Many medal enthusiasts are first attracted to this collecting area
by the discovery of the wide range of shapes offered by collectible
medals. While most medals are circular in shape, many square, oval,
triangular, multisided and wholly free-form designs await the
Among the most innovative of all shapes and designs must be the
Horticulture Society of New York’s George D. Pratt Medal of
Achievement for Professional Gardeners, a 1930s award struck by
Medallic Art Co. during the firm’s long residence in New York City.
This 76- by 55.5-millimeter bronze medal takes the shape of an
opening tulip flower, whose unfolding reveals a nude woman and child
symbolizing new life. The petals present the incuse legend george d.
pratt medal of achievement — for professional gardeners.
The reverse strongly suggests 1930s science fiction of the Flash
Gordon era with its field of stars, planets and circular orbits, an
Earth globe floating at lower right. Gamboling over this celestial
space is a slim female nude, looking backward toward the viewer with
her neck at an impossibly sharp angle, her long flowing locks sweeping
upward to the peak of the blossom-shaped field, bearing the incuse
name the horticultural society of new york: awarded to: . ad 19--.
The medal bears no artist’s signature, and the only example
observed bears no recipient’s name. The right edge shows a tiny incuse
maker’s name, medallic art co. n.y. It seems remarkable that no
sculptor signed this extraordinary work.
The award is named for a true Renaissance man, George Dupont Pratt
(born 1869, died 1935). During a long career, Pratt pursued interests
in both the arts and sciences. He was prominent in the leadership
echelon of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural
History, Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, the New York State Conservation
Commission, Boy Scouts of America and the American Forestry Association.
He appears in my book American Art Medals, 1909-1995,
released in early 2011 as the first in an American Numismatic Society
series devoted to medals and medallic art. The book notes that Pratt
was a member of the group that sponsored America’s first art medal
series, the Circle of Friends of the Medallion (active 1909 to 1915).
The circle faded from sight in 1915, but in 1928 Pratt founded the
vastly more successful Society of Medalists, which issued 129 fine art
medals at the rate of two each year until 1995. The Horticultural
Society award blends Pratt’s love of nature with his devotion to the
art of the medal.
David T. Alexander, a longtime numismatic researcher, is a
researcher/cataloger for Stack’s Bowers Galleries.