Written by: Paul G. Lajoie
This month, in an effort to introduce the readers of this blog to some small mini collections of Statue of Liberty exonumia, I am featuring a three-piece set of medals presented by the United States Lines to the widows and mothers of men who gave their lives in the battles of World War I.
Shown above are three medals, dated 1930, 1932, and 1933. These medals have a common reverse which is represented by the fourth picture at the bottom.
Beginning in 1930, and continuing for three more years, the United States War Department sponsored a free trip to France for these women so that they could visit the battlefields and the graves of their sons and/or husbands. The Statue of Liberty is prominently depicted on the left side of the medal, and obviously represents the departure point of the vessels, to wit, New York City. The destination, France, is pictured by the Eiffel Tower.
In 1930 there were 3,653 numbered Tiffany & Co. medals given to the women in a box, also carrying the identical number, manufactured for the famous jewelry company, under the direction (I guess!) of the United States Lines, which transported the ladies to France. The numbering system is significant to collectors because it also helps to identify the 1931 recipients.
The reader will note that there are no 1931 dated medals, although there was indeed a trip that took place that year. Approximately 1,766 medals bearing numbers from 3654 to 5985, but dated 1930, were presented for the 1931 trip(s). The 1932 trip sent 575 mothers, and the 1933 trip ended the voyages with 670 more, for a total of 6,654 medals. The medals presented for the latter two years were produced by the Dieges & Clust Company and are prominently marked with that company's name.
The widows and wives were also given a "gold star medal" through the jewelry company, Bailey Banks and Biddle, which actually bore the dead soldier's name. This medal does not carry any reference to the Statue of Liberty.