One of the U.S. Mint-struck more remarkable privately commissioned
medals described by R.W. Julian in his Medals of the United States
Mint — the First Century hailed the Maris Family Bi-Centennial Reunion
of 1883. This 38-millimeter medal is listed in the Julian book as
CM-27 and is known in gold, aluminum and copper-bronzed versions. The
last named alloy was pure copper to which a secret-formula bronzing
powder was applied.
The obverse presents the family arms — a shield quartered with
eagles and heraldic andirons under a peacock crest with Latin motto
ESSE QUAM VIDERE, “To Be rather than to Seem.” On a scroll below is SI
DEUS NOBISCUM QUIS CONTRA NOS, “If God is with Us, Who can be
Against.” The legend gives the reunion dates as 8 MO. 25 1883.
“August” was not used as it recalled a pagan Roman emperor.
The Maris family originated in England and its members were among
the earliest adherents of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly
called the Quakers.
Early Friends leader George Fox accidentally created the “Quakers”
name when he told a hostile magistrates’ court in 1650 that his judges
should “tremble and quake” at the Word of the Lord.
The Quakers faced opposition and active persecution for beliefs
that included acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord, the priesthood of all
believers, democracy in religion and society, plain speech and plain
dress. They opposed ostentation and opposed slavery,
refused to serve in war.
They settled in the American Colonies in the 1600s, notably in
Pennsylvania under the leadership of William Penn, and also in New
Jersey and into Ohio.
The medal reverse honors founder George Maris, born 1632, who
settled in Springfield, N.J., in 1683, A MAN YE BENT OF WHOSE HEART
HATH BEEN TO SERVE YE LORD AND ALL PEOPLE IN LOVE; AND HATH NOT SPARED
TO SPEND AND BE SPENT FOR YE SERVICE OF TRUTH.
This testimonial was sent by the Friends Meeting of Hattswell,
England, to Darby Monthly Meeting in Darby, on “3. MO. 6. 1683.”
“March” was also avoided as of pagan origin. The Maris family soon
spread far and wide across the United States. Prominent numismatist
Dr. George Maris, who pioneered the study of New Jersey Colonial and
state coppers and early U.S. large cents, was of this influential family.
Building on a rare 19th century family history, genealogist
Raymond L. Maris has recorded some 300,000 descendants of the medal’s
George Maris, stretching over 17 generations. This is surely a
well-documented American family whose history is anchored by its own
U.S. Mint medal.
DAVID T. ALEXANDER is author of American Art Medals,
1909-1995 and a fellow of the American Numismatic Society. He is a
numismatist/researcher for Harlan J. Berk Ltd.