U.S.A., Congressional Gold Medal, William Henry Harrison / Victory at the 1813 Battle of the Thames,

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U.S.A., Congressional Gold Medal, William Henry Harrison / Victory at the 1813 Battle of the Thames,
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This item SOLD at 2023 Nov 03 @ 18:28UTC-4 : AST/EDT
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U.S.A., Congressional Gold Medal, William Henry Harrison / Victory at the 1813 Battle of the Thames, dated 1818, issued 1824, by Fuerst, unique and important, NGC MS 60 Prooflike, ex-Harrison, ex-Adams. Julian-MI14; Loubat-50; Wyatt-21; Neuzil-16. 241.64 grams; 64.9mm (up to 4.3mm thick). With original box and copy of letter of authenticity. Estimate: $500,000-up.

It is a great honor for us to offer this early Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Major General and later U.S. President William Henry Harrison for his role in safeguarding the territory that would later become six of our American Midwest states. This is the highest civilian award in the United States, a large display piece denoting “national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions” that has been awarded to individuals and organizations since the first one given to George Washington in 1776. Most of these medals have found homes in museums and other institutions over the years, chiefly via donation or loan from generous collectors who have the means to purchase such valuable pieces. In any case, whenever one is sold, it does not go unnoticed.

Now graded NGC MS 60 Prooflike and still accompanied by its original box of issue, this large and heavy medal represents an extremely rare chance to own a unique and special relic from America's early days.

William Henry Harrison’s early career

One can be forgiven for not recognizing Harrison’s name today. As President, he earned the dubious distinction of holding office for the shortest amount of time by dying just one month into his term in 1841, in fact the first U.S. President ever to die in office. He also holds the record for the longest inaugural address in U.S. history—two hours in cold and rain—which some believe contributed to his early demise. Most rankings of U.S. Presidents omit William Henry Harrison because he had no time to make anything of his tenure.

Indeed this is far too modest an end to what had been an illustrious career. Born in 1773 into a patriotic Virginian family, William Henry Harrison was the youngest son of Benjamin Harrison V, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of our nation's Founding Fathers. After an education in classics and history, followed by a brief foray into medicine, William Henry Harrison joined the Army in 1791 and spent his first career in the northwest frontier, elbowing out Native Americans for land that eventually became the Midwest states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Upon resignation from the Army in 1798, Harrison became Secretary of the Northwest Territory and its first delegate to U.S. Congress. In 1800, then-President John Adams (distant ancestor of the current consignor, how amazing is that?) appointed Harrison Governor of Indiana Territory. Though no longer in the Army, Harrison led a successful military campaign against Native resistance under Shawnee leader Tecumseh, culminating in the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe, for which Harrison would thereafter be remembered with the nickname “Tippecanoe.” For the subsequent War of 1812, Harrison re-joined the Army as Major General and took command in the Northwest, where Tecumseh and his Native confederation had allied with the British.

The War of 1812

While the War of 1812 officially pitted the United States against Great Britain, many of its combatants were the indigenous people that had been subjugated by Harrison in the Northwest region. The U.S. was expanding from the east while the British were bolstering a Native American buffer state from Upper Canada in the north. Disputes over shipping and trade routes made the War a Naval conflict as well. When the War officially ended in 1815 upon the ratification of the Treaty of Ghent, neither side was victorious: The Northwest remained with the U.S., and Canada remained with Britain. The only losers of the War were the Native Americans.

One of the more shocking events of the War of 1812 came in August 1814 when the British captured the city of Washington, D.C. and burned the White House, the Capitol, and the Treasury building. Albeit briefly, this marked the only time a foreign entity ever occupied our capital.

Back on the Northwest front, in 1813 Harrison successfully defended against the British siege of Fort Meigs in Ohio and then defeated Tecumseh in an engagement known as the Battle of Thames in Canada. Tecumseh’s death in that battle ended any substantive Native threat to U.S. expansion into what we now call the Midwest. It was for his success in that battle that Congress awarded Harrison this gold medal.

The Medal

The tradition of Congressional Gold Medals started with a series of seven pieces authorized by the Continental Congress from 1776 to 1787 for recognizing the military heroes of the American Revolutionary War, beginning of course with George Washington. Each subsequent Congressional Gold Medal was authorized by a two-thirds majority in the United States Congress, uniquely designed to commemorate the honoree, depicted on the obverse, with a representation of the achievement on the reverse, and struck at the U.S. mint in Philadelphia. For the heroes of the War of 1812, a total of 27 medals were authorized in 1813-1835, engraved by Moritz Fürst and struck by chief coiner Adam Eckfeldt. William Henry Harrison's medal, authorized in 1818, was not struck until 1824, reportedly due to Harrison’s desire to change the reverse from an allegorical tableau (believed to have been designed by well-known artist Thomas Sully) to an actual battle scene, an idea that was debated but then dismissed. The medal was presented by President James Monroe at the White House on February 26, 1825, and received on Harrison's behalf by Quartermaster General Thomas S. Jesup.

