in his Autobiographical Sketches.
MacNeil’s brief artists intro accompanying the medal is as follows:
“The two incidents of the Hopi Prayer for Rain on the mesas of northeastern Arizona depicted on this medal are chosen by your sculptor because of the extraordinary vital enthusiasm and power that the Indians throw into this ceremony. Having witnessed it and been thrilled by the intensity of their emotion and on further study by the complicated and perfectly natural development of this drama, I cannot help feel that in it we find a basic note underlying all religions. All these Southwest Indians, living as they do in an arid region, have developed their religion along the lines of their greatest need –water.”
In the documentation accompanying each medal, MacNeil offered the following additional narrative of his witnessing of this ritual nearly 36 years earlier while on his 1895 venture to the Southwest with Hamlin Garland and Charles F. Browne:
“This is one of their greatest and most important ceremonies. Occurring in August, it is filled with ritualism for nine days and in their kiva, an underground chamber, they have ceremonies with these snakes that have been gathered by the antelope and snake clans of their tribe for six days, from the north, east, south and west, also from above and below, therefore from all the directions of the universe. These snakes, so far as our best authority goes, although a portion of them are poisonous varieties, are not tampered with but are handled freely by the Indians, both during their underground ceremonies, and later on the last day above ground, in their public ceremony. During the last day ceremony they dance two and two, one with the snakes in his mouth, sometimes two at a time, while the other, accompanying him, wards off the head of the snake from the face of his companion with an eagle feather. It will be remembered that the eagle preys on the snake in nature and the smell of the eagle feather is supposed to frighten the snake with the intention of preventing him from biting. This ceremony was so intense and apparently so vital to them that although I myself saw two Indians bitten, they seem to be so completely under the control of the spirit that although I watched for further developments, yet there seemed to be no swelling or poisonous effects from the bites.
Even though the dancing takes place after the participants have taken hardly any food during the nine days, yet immediately after the public ceremony, which is performed in a circular action around the sacred stone on the mesa at Waslpi, they each take an emetic. After circling twice around the sacred rock, the one bearing snakes in his mouth emits them and a third follower immediately grabs the snake from the ground and carries it back to a little improvised enclosure of cottonwood boughs. After all the snakes have been used on this manner each Indian grabs into the bunch and with his hands filled with the snakes, each one starts running down the trail off the mesa onto the plains as shown on the reverse side of the medal and figuratively deposits the snakes again in their underground abodes.
Behind the heads of the dancers on the obverse is shown the sand picture drawn by the Indians themselves with colored earths on the floor of their kiva or underground chamber, about which they performed sacred ceremonials previous to the public dance. On this side of the medal the attempt is also made to show the apparent basic reason for the use of the snake in this prayer for water. This reason or theory seems to have evolved from the similarity in action between the snake on the earth and the lightning in the sky. The Indian, however, has evolved the theory of a kind of cousinship through these angular moving reptiles with the still more angular movement of the lightning to jar the rain clouds for rain, thus making their chief need their strongest prayer. Curiously enough, although there had been no sign of rain for weeks, the day following the remarkable ceremony, a little cloud appeared in the sky and the next day it rained copiously.”
[ SOURCE: Society of Medalists documentation accompanying the medals; reproduced at “Medals4Trade” ]
The screen capture (below) shows a frame from the 1929 silent movie “The Medal Maker.” This photo frame shows four presidents of the National Sculpture Society who were also “Medal Makers” presenting the NSS‘s ‘Special Award Medal’ to Daniel Chester French (center). French (1850-1931) died just 2 years after this video was made. The making of the Medal by Laura Gardin Fraser is told in “The Medal Maker” (see cover at right).
Three of these sculptors (Fraser, Weinman and MacNeil) had already redesigned US Coinage. They created the Buffalo Nickel (JEF), the Liberty [Mercury] Dime & Walking Liberty Half-Dollar (AAW), and the Standing Liberty Quarter (HAM).
Below are Society of Medalists creations and stories from each sculptor on some of their medal making. (The SOM medal images below are from the collection of the webmaster, Daniel Neil Leininger.)
