“Hail Most Honored Guest, Great Citizen Hail!” proclaims the
obverse of a little-known, undated 102-millimeter bronze medal
designed by sculptor Frederick William MacMonnies. It seems certain
that this medal was designed for presentation when world celebrity was
measured by the New York City ticker-tape parade.
Electronic media were first capturing the attention of the world
through radio and the news reel, as a succession of military leaders,
European royalty, statesmen, sports heroes, aviators and scientists
made the ride up Broadway.
On June 13, 1927, New York welcomed “Lone Eagle” Charles Augustus
Lindbergh, home from his harrowing trans-Atlantic New York to Paris
flight in the Spirit of St. Louis. The crowd was immense, and more
than 1,800 tons of ticker tape and shredded phone books descended on
the parade. Grover Whalen later emerged as the city’s official greeter
and became “Mr. New York” to much of the world.
The imposing Mayor’s Medal would have played a key role in these
boisterous events. Born in 1880, medal designer MacMonnies began his
career as assistant to Augustus Saint-Gaudens in his New York studio
while pursuing studies at the National Academy of Design and Art
Students League. His artistic education continued in Paris at the
Écôle des Beaux-Arts, and the French Republic later made him a
chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur.
He created the heroic statue Columbia for the 1893 World’s
Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Civic Virtue at New York City Hall,
William Shakespeare for the Library of Congress, and Army and Navy
groupings for the great arch at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and Denver’s
An Indian theme graces the Mayor’s Medal with its obverse bearing
a standing chief in Plains Indian feather headdress and fur loin
cloth, holding a peace pipe. At right is a trophy composed of a stone
axe, arrows, quiver and dream catcher shield with sun rising at left
over stylized water. Below is the year 1609, indicating the year Henry
Hudson’s expedition brought the first Europeans to the region.
The reverse is a montage of Manhattan skyscrapers and bridges,
many identifiable, some generic. Below, mermaids and sea god Neptune
support the city arms, while the outer legend announces, THE CITY OF
NEW YORK ACCLAIMS YOV. THE NATION WELCOMES YOV. MAYOR’S MEDAL.
Neither side bears a date of issue or production.
David T. Alexander, a longtime numismatic researcher, is a
researcher/cataloger for Stack’s Bowers Galleries.