JOSEPH LOVELL WRIGHT JR
Portrait Artist, Sculptor, Medalist
FIRST US MINT ENGRAVER
Hallmark of Joseph Lovell Wright Jr
as found on
1792 Silver Oval Indian Peace Medal
Below is an image of the 1792 George
Washington Indian Peace Medal of the Woolaroc Museum in Bartlesville, Oklahoma
This medal is featured on the cover of “Peace Medals; Negotiating Power in Early America” written by Robert Pickering and sold by the Gilcrease Museum in conjunction with their 2011 Indian Peace Medal Exhibit. The Who’s Who of the coin and medal collecting world contributed to the book including; F. Kent Reilly, Barry D. Tayman, Tony J. Lopez, Skyler Liechty, John W. Adams, Duane King, George Fuld, Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, Bruce W. Arnold and Frank Goodyear (III). George Fuld in an addendum to the book wrote about the importance of the Woolaroc medal and notes the previously unknown “JW” silver hallmark stamped on the bottom of the medal.
Now for those of you who may not know, Dr. Fuld was one of the most renowned medal and token scholars extant. He authored several books on the subject including his most recent contribution was writing reminiscences of his Civil War token collecting and research for Q. David Bowers’ reference book, “A Guide Book of Civil War Tokens” and an update with Russell Rulau to Baker’s “Medallic Portraits of Washington”, (just to name a few). He also with his father helped form what is now the Token and Medal Society and served as its first president. His achievements and awards are too numerous to list. Dr. George Fuld was and will always be a leading scholar in the numismatic world.
This said to take nothing from him or the other renowned medal scholars that contributed to the work authenticating the Woolaroc medal and bringing it to light. I must respectfully disagree with the assumptions of Joseph Wyatt being credited as being the engraver. Wyatt is still registered as a silversmith in London in 1793 and there are known works dated 1792 and 1793 in London. Joseph Wyatt is registered in Philadelphia as a silversmith in 1797. A bit late to be included in the array of silversmiths and engravers involved in the fledgling mint or creating the first George Washington Peace Medals of this type in 1792.
Below are examples of Joseph Wyatt’s Hallmark. Both in London in 1793 and Philadelphia in 1797.
With this information brought forth and easily researchable Joseph Wyatt has to be discounted as one of the possible engravers of the 1792 Woolaroc medal.
Dr. Ron Miller and Gary Gianotti published an article that mentions a sister medal to the one housed at the Woolaroc Museum in “The Colonial Newsletter” number 159 dated 2015. Dr. Miller follows Dr. George Fuld’s lead of also attesting the sister medal to Joseph Wyatt.
Records of a sale on Worthpoint of the same medal can be found and also mentions Wyatt as the engraver.
What else could you do when a group of experts like the ones previously mentioned published on it (and put it on the cover of a peace medal book sold at the premier exhibit of peace medals of all time!)?
This is where Gary Gianotti comes in to play. He continued work on both the Woolaroc and its sister medal now in a private collection.
Gary was convinced that Joseph Wright was the creator of both of the 1792 G. W. Peace Medals and was working diligently to prove it.
A year or so ago our paths crossed on a unrelated project. He sent me images and background of both the medals and asked my opinion of authenticity and hallmark.
The Woolaroc medal was found on what is considered part of the “Fallen Timbers” battlefield of Anthony Wayne fame in 1933 and is now in the Woolaroc Museum. The sister medal was later discovered in a private collection by Dr. Ron Miller. Although he was correct in its authenticity the damage was done with the mistaken hallmark identification.
After reviewing the pictures and info I was certainly intrigued. The medals were spot on in size, weight, construction, etc. The Woolaroc was well documented to its origin and already published on by leading experts in the field. The JW medal discovered by Dr Miller was an obvious “twin sister”.
For what my opinion is worth I wholeheartedly believed both the medals to be authentic, joined the research effort and began studying all know works of Joseph Wright.
Last spring the owner of the sister medal flew to Denver where I was attending the annual Colorado Gun Collectors Association Gun Show and I was afforded the opportunity to study the medal first hand using a digital microscope and big screen television monitor.
What a game changer! It wasn’t a dash between the J and W, it was an L attached to the J. Suddenly it was clear.
