Medals relating to Detroit

As always, you can click or tap medals to see the reverse. Some medals might have multiple variants that differ in material, size, or other details. If multiple variants are available you can drag or slide medals sideways to display them.

City of Detroit Memorial1919

The obverse bears a winged female figure representing Victory striding forward to the left, holding a sword wrapped in a palm leaf; a radiant sun in the background. Around: VIXIT - VIVIT - VIVET (Lived, Conquered, Shall Live).

The reverse bears a scroll with fasces behind at center, inscribed: IN MEMORY/ OF ONE WHO/ DIED IN THE/ CAUSE OF/ FREEDOM AND/ HUMANITY. Above, an eagle holding a laurel wreath perches atop the end of a cannon and ball. Around: PRESENTED BY THE CITY OF DETROIT - 1919.

The Society of Arts and Crafts, Detroit, issued memorial medals in 1919 that were given by the City of Detroit to the families of men who lost their lives in the Great War. Only 900 medals were struck.

An earlier version of this medal, with a less evolved obverse design, is in the Smithsonian Art Museum Collection.

The Detroit News Spelling Bee Medal1929
by Johannes Christiaan van der Hoef
Bronze with brown patina

The medal's obverse bears helmeted bust of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and sponsor of arts, trade, and strategy. Around left and right, THE DETROIT NEWS - SPELLING BEE; to left and right of Minerva, in vertical orientation, SCHOOL / CHAMPION; signed with (CHJ monogram)

The medal's reverse bears inscribed center field with surrounding decorative leaf border. At bottom over border, MADE IN HOLLAND; inscribed to Elaine Rosenbaum.

The edge is unmarked.

Van der Hoef (1875-1933) was a Dutch sculptor whose most productive period was in the 1910-20s. He bridged the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods and created many art and commemorative medals. In addition to his artistic talents he also competed in the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam where he won a silver medal.

I did not manage to find much information about the history of the Detroit News Spelling Bee. The medal design dates to 1929, which would indicate that the Bee started around the same time. There are at least the 40mm School Champion and the 51mm District Champion variants; there might be others for city or state. Please let me know if you have more information about variants.

This circular medal measures 40mm in diameter and was struck in bronze.

Many thanks to Julia Casey who located information about the designer and the design in the University of Michigan's Bentley Image Bank.

Detroit's 250th Anniversary1951
Obverse of Detroit 250th Anniversary Medal Reverse of Detroit 250th Anniversary Medal

The obverse bears Cadillac and soldiers in a canoe arriving at shore awaited by three North American Indians. Above, ANTOINE DE LA MOTHE CADILLAC FOUNDER OF DETROIT; below, 250th ANNIVERSARY 1951; signed in lower right, RENE P. CHAMBELLAN

The reverse bears view of modern city of Detroit with inset view of Fort Pontchartrain. Above, DETROIT'S 250TH BIRTHDAY FESTIVAL / 1951; below, PAST . PRESENT . FUTURE; in inset, OLD FORT / PONTCHARTRAIN / 1701; in banner, CIVIC CENTER

The brochure that came with the medal explains that the name Detroit comes from the French "Les Detroits", which means "The Straits" and refers to the strategic location where the Frensh established their trading post.

The medallions were originally sold for $2.00 each, plus 25c for wrapping and postage when mailed. Collectors could also spring for a handsome genuine leather case for $12.00 extra, quite an amount in 1951!

This bronze medal has a diameter of 72.2mm and was struck by the Medallic Art Company of New York.

American & Canadian Numismatic Association Convention1962

This medal celebrates the joint meeting of the American and the Canadian Numismatic Associations in Detroit in 1962.

The medal's obverse bears left half of American Peace Eagle with sprig of laurel and right half of Canadian maple leave. Above, AMERICAN * (leaf) * CANADIAN; below, NUMISMATIC * ASSOCIATIONS. The reverse bears kneeling figure with outstretched arms, holding sphere in left hand and family in right. Above, ANNUAL CONVENTION; below, DETROIT . MICHIGAN . 1962.

Marshall Fredericks created two beautiful designs for the obverse and reverse. The obverse symbolizes the friendship and close ties between the United States and Canada by merging their national symbols into a whole. The reverse is a hommage at the host city, Detroit, for which Marshall Fredericks had created an iconic sculpture, called The Spirit of Detroit, just four years earlier. He reinterpreted it for this medal to represent "The Spirit of the United States of and Canada."

The medal measures 40mm in diameter and was struck by the Medallic Art Company of New York in both bronze and silver.

The City of Detroit1963

The obverse bears Marshall Fredericks' iconic "The Spirit of Detroit" sculpture." Above, THE SPIRIT OF DETROIT; below, PRESENTED BY / MAYOR / JEROME P CAVANAGH; signed under sculpture's base, MARSHALL FREDERICKS SC.

The reverse bears two graceful maidens in classic pose in front of burning city. Above, THE CITY OF DETROIT; to left, SPERAMUS / MELIORA; to right RESURGET / CINERIBUS; below, MICHIGAN.

The edge is marked MEDALLIC ART CO.N.Y.

The city of Detroit's latin motto dates back to 1805 when the city was leveled by a fire. The twin latin phrases translate to "We hope for better things" and "It will rise from the ashes." The motto was coined by French Roman Catholic priest Gabriel Richard who had moved to Detroit just before the fire.

The medal measures 64mm (2.5in) in diameter and was struck in bronze by the Medallic Art Company of New York.

American Numismatic Association 93rd Convention1984

The obverse bears an abstract eagle representing a blend of the Victory Eagle designed for the Veterans Memorial Building in Detroit and the American Eagle on the Cincinnati Federal Building. The reverse bears bas-relief of book and oil lamp. Above, AMERICAN NUMISMATIC ASSOCIATION; below 93RD ANNIVERSARY CONVENTION / DETROIT - MICHIGAN - 1984.

There are few ANA convention medals that I find artistically compelling but this is definitely one of them. The eagle is beautifully abstracted yet clearly recognizable and the overall symmetrical composition with unevenly distributed stars is aesthetically very pleasing.

This design was struck in different sizes and metals. The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum has a 57mm (2.25in) bronze medallion in its collection. The more common variant is token-sized and was struck in bronze and silver.

Detroit Bal Polonais1984
Bronze with green patina

The obverse bears dancing couple. Above, BAL POLONAIS - I BAL POLSKI; on left and right, 3.III / 1984; below, DETROIT MICHIGAN.

The reverse bears Polish eagle with crown in center. Around, in two circles, ART OF POLAND ASSOCIATES - DETROIT INSTITUTE OF ARTS / POLISH OPERA COMMITTEE - OF THE MICHIGAN OPERA THEATRE.

The edge is marked LENDA.

The city of Detroit and all its cultural organizations had a large and active Polish contingent, represented here by the Polish Opera Committee of the Bal Polonais. The Bal Polonais was a philanthropic organization founded in 1984 by Zofia J. F. Drozdowska Kafarski, a tireless supporter of arts and culture, particularly Polish arts and culture. The medal probably commemorates the founding of the group.

In 1963 Detroit was the fifth largest city in the United States and the only major city without a resident opera company. Determined to change this state of affairs, David DiChiera took charge of a program called Overture to Opera and started building it into the organization that would eventually be known as the Michigan Opera Theatre. In the 1980's the company performed several Polish compositions and had strong support in the local Polish community.

The medal measures 80mm in diameter.