All five sculptors contributed to the “Society of Medalists” series of the Medallic Arts Company started in 1930, one year after this video was made. Laura Gardin Fraser, the maker of the NSS Special Award Medal, is the fifth medal maker featured here. She also sculpted the SOM#1, First Issue of the entire SOM series. Her NSS Award Medal (100mm or 4 inches) is featured below also.
- James Earl Fraser (1876-1953) ~ SOM #45 “The Pony Express” and “New Frontiers” 1952″ James Earle Fraser was the husband of Laura Gardin Fraser and 13 years her senior. He chose historic images of the west, namely, the “Pony Express” and the oxen-drawn “Covered Wagon.” He stated that the Covered Wagon was a childhood image that he remembered from his childhood in South Dakota and Minnesota.
- Adolph Alex Weinman (1870-1952). ~ SOM#39 ~ 1949 ~ “Genesis” and “Web of Destiny.” Weinman offers the following description of his inspiration for this piece:
- “… for ‘Genesis’, look up chapter one in your Bible, I could not say it nearly as well. As to the ‘Web of Destiny’, that should be easily interpreted. The little fellow is Eros, who can perform more miracles in guiding the strands of destiny than any power known to man.” (J.E.F. -SOM #39)
- Laura Gardin Fraser (1889-1966). Her sculpture of the National Sculpture Society special award medal is the subject of the “Medal Maker” film/video. The presentation of the medal to French by the four past-presidents of the NSS is also recorded in that film.
- AE Medal of National Sculpture Society, Medallic Art Co., United States, 1929-1929. 1997.62.1
- Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947) – “Hopi” and “Prayer for Rain” SOM #31 ~ 1931. Based on MacNeil’s “Moqui (Hopi) Runner” of 1897, this was the only SOM medal that he would sculpt.
- For his lengthy explanation of the theme he chose, see this website: “Medals4Trade”
- MacNeil’s brief intro to the medal is as follows: “The two incidents of the Hopi Prayer for Rain on the mesas of northeastern Arizona depicted on this medal are chosen by your sculptor because of the extraordinary vital enthusiasm and power that the Indians throw into this ceremony. Having witnessed it and been thrilled by the intensity of their emotion and on further study by the complicated and perfectly natural development of this drama, I cannot help feel that in it we find a basic note underlying all religions. All these Southwest Indians, living as they do in an arid region, have developed their religion along the lines of their greatest need –water.”
- Herbert Adams (1858-1945)~ SOM #009 ~ The Prize and The Little Shiner 1934
- “Oh What Are the Prizes We Perish to Win” (on obverse), “To the First Little Shiner We Caught with a Pin” (on reverse). Numbers Issued: 1,207 Bronze, 100 Silver.
The words that Adams placed on the medal are translation of the two lines from Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem, “Song of a Piece of Eight”, ~ He made the medal eight-sided (as a piece-of-eight) reminiscent of the pirate poem “Oh what are the prizes we perish to win. To the first little ‘shiner’ we caught with a pin.”
ALL FOUR MEN in the photo (excluding Daniel Chester French) would become Medal Makers for the SOM Series. The Society of Medalists series (begun in 1930 after this photo of 1929) was created by Medallic Art Company. It enlisted sculptors for the next 65 years. That list would read like the Who’s Who of Sculptors (American and otherwise) from 1930 to 1995.
- LAURA GARDIN FRASER was “The Medal Maker” featured in this film by that same name. I imagine that she was present for the presentation of the medal to French. She made numerous other medals (George Washington Bicentennial Medal 1932, Gilbert Stuart It seems ironic that her husband, James Earle Fraser, is admiring the medal and explaining some of her technique with the other sculptors. It is likely that Carol Brooks MacNeil was also present at the event. Women, however, were not in leadership in her era.
This topic seems a strange fit for a website devoted to the art of Hermon Atkins MacNeil, an American Sculptor of the 19th and 20th centuries, born in Massachuesetts of Scottish descendents.
