An American Treasure: 1799 Funeral Medals Honored George Washington

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Following President George Washington’s death on December 14, 1799 at Mount Vernon at the age of 67, the entire nation went into a deep state of mourning.1799 Funeral Metal

With his passing, Washington transcended into a truly legendary American hero, and today schoolchildren are still taught in great detail about the Father of Our Country—the Revolutionary War general who became the first president of the United States of America.

In the days after his death, local governments in nearly every American city and town planned their own memorial tributes to honor his memory and his long-lasting achievements that helped launch a new nation.

Esteemed engraver, inventor and member of the Masonic Brotherhood, Jacob Perkins designed memorial Funeral Medals as a tribute to the Founding Father to be “worn by all ages of people.”

Perkins’ first Washington medal was documented at the funeral procession in his hometown of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Perkins’ most popular and well-known of the Washington Funeral Medals are the “Urn and Skull and Crossbones” types.

However, a little seen medal was one that Perkins designed just for the ladies. This is an oval-shaped, uniface Funeral Medal, created for women to wear inside in a locket or other jewelry setting.

Advertisements promoting this unique Washington Funeral Medal ran under the newspaper headline: “FOR THE LADIES” with the description: “A new impression of General Washington in the form of a miniature, calculated for the ladies and may be worn in any common size locket. Considered by those acquainted with him a very striking likeness; executed in gold, at the low price of a dollar and fifty cents.”

Demand for all Washington Funeral Medals has been on the rise in recent years, which is understandable given the multiple audiences that covet such a remarkable piece of American history. From numismatists who pursue owning trophy rarities to those collecting rare, antique jewelry to collectors of Washingtoniana, the society of collectors who pursue any and all memorabilia relating to the life and times of George Washington—these Funeral Medal survivors are highly sought after.

Today, all Washington Funeral Medals are extremely pricey and exceptionally rare. Fewer than six of the Ladies medal are believed to exist. The fact that any of these medals survived is a miracle. Survivors are truly a national treasure—a rare, early federal-era artifact that represents the magnificent story about the birth and infancy of the United States.

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