By Jeremy Bostwick – Senior Numismatist & Cataloger, Stack’s Bowers ……
Ferdinand Foch, a French general and military strategist, served as the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces in the latter part of World War I, ultimately guiding the allies to victory in their defeat of the Central Powers in November 1918. As a result of his crucial role in this global conflict, Foch would later be the recipient of numerous awards, decorations, and honors from various Allied governments. The United States was enthusiastically among the countries eager to display their gratitude for the French marshal and gave him seemingly countless distinctions on his tour of the nation in 1921.
One such visit was to Kansas City, Missouri on November 3, where he was present for the dedication of Liberty Memorial. Another visit saw him in New York City on November 19 at the laying of the cornerstone for the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The following week, Foch was in our nation’s capital, receiving yet another award in Lafayette Square. This award–in the form of a massive gold medal containing 16 ounces of pure gold–was presented to him by grateful school children. These children, who were raising funds in order to rebuild two war-ravaged schools in France, wanted the medal to serve as a symbol of their efforts.
The prior week, however, while Foch was still in New York City, he was present at another ceremony. On November 18–the day before the laying of the cornerstone at the aforementioned American Academy of Arts and Letters–Foch was, in fact, the presenter of a medal. It was a gold medal, smaller yet rather similar to the one that he would receive the following week in Washington, D.C. The French Restoration Fund, Inc., the organization tasked with raising funds for the rebuilding of the French schools, wanted to honor with a medal not only Foch but also the student who wrote the best message that would eventually accompany the Fund’s gift to France.
Out of all of the messages written by students, the winning essay was by Jole Angeletti from P.S. 25 in the Bronx.
Jole’s medal, a smaller module of over 2-1/4 ounces of gold, shares the same obverse design as the medal that would be presented to Foch. The motif features a heraldic eagle perched atop two garlanded shields–one for France, the other for the United States–and with the garland reading, at the bottom, LAFAYETTE–WASHINGTON and, to the sides, FOCH and PERSHING. These names recount Franco-American military friendship from the past and parallel that which saw such profound expression in the recent Great War. Around is an ornate wreath border, anchoring this magnificent design. On the reverse of Jole’s medal, however, one finds a personalized dedication in the central field: AWARDED TO / JOLE ANGELETTI / FOR COMPOSING / THE MESSAGE TO / ACCOMPANY THE GIFT / FROM THE CHILDREN / OF THE CITY OF / NEW YORK / TO THE CHILDREN OF / FRANCE / 1921. Around the wide rim, there is a two-line legend naming some of the figures involved in the ceremony: PRESENTED BY ANNING S. PRALL, PRES. BOARD OF EDUCATION WILLIAM L. ETTINGER / SUPT. OF SCHOOLS JAMES M. HALSTED, PRES. FRENCH RESTORATION FUND. Crafted and manufactured by the J. F. Newman Co., the medal bears their signature and is housed in the original burgundy case of issue, with “JOLE ANGLETTI” embossed in gold lettering on the cover. Adding even more personalization and character to this historic, unique piece are images of Jole proudly holding her well-earned medal. As for the moving words that resulted in such an amazing prize, Jole’s winning essay is as follows:
“Never will we, the children of New York City, forget that the French blood was mingled with the blood of our ancestors in our fight for freedom in 1776. Now, the time has come for us to show our gratitude for the friendship of France.
“In the World War the blood of France and America were again mingled on the field of battle.
“We mourn with you that your cities and schools were destroyed by war’s brutality.”
This exceptional piece of Americana from the aftermath of the Great War will be offered in our November Official Auction of the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo in Baltimore, Maryland–and can be found here. Please be sure to visit StacksBowers.com where you may register and participate in this and countless other sales full of numismatic treasures and rarities.
We are always seeking coins, medals, and pieces of paper money for our future sales, and are currently accepting submissions for our Official Auction of the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Spring Expo in March 2020. Before that, however, our next Collectors Choice Online (CCO) auction will be in December 2019, for which the consignment deadline is November 22. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact one of our consignment directors today at 800-458-4646 or by email at [email protected]. We will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.