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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: Pan-American Exposition Award
Date: 1901
Medium: Bronze
Dimensions: Diameter: 2 1/2 inches (6.4 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Janet Marqusee, Class of 1952, and John E. Marqusee, Class of 1951, for the Frank and Rosa Rhodes Collection
Object Number: 94.007.286
This bronze medal commemorates the Pan-American Exposition of 1901, held in Buffalo, NY.

This medal was made by the Gorham Company, located in Providence, Rhode Island.

Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1937) was an American sculptor born in Massachusetts who studied at the Massachusetts Normal School of Art in Boston. He taught at Cornell University for three years before leaving for Paris in 1888. When he returned, MacNeil worked as an assistant to Philip Martiny on the architectural sculpture for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He remained there for three years teaching and making trips west to study Native Americans who soon became his primary subjects. In 1896, he won the Reinhart Roman scholarship, allowing him to study abroad. He returned to the United States and enjoyed a successful career.

Medallic art is a type of small-scale sculpture. The tradition of making medals is rooted in the portrait medal tradition that became popular in the Renaissance. The process of striking medals began in the 17th century when it surpassed the older method of casting. Striking is a method where a metal die (with a design in relief) is essentially stamped, with great force, onto a blank piece of metal. This technique can rapidly produce multiple copies. The invention of the engraving machine for die sinking and casting in the 19th century allowed artists to concentrate on medal designs rather than the actual engraving and cutting of the die. The pantograph machine allowed artists to render medals in a larger size in wax, clay or plaster before reducing and engraving them later mechanically. Two dies are made for each medal, one for each side (unless the medal has only one side.)

The Pan-American Exposition was held in Buffalo, New York from May 1 to November 2, 1901. It was a celebration of industry and culture of the Americas. Unlike many other Expositions of the century, it did not commemorate a historical event (as with Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition in 1892). The celebration was marred by tragedy when President William McKinley was assassinated while visiting the fair by anarchist Leon Czolgosz.

To symbolize peace and cooperation between the two continents, the obverse of the medal features two Native Americans smoking a peace pipe, one representing North America and the other representing South America. The reverse features an allegorical figure with a Buffalo.

To see a poster for the Exposition in the Johnson Museum’s collection, search for object number 78.057.021 in the keyword search box.

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.