World War I Medals of Paul Manship
The Edward C. Rochette Money Museum’s World War I exhibit “Trenches to
Treaties: World War I in Remembrance” features four medals from the ANA’s
collection created by Paul Howard Manship (1885-1966). Perhaps the most
influential American sculptor of the 1920s and 30s, he was best known for
his influence on the Art Deco movement and presenting mythological themes
in a classical style.
Manship produced several medals associated with WWI and was involved with
the creation of other issues, including inaugural medals for John F.
Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, numismatic contributions are
only a small part of his artistic legacy. Born in St. Paul, Minn., he began
honing his talent in sculpture after discovering as a child that he was
color blind. Manship began his formal art education at the Saint Paul
School of Art, followed by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in
After winning the prestigious Rome Prize in 1909 Manship received a
scholarship to the American Academy in Rome for three years, where he
studied Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Asian and Assyrian art—all of which
influenced his developing style. In 1912 he returned to America and
immediately became successful, selling all 96 sculptures in his first New
Manship created more than 700 works during his career and served on a
number of commissions and boards, including the National Academy of Design,
the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
His most famous works include Prometheus (1933) at Rockefeller
Center, the Paul J. Rainey Memorial Gateway (1934) at the Bronx
Zoo, and the Aero Memorial (1948) in Philadelphia’s Aviator Park –
dedicated to aviators who died in World War I.
The best-known of Manship’s World War I medals is the “Kultur” medal,
created to memorialize Germany’s brutal conquest of Belgium in 1914. It
features an image of Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) wearing a characteristic pickelhaube (spiked helmet) and a “rosary” of skulls, with a
bayonet in the background. The legend reads THE·FOE·OF/FREE·PEOPLES. The
reverse depicts a German soldier abducting a woman whose deceased baby lies
abandoned on the ground.
Medals by Manship on display in the World War I exhibit include an example
of the “Kultur” medal; a Detroit Soldier’s Memorial medal for WWI veterans
and given to the families of those killed in the war; a French Heroes Fund
medal to raise money for French orphans; and an Art War Relief fundraising
medal mounted on a wooden plaque. All of these works exemplify the artist’s
mastery of Art Deco to depict classical themes.