Joseph Lovell Wright
He was using his mothers maiden name!!
This was and still is somewhat common especially with prominent maternal family connections. Patience Lovell Wright was certainly worthy of name recognition both in her artistic prowess and her political connections. This is evident in both the works of Patience and her son Joseph Jr. All one has to do is study the subjects of their work. Books have been written attesting to the contributions of Patience Wright to the Americans war effort throughout the revolution.
Joseph made five portraits of Washington as well as life masks, sculptures and engravings. They were well associated as Washington (along with many other men of prominence) was with his mother.
At the same moment in history the medals were created Joseph Lovell Wright Jr became the first engraver of the fledgling US mint and is credited with some of the first (and most valuable) coins including the Liberty Cap cent, the back of the Flowing Hair dollar and half dollar by Robert Scott. Joseph Wright died of yellow fever September 13, 1793 a little more than a year after the mints creation.
Joseph Wright also created the dies for the “Paulus Hook” Henry Lee Medal. Very few of the originals were struck due to the broken die. A few are housed in the Smithsonian. This is where we got our (first) big break.
Henry Lee “Comitia Americana” Medal
Close up of J. Wright on bust of Henry Lee
In the image above note the tiny J added to the left of the big J. The large J itself clearly has a separately cut inverted L, making his unmistakable mark of JJLW for Joseph Lovell Wright Jr. This used alone in his makers mark when only using letters to denote himself from other artists with the same initials. For example Joseph Wright of Derby and Joseph Wyatt of question and confusion of former researchers.
These hallmarks using the first letters of their Christian name and surname were required by law both in England as early as 1739 and in many US cities as early as 1733
With their mark they assured a sterling silver standard of 92.5%+ silver in the alloy of whatever they happened to make. Deviation from this resulted in heavy fines and were enforced by the silversmiths “Guild” assayers.
“Guild” artists like Joseph Wright would usually reinforce their marks with other similar cuts or marks nearby as you will see in the picture below. They wanted no doubt that this was there mark. Compare initials on the Henry Lee medal die to the 1792 Peace Medals of Joseph Wright
These are Js cut into his hallmark identifying himself as Joseph Jr combined with the L attached to the J on the punch itself for his mothers maiden name, we have Joseph Lovell Wright Jr. Another example is his makers mark found on his family portrait that is housed at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art.
Note the drum in the bottom left corner
These initials can be found on virtually all of his work regardless of medium. The JJLW found on the drum in his family portrait is one of the easiest to find. Notice the small J is very similar to the one cut into his hallmark punch found on the 1792 George Washington Peace Medal at the Woolaroc Museum as well as its sister medal discovered by Dr Ron Miller and FSA Scot researcher Gary Gianotti.
While I am showing paintings of Wrights, I have to include this painting of his mother, Patience. Note the skewed position of her right hand. (I don’t think it’s arthritis!)
This painting is dated 1782 and in possession of the Smithsonians National Portrait Gallery. It was formerly attributed to her son in law John Hoppner and now attributed to Robert Edge Pine. It seems strange they wouldn’t have considered her son as the artist. If you study it closely you will find further “reinforcement” initials on or near her hand and further study will show it is literally covered with Joseph Lovell Wright Jr’s JJLW marks.
I believe the methods used in this identification process is the future of verification and authentication procedures. As with Joseph Lovell Wright Jr, few records actually survive of many works of art, firearms, etc. This shows how a particular item can be used as a document in itself. We have many tools and technologies available now that haven’t been in the past. Good microscopes are readily available and affordable. Cameras are continually improving and high resolution photos are now commonplace. Audio microscopy can determine fine scratching and compare tooling marks. XRF testing is available to determine exact matches to other know relics and also reveal “period” metal compositions. I believe testing will show that the Indian Peace Medals that are actually bearing a hallmark will be of the sterling standard (92.5%+) and the unstamped ones most likely coin silver (90%AG, 10%CU). I believe when XRF testing is complete, the Woolaroc and its sister medal will match and be of sterling quality.
Woolaroc Medal pictured with its sister medal
*These medals could very possibly be The very first U.S. Mint relics extant*