Please, bear with me briefly while I take you on a journey toward today’s Native American Day story.
STEP ONE: An arrogant sense of Manifest Destiny often accompanied many 19th and 20th Century concepts of American culture, history, and pride. An inescapable irony in our own 21st Century, is that Hermon MacNeil and many of his contemporary sculptors placed many Native American images at the center stage of the historical and allegorical sculptures of World Fairs from 1890 to 1915. That is quite visible throughout this website. I am beginning to find that MacNeil’s embrace of Native American themes in his sculpting, especially from 1895-1905, still offers us lessons more than a century later in understanding culture, anthropology and life values.
STEP TWO: Today is Native American Day in South Dakota, my home for the last 31 years. I understand that California is the only other state celebrating a Native American Day. “In 1989 the South Dakota legislature unanimously passed legislation proposed by Governor George S. Mickelson to proclaim 1990 as the “Year of Reconciliation” between Native Americans and whites, to change Columbus Day to Native American Day and to make Martin Luther King’s birthday into a state holiday. Since 1990 the second Monday in October has been celebrated as Native American Day in South Dakota.” [ Wikipedia: Native American Day: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_Day ] In April 1993, Governor George Mickelson, a friendly giant of a man, and eight civic leaders were killed in a tragic plane crash in Iowa. His death was a great loss to this state and to hopes of Reconciliation. We still observe the day, even if it is in a subdued fashion.
STEP THREE: I am Daniel Neil Leininger, founding webmaster of HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com. I am a Caucasian descendant of Scottish German stock. My maternal grandfather. Thomas Henry McNeil (1860-1932), was a cousin to Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947). My mother, Ollie McNeil Leininger, always called Hermon MacNeil her “Uncle Hermon.” My middle name, Neil, was my mother’s gift. It reminds me of my heritage.
STEP FOUR: In researching the sculpture of MacNeil in recent years, I have developed a growing sense of “historical irony” in his placement of Native American images to symbolize the vitality of American expansion westward through his cultural era of Manifest Destiny. His choice moves against the strong current of self-absorption in contemporary cultures, both his and ours.
EXAMPLES 1-5: See photos above:
EXAMPLE 6: MacNeil made a Pan American Exhibition Award Medallion with an indigenous North American and an indigenous South American sharing a Peace Pipe. Probably a corrupted mix of Native images, but it is a allegory, a visually symbolic representation carrying a larger meaning.
THE STORY OF MacNEIL and CHIEF MANUELITO:
MacNeil never met Chief Manuelito. Two years after his death, MacNeil made a statue of him using only a photograph supplied by trader C. N. Cotton. The year was 1895. Thirty years earlier, Manuelito had survived the “scorched-earth” missions of the U.S. Army under Gen. James H. Carleton and Col. Kit Carson, the “Long Walk” (a 320 mile forced march of men women and children through the deserts) to Bosque Rodondo, and the imprisonment of Native peoples there for four years.
MacNeil made the statue tribute out of available materials. He built a wooden frame, a wire mesh surface and sculpted cement around it forming an eight foot two inch tall image of the Chief wrapped in a bright native blanket. His techniques seem to mirror the many ‘staff plaster’ statues he made for the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair. He was visiting the southwest that summer with friends Hamlin Garland (writer) and C.F. Browne (artist) to experience the vanishing Native culture at the urging od E. E. Ayers and others.
As the story goes, after he finished he asked Cotton if the piece was acceptable. Cotton left and brought in a group of older Native women to enter the canvas enclosure where MacNeil had setup a open-air studio workshop. After much weeping, the women, one of whom was Manuelito’s wife, came out obviously moved by the experience of being with the piece.
