Well worn Copper's Blog

03 Apr 2022

Re-Discovering Peter Salem: A Forgotten Black American Patriot

| Well worn Copper

I recently purchased a lot of old Franklin Mint catalogs from 1966-1972. These were published every year to society members and listed that year's previous issues. I've been a student of American history for quite some time now, but an unfamiliar name popped up: Peter Salem. Peter Salem was a slave who fought in the battle of Bunker Hill. His owner freed him so he could fight in the revolution and it was Salem who fired the fatal shot that killed British general Pitcairn at the battle. Artist John Trumbull included Salem on his famous painting, with Salem being shielded by an American officer. Peter Salem was featured on two Franklin Mint issues in 1972. One was in the American Negro Commemorative Society and the other from the Patriots hall of Fame series. Both medals were struck in sterling silver and one in gold. During the great silver melt of 1979-80 probably most, if not all, of these medals were sold for scrap and melted down, which explains why I could not find any anywhere. Salem's name seems to have disappeared over time and sad to say he should have been featured on the 1998 Black patriots Commemorative Silver Dollar, along with Crispus Attucks. I could find no other medals featuring Salem anywhere and he was buried in a pauper's grave in 1816. Salem deserved more in our history books, not to mention a greater numismatic tribute. For those interested the Franklin Mint catalog numbers for the Salem medals, they are ANS-34 and PHS-5. Good luck finding one.

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