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Jewish-American Hall of Fame Issues Solomon Carvalho Medals

Solomon Caralho Medal.
Solomon Caralho Medal.

The Jewish-American Hall of Fame has announced that its newest medal (the 54th in its series) commemorates the life, legacy, and achievements of artist, photographer, explorer, author, and inventor Solomon Nunes Carvalho, born to a Sephardic family in Charleston, South Carolina in 1815. His ancestors were among those Jews expelled from Spain in 1492.

The Solomon Carvalho medals are trapezoidal, about two inches in diameter, and weigh two ounces. There is a unique serial number on the edge of each medal, and no more than 100 of the bronze medals, 75 of the silver-plated type, and 35 of the gold-plated medals will be produced. To receive these medals, please contribute $35, $100, or $145, respectively, to the Jewish-American Hall of Fame, plus $10 for shipping. Call (818) 225-1348 to order and mention that you read about it on CoinWeek to get a 20% discount. The money these medals raise will go towards the fight against antisemitism.

Solomon Nunes Carvalho was a member of the board of the Philadelphia Hebrew Education Society from 1849 to 1850, and in 1851 he became a member of the historic Congregation Shearith Israel of New York.

In 1853, Colonel John C. Frémont invited Carvalho to accompany him as his official photographer, as Frémont attempted to prove that a central route near the 38th parallel would be the best place for a planned transcontinental railroad. During the trip, despite the freezing weather that made chemical combinations difficult, Carvalho painted and made near daily daguerreotype portraits of expedition members, the Native Americans they met, and the landscape. Tragically, all but one of the nearly 300 daguerreotypes taken by Carvalho during the Frémont expedition were destroyed in a fire.

Solomon Carvalho would almost die on that trip of scurvy, starvation, and frostbite, but Mormons in Utah helped nurse him back to health. Carvalho eventually reached Los Angeles, California, where he helped its small Jewish community organize the Hebrew Benevolent Society.

After the American Civil War, Carvalho moved his family to New York City, but cataracts impaired his portrait work and would ultimately blind him. He became an inventor, and received two patents for steam superheating in 1877 and 1878.

When he was 25 years old, Carvalho painted Child with Rabbits, an image of a chubby little boy surrounded by a mother rabbit and her bunnies; this artwork was reproduced on paper money issued by numerous banks in Canada and the United States.

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