To reward excellence within the ranks of the United States Mint,
the nation’s coin producer recognizes achievements with the
presentation of the Rittenhouse Medal of Excellence.
The medal replicates the designs that first appeared on Chief
Engraver William Barber’s 1871 medal depicting David Rittenhouse, who
served from 1792 to 1795 as the first director of the Mint.
For 2013, the U.S. Mint recognized 33 Mint employees June 12 with
what is now the bureau’s highest honor, for sustaining “a superior
record of performance that significantly furthered and ultimately
improved the bureau’s programs, operations and services.”
Participating in the awards presentation at Mint headquarters in
Washington, D.C., were Acting U.S. Mint Director Dick Peterson and
U.S. Treasurer Rosa “Rosie” Gumataotao Rios. They were joined by Chas
Rittenhouse, a descendant of the first Mint director.
Since the 2008 inception of the silver Rittenhouse Medal of
Excellence, 156 such medals have been awarded.
The Rittenhouse silver award medals are struck at the Philadelphia
Mint three times on a Gräbener GMP 360 press with dies oriented to
strike with vertical motion.
The striking pressure for each of the three strikes is 202 metric tons.
The presses used at Philadelphia are the same ones that strike
commemorative silver dollars, according to U.S. Mint spokesman Michael White.
The award medal is struck as a Cameo Proof, from dies bearing
sandblasted devices and inscriptions against polished mirrored fields.
The die faces also receive a thin chrome plating.
Original Rittenhouse medals
Barber’s original Rittenhouse medals were produced at the
Philadelphia Mint in 45-millimeter “bronze” and silver versions, and
dated 1871. The new award medals are also dated 1871. It is unclear
today why the original medals were made, though it is likely they were
produced for sales to collectors, like many other Mint products of the
late 19th century.
According to R.W. Julian in Medals of the United States Mint: The
First Century 1792-1892, the use of the term “bronze” for the
composition of the Mint’s medals prior to 1901 is a misnomer. Julian
explains that the “bronze” medals the U.S. Mint made from 1825 to
about 1891 (of many types and designs, and produced for many purposes)
were composed of pure copper. Each medal was chemically treated after
striking to achieve distinctive coloration. The composition should be
correctly referred to as copper-bronzed, according to Julian.
Although Rittenhouse medals were probably first struck in 1871,
according to Julian, the first officially recorded sale of a
Rittenhouse medal by the Mint did not come until early in 1874. ■