1856 San Francisco Vigilance Committee Medal, Membership Number 1884

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Lot 357
1856 San Francisco Vigilance Committee Medal, Membership Number 1884

Sold for US$ 23,400 inc. premium

Coins and Medals

6 Jun 2016, 7:00 PDT

Los Angeles

1856 San Francisco Vigilance Committee Medal, Membership Number 1884
37.1 mm. 26.219 grams. 3.5 - 3.7 mm. thick. On the obverse, Justice (not blindfolded, as Woodward noted in 1879) standing in the center, SAN FRANCISCO CALIFORNIA below, BE JUST AND FEAR NOT. FIAT JUSTITIA RUAT COELUM. around the top. Maker's mark V & G. (A. Vachon and T. Gihon) at lower left. The reverse depicts the Great Seal of the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance comprising the All Seeing Eye in the center, a tablet below to receive the member's number (in this case 1884), COMMITTEE OF VIGILANCE immediately above, ORGANIZED 9TH JUNE 1851. REORGANIZED 14TH MAY 1856 around the top. Struck in silver with a plain edge, and looped for wearing as made. Deep argent-gray in color with some deeper charcoal accents in the protected areas of the design. A number of small edge bumps and tiny chips are reported on each side, otherwise, the surfaces are quite smooth only showing signs of light wear.

The San Francisco Committee of Vigilance was a popular ad hoc organization formed in 1851 and revived in 1856 in response to rampant crime and corruption in the municipal government of San Francisco, California. It was one of the most successful organizations in the vigilante tradition of the American Old West. It boasted a membership of 700 and claimed to operate in parallel to, and in defiance of, the duly constituted city government. As a result of their actions, these militias subsequently hanged eight people and forced several elected officials to resign.

Very rare, this cataloger has recorded only 10 numbered, and five unnumbered 1856 San Francisco Vigilance Committee medals, including:

1. No. 1884, this medal
2, No. 5949, Stack's, John J. Ford Jr. Collection, (10/2007), lot 3283
3. No. 1472
4. No. 2580
5. No. 1, the unique gold medal issued to William T. Coleman
6. No. 2733, lot 1520, Cogan's James Parker Sale, (5/1874), lot 1520 to Haseltine ($17), lot 2232, S.H. & H. Chapmans' Thomas Warner Collection Sale (6/1894), present whereabouts unknown
7. No. 273, purchased by John J. Ford from Charles McSorley on February 28, 1968, sold to the Bank of California three years later, possibly Timothy Guy Phelps' medal
8. No. 1608, found by two little girls in a vacant lot at 929 Post Street, San Francisco in July, 1891, owned at the time by the girls' father, a police officer named Dower, present whereabouts unknown
9. No. 2688, frontispiece to Mary Williams' History of the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance (1921), present whereabouts unknown
10. No. 33, an engraving in vol. 6, p. 753 of Bancroft's Popular Tribunals

Unnumbered Examples

11-15. Five unnumbered silver medals including Clifford, lot 433, the one John Ford sold to Don Kagin (12/1997); ex: Spink & Son's sale (10/1997); ex: Bowers & Merena Sale (11/1986); and lot 239 of Woodward's Sale (6/1879), which could be an earlier appearance of the other three; Bonham's Sale #22460 (9/2015), lot 353
16. White metal piece: lot 411 Presidential's Sale (1/1992).

All 1856 San Francisco Vigilance Committee medals are from a single die pair. The press that appeared in an October, 1998 West coast sale was mounted with an incorrect San Francisco Committee of Vigilance seal. There are also several belt buckles known that were made in London 1966-67 that bear a copied Vigilance Committee seal as a motif.
Very Fine, edge bumps
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