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Old 04-23-2018, 12:48 AM
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Default Centennial Celebration Medal - Washington Inauguration: Bad Shape, but Cool Potential!

A few days ago, I was hunting a permission at a "ghost town" site that's now just a farmer's field. The site's been a ton of fun - lots of Indian heads, a couple silvers, a V nickel, cool relics, and miscellaneous copper and brass who-knows-whats scattered everywhere among a lot of iron. You really can't walk more than a few feet without getting an interesting signal of some kind! Anyway, among the many finds that day was a crusty, flat, circular object. A little more than an inch and a half in diameter, it frankly looked like corroded iron - maybe a big knock out plug or similar, it had no detail whatsoever visible. I barely gave it a second thought as I tossed it into my pouch. Tonight I was cleaning off my bench, planning to post pictures of other interesting finds and sorting various others into the throwaway pile when I came across the corroded disk again...I had a bucket of water by my feet to give a quick rinse to some finds, so on an absolute whim I decided to dunk this disk in the water. After that first dunk and some rubbing with my fingers, I was amazed to see an odd, ridged pattern appear on the face of the disk (turned out to be the fence surrounding the Washington Equestrian Statue). My excitement grew as subsequent dunks began to reveal lettering and more detailed designs! The thread hole soon became apparent as well, and after poking the dirt out of it with a toothpick, I now knew I had some sort of medal!

Before long, I could fairly easily make out "Centennial Celebration of the Inauguration" around the edge of the front of the medal. The dates 1789 and 1889 are barely legible, flanking the statue on the front as well, and that's how I was initially able to identify it as a George Washington commemorative. The statue depiction on the front is partially obliterated, but it seems to most closely resemble the Equestrian Statue of George Washington located at Boston Public Garden (see pic below). That statue was dedicated in 1869 and pretty iconic, so it's a possibility.

The back of the medal is were things get even more interesting - the word "MEDAL" gradually became very visible, plus part of an "SO" to the upper left of the "M" in medal to suggest that it once said "SOUVENIR MEDAL" across the top. There was also some scrolling across the middle that was partially obliterated, and I started doing all sorts of mental gymnastics trying to figure out what the full wording might be. Initially I was obsessed with the idea that the part circled in blue in the pic was a place or town name, and the "Co. H." at the end (circled in green below) might be the abbreviation for "Court House". There's a lot of other lettering on the back of the medal, some of it easy to read, most of it barely recognizable. The two other things that are easily read is "2nd" (circled in yellow) and "O. N. G." (circled in red). The best I could come up with was maybe "Ohio National Guard" for ONG.

Then it suddenly dawned on me...all of these letters that I was obsessing over on the back were much cruder than the rest of the lettering on the medal. Like a lightning bolt, I suddenly realized that this part was likely engraved either at the time it was obtained or sometime soon after...this was a "souvenir" after all!!

My bet is that "...HAR..SELL" isn't a place, it's a person! And he was a member of Company H (Co. H.), 2nd Brigade (??...I see a G near there) of the Ohio National Guard either in 1889, or sometime prior! If I can somehow get a hold of a roster for the ONG in those time frames, I might be able to find the name of the medal's original owner, and maybe have an actual name of a resident of the "ghost town"! I see a trip to the library in my near future!!

I hope this one is just as mind-blowing for everyone else as it is for me - and I'm getting more and more excited about it as the night progresses. The medal itself is obviously in really bad shape, but the circumstances behind it (I almost threw it away!) and the potential to tie it to a particular individual is awesome, imo!

Thanks for looking!
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Last edited by AirmetTango; 04-23-2018 at 12:53 AM. Reason: Added pics...
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Old 04-23-2018, 07:55 AM
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Very nice piece - good luck on your research. I think I see "2nd Reg.", not brigade. On second thought, maybe not.

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Old 04-23-2018, 09:05 AM
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Well..Ohio has some super old dirt, and you are right smack in the middle of it...Let us know what you discover about this find...

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Old 04-27-2018, 04:48 PM
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That's an interesting piece you dug up there. Let us know if your research turns up anything else!

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Old 06-22-2018, 08:35 PM
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I finally got a chance to visit the library and get some research help for investigating the inscription on the back of the medal. As always, a huge shout out for the wonderful, friendly folks at the local library who were enormously helpful for giving me several great leads and pointing me toward excellent research material...and they were just as excited to see the medal and imagine it's historic possibilities as I was!

With their help, I found several Civil War service record cards for 3 potential matches! One seems to be the most promising, because it was the only unit of the 3 that was associated with the Ohio National Guard - Emanuel Hartsell enlisted at age 18 and was mustered into Company H of the 147th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (Ohio National Guard) on May 2, 1864, and mustered out on August 30, 1864. The 147th was attached to the 2nd Brigade of the 22nd Corps by August 1864, which might explain the "2nd --G." along with "O. N. G." etched under the name. Mr. Hartsell would have been about 43 years old by the time of the 1889 Centennial depicted on the medal.

There are some potential problems to resolve before confirming this as a positive ID. First, the 147th largely recruited from Miami County, Ohio, well south of where the medal was found. It's possible that he moved further north in the 25 years or more between when the medal was made in 1889 and whenever it was dropped, but I haven't been able to find any other hits for Mr. Hartsell in the census data, etc to confirm that. The ghost town was a railroad town, so it's also possible he was just passing through when the medal got dropped. Second, I'm not sure why he would choose to have 2nd BRG, O. N. G. engraved on the medal since the association with 2nd Brigade seemed pretty fluid - the 147th had actually been attached to the 1st Brigade during the early portion of his enlistment. I would think that "147th Inf., O. N. G. " would have been a more solid association with his service unit...but I'm not knowledgeable enough on the breakdown or nomenclature for Civil War units. Maybe he had to pay per letter for engraving, and two fewer letters saved him 2 bits!

Regardless, it's been pretty exciting to do the extra research for this item, and I'm ecstatic to be a little closer to not only associating the medal with its owner, but also possibly bringing one Civil War soldier back out of the fog of history! The library folks provided me with the name and number of a gentleman at our historical society that is more of a militaria guru, so he may be able to help find answers to some of the lingering questions or aid in confirming the ID. I also found a few more references that I can access locally that might help place where Mr. Hartsell was living in the 1890s. Looking forward to some more research...and I'll post more updates once I have them!

Pic below has a magnified view of the engraved area of the souvenir medal:
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Oldest coin: 1853 Braided Hair Large Cent (Honorable Mention: 1857 Flying Eagle Cent)
Oldest silver: 1861 Seated Liberty Dime
Oldest foreign coin: 1859 Canadian Queen Victoria Large Cent
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