Edward E. Ayers was the benefactor of the three artists who urged them to make the trip. A former member of the First California Cavalry Volunteers of the U.S. Army in AZ during the Civil War and the Native American oppressions of the 1860s,Ayers was stationed at the Cerro Colorado Silver Mine (now a ghost town) south of Tuscon in Pima County AZ. He was in charge of 14 men who guarded the silver mine from robbers. While there he happened on a copy of William H. Prescott’s Conquest of Mexico placed there by the mine’s owner Col. Samuel Colt, of revolver-fame. Ayers devoured the book repeatedly and began his life-long insatiable interest in Native American literature, manuscripts, and culture. He became an American business magnate, who is “best remembered for the endowments of his substantial collections of books and original manuscripts from Native American and colonial-era history and ethnology, which were donated to the Newberry Library and Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.” [ Wikipedia ] (Editors Note: Ayers passion for understanding and preserving Native American culture continues into the 21st Century through the legacy of his estate now bequeathed to Newberry Library, Field Museum and related archieves.)
One hundred years after MacNeil make the trip and completed the piece, Joe Di Gregorio, (Gallup businessman and grocer), stepped in to rescue the Manuelito statue. It was badly needing repair and being stored in a warehouse going up for sale. Leslie Linchicum of the Albuquerque Journal relays this account in her March 2010 story:
“Longtime Gallup grocer Joe Di Gregorio and his wife, Christine, own the statue. They took custody after the building’s owner, in negotiations to sell to an out-of state buyer in 1983, turned to Di Gregorio and whispered, “Don’t let the bastards take the Indian.” Di Gregorio didn’t. He agreed to take custody of Manuelito and promised to keep him in Gallup.” [“Navajo Leader Stands Tall” Albuquerque Journal, March 11, 2010]
Now 116 years after MacNeil’s visit, McKinley County Fine Arts Commission in Gallup, NM is restoring the nearly 9 foot fragile artwork that MacNeil built in an outdoor tent. “Carolyn Milligan, chairwoman of the … Commission, has estimated that it will cost $25,000 to $38,000 to restore the sculpture, which has deteriorated from a hundred years of rail yard soot, showers with a fire hose and a well-meaning but inept repainting.”
Milligan continues, “The 1,000-pound piece is fragile, …. Wherever it stands, she said, it will probably attract crowds.” “It’s really quite a commanding piece,” Milligan said. “And it’s for the people.”
BEST WORDS OF THE DAY: “Don’t let the bastards take the Indian.” MacNeil and Manuelito would probably smile to hear those words. While virtually all of the ‘staff plaster’ sculptures of the World Fairs have crumbled to dust, Manuelito still stands tall.
After all, he does belong to the people, centuries of people, both Native and otherwise.
THAT’s WHY I BELIEVE THAT: MacNeil’s embrace of Native American themes in his sculpting from 1895-1905 still offers us lessons in culture, anthropology and life values for the 21st Century.
2.) William Wroth’s “Long Walk” to Bosque Redondo also provides poignant insight into this period of the United States management of Native American peoples and the life of Chief Manuelito who was part of that “Long Walk” and signed the treaty of 1868 that sought to restore Navajo lands after the disastrous interventions of the US government.
3.) “The Long Walk” A Ten (10) Part video story of the Navajo “Fearing Time” accounting atrocities against the Navajo people from 1863 to 1868. Researched and produced with support of the George S. and Delores Dore’ Eccles Foundation and the Pacific Mountain Network. Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10.
4.) “The Long Walk” For a Navajo perspective view this video by Nanebah, whose great-great grandmother survived “The Long Walk”.
5.) “300 Miles – Or Long Walk Of The Navajo – Richard Stepp” For a musical tribute with an ‘American Indian Movement’ perspective.
6.) Leslie Linthicum, staff writer for the Albuquerque Journal, gives a delightful article, “Navajo Leader Stands Tall”. It offers historical irony from our 21st Century on attitudes toward Native American culture through her story of the ‘management’ and ‘preservation’ of MacNeil’s iconic statue of Chief Manuelito.
- 1901 Pan-American Exposition – Buffalo, New York ~~ “The Rainbow City” (10.3)
- MacNeil Sculpture “Meets Me in St. Louis” (20)
- Expositions and World’s Fairs ~ Hermon A. MacNeil (15.6)
- MacNeil at the 1893 Columbian Exposition ~ ~ ~ THE CHICAGO YEARS ~ ~ (10.8)