Only ten of the 27 War of 1812 Congressional Gold Medals are still known to exist, and only four are in private hands: this one awarded to Major General William Henry Harrison and the ones awarded to Major General Alexander Macomb and Naval Captains Isaac Hull and Robert Henly. Of those recipients, of course, only Harrison became President. In fact, only three other U.S. Presidents after Washington have ever received Congressional Gold Medals: Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, and Ulysses S. Grant. Of those, only Zachary Taylor’s medals (he received three) are outside of institutions, once gracing the collections of John J. Ford, Jr and the Norweb Family. It is fitting that the Harrison medal’s pedigree will always be linked to another great collector of our time, John Adams.

Harrison’s post-war career

William Henry Harrison retired from the military before the War of 1812 ended and eventually returned to political life, becoming U.S. Representative for the State of Ohio in 1816. Ironically, adding another distinction to his record, Harrison thereby became the only person ever to vote for his own Congressional Gold Medal. From 1819 to 1821 he served as a State Senator, and then in 1824 he became a U.S. Senator. He resigned from Congress when he was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Gran Colombia in 1828 by John Quincy Adams.

Harrison’s brief stint in Colombia put him at odds with The Liberator, Simón Bolívar. Recognizing that Bolívar was allowing himself to become a military dictator, Harrison politely admonished the leader of the new Republic that “the strongest of all governments is that which is most free.” The ever-proud Bolívar made sure that Harrison did not continue in that role under incoming President Andrew Jackson in 1829.

Harrison then went into retirement yet again, his large family (at one point as many as ten children) barely supported by a dwindling income. Still politically connected, however, in 1836 “Old Tippecanoe” Harrison became one of four Whig Party candidates for the U.S. Presidency, which instead went to Andrew Jackson’s Vice President, Martin Van Buren. In 1840 Harrison ran again as the sole Whig candidate and defeated Van Buren to become the ninth President of the United States in an electoral college landslide fueled by a popular movement touting “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too!” (John Tyler being his running mate), one of the most famous political slogans of all time and in effect the origin of modern presidential campaigning focused on personal aspects of the candidates.

Harrison’s lengthy inaugural address attempted to shift his image from a poor rural veteran to an educated man of principle. In fact, he was both, but the point was that he took his office seriously and intended to root out corruption and stifle unbridled power in U.S. government. He was a true public servant in every sense.


William Henry Harrison’s political legacy continued with his son John Scott Harrison, who served as a U.S. Representative from Ohio in 1853-57. John’s son Benjamin Harrison continued the family’s military and political traditions and was elected U.S. President in 1889. He was among generations of Harrison descendants who owned and cherished his grandfather's Congressional Gold Medal as a family heirloom for nearly two centuries, even retaining its original box of issue, until it was sold in 2015.

The buyer was The Raab Collection, a well-known Pennsylvania historical document and autograph company. After an aggressive publicity campaign, Raab sold it to an anonymous buyer “from the American South” (presumably the “Mr. Ficquette” to whom the accompanying letter of authenticity is addressed), who brought it back to Raab to resell it six years later. It was then consigned to auction for the first time, hammering for more than double its 2015 price in a Stack’s Bowers U.S. Coins and Medals auction to the current consignor, John Adams.

The famous Harrison medal is now being sold for the first time in a World Coin auction with different, worldwide exposure, and for the first time in an NGC slab.

While no early Congressional Gold Medals have been sold since 2021, we can trace six others that changed hands in prior decades. Major General Winfield Scott’s 1814 medal was sold in 1996 and subsequently donated to the National Museum of the United States Army; Captain Robert Henley’s 1814 medal was sold in 2004; Major General Alexander Macomb’s 1814 medal was sold in 2015; and Major General Zachary Taylor’s three medals from 1846, 1847, and 1848 were sold in 2016, 2005, and 2006, respectively.

A Work of Art

Following tradition, the obverse of this medal features a right-facing portrait of Harrison in uniform with legend reading MAJOR GENERAL / WILLIAM H. HARRISON. On the reverse we see a tunic-clad America personified holding a spear and U.S. shield and placing a wreath on a teepee-like stand of spears and flags suspending a plaque that says FORT / MEIGS / BATTLE / OF THE / THAMES above a drum, cannon, hatchet, bow, and quiver of arrows, with legend above reading RESOLUTION OF CONGRESS / APRIL 4, 1818, and with BATTLE OF THE THAMES / OCTOBER 5, 1813. in exergue below. The engraver’s signature FURST. F. appears at the bottom rim on both sides. The rims are quite wide, and the edge is plain, with angle-drilled holes at top for a suspension ribbon and holes at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock for pins to secure it to its box. XRF testing confirms it is solid, high-karat gold and nearly identical in trace-metal composition to Captain Thomas Truxtun’s War of 1812 medal at the Smithsonian Institution.

The containing box and slipcase from original issue are in red leather, with blue velvet interior framed with gilt scrollwork. Holes at 3, 6, and 9 o’ clock prove the purpose of the corresponding holes in the medal’s edge, with some of the actual pins still present.

Finally we have the medal itself, with Harrison’s high-relief matte-finish portrait practically jumping from the rich mirror surfaces, while the allegorical design on reverse deftly draws the eye to the laurel wreath at the peak of the mountain of trophies, symbolic of a hard-won peace. With hardly more than a handful of rim-nicks, light marks, and an almost imperceptible rub on the very highest points only, its wide blank fields showing inevitable surface hairlines floating like gentle waves on uninterrupted lakes of luster, this masterpiece in rich old gold is a national treasure in every sense of the word.

With original box and copy of letter of authenticity and XRF analysis.
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