Erie Canal Medal
John Quincy Adams inaugural roughly coincided with the opening of the Erie Canal on October 26,1825, so the collection contains a commemorative medal presented to him by the city of New York in 1826. This metal appears to have been struck in white metal. According to one report, there were 150 medals struck in this alloy and these were presented to various dignitaries in a small round wooden box, like the one here. According to several numismatic articles on the metal, it is extremely rare that the box survived.
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These miniature portraits are done with oil paint on a thin sliver of ivory. In the years before the daguerreotype photograph became commercially available in 1840, the only way that you could have a likeness of a loved one was to hire a portrait painter to produce a miniature likeness such as these. This was a very expensive process.
Photographs were also expensive in the beginning but were more affordable than a portrait painter. Regrettably, we do not know who the subjects of these portraits were. Presumably they were members of the Adams family.
(Notice the exquisite detail especially of the hare.)
[Research on these pieces continues.]
JQA Inaugural medal
The gem of the John Quincy Adams material is his inaugural medal. There were a few silver medals struck, but they were made of White Metal. White Metal refers to a number of dull silver colored alloys which contain some combination of lead, zinc, tin, or copper. White metal was often used to make trial strikes of a medal later destined to be struck in silver or gold. In John Quincy Adams' case, however, the bulk of his medals were struck in the inferior allow. Because the run was so small, the Adam's inaugural medal is extremely rare and unusually desirable.
This medal is housed in a round wooden box that contained a paper label with an inscribed date of 25 June 1836 when it was presented to John Quincy Adams by Commodore Isaac Hull. Since the inaugural medal that was contained in the box was issued was issued on March 4, 1825, the box was obviously not originally intended to house it, but was later adopted for its protection.
Two of these three signet seals belonged to John Adams. The third is reputed to belong to Mrs. John Quincy Adams. Two of the are made of gold with a carnelian insert. Carnelian is a semiprecious gem stone and is among the hardest stone to carve. Regardless, the maker of these seals who was probably Italian, carved an intricate miniature design with great detail. The pewter seal was definitely used by John Adams. Its impression is found on wax that was used to seal some of his notes on Herodotus.
The bracelet in this frame is woven from the hair of John Adams, the second president of the United States. It was reputed to have been worn by his wife, Abigail, in the later years of her life.
Below the bracelet is a small broach which also contains hair woven in a checkerboard fashion. This also belonged to Abigail Adams and the hair may also be from her husband./
Ring with hair
This finger ring appears to have belonged to Abigail Adams. It also contains hair woven in a checkerboard fashion similar to the broach. The use of gold and seed pearls appears to be very similar to the bracelet ends and may have been made by the same jeweler.
JQAJ cuff links
These cufflinks belonged to John Quincy Adams Johnson and were made from ten dollar gold pieces (known as eagles) and two, two and a half dollar gold pieces (known as quarter eagles). The reverse of the eagle was burnished and inscribed with the Boylston arms, which had been adapted by the Adams family. The reverse of the quarter eagles was likewise burnished and inscribed with Hohnson's initials. The date on the eagles is 1881 giving us a rough idea of when they were made.
John Quincy Adams and wife
Whereas portraits of the two presidents are relatively common, likenesses of John Quincy Adams Johnson are fairly scarce. Ironically, shortly after this donation was received, a Google search of Johnson turned up a news photograph of him on E-bay which we promptly purchased. It was taken on February 10, 1933 and showed Johnson with his new wife, Caroline Sutherland, who he had just married in "the Little Church Around the Corner." His first wife, Caroline Curtis, had died in 1932 so this was his second marriage, but her first. According to the photo's caption this was the climax of a fifty year romance which had begun when they first met in Newburyport, MA. They enjoyed over five years of marriage before he died in 1938.
These three fraternity pins belonged to John Quincy Adams Johnson. At Yale in the 1870s, fraternities were divided by year, thus Alpha Sigma Phi was a sophomore fraternity and Johnson was a member of it in the 1875-76 school year. Late in that school year there was a political reorganization of the sophomore societies. The junior fraternity sponsored Delta Beta Xi which inherited most of the members that had belonged to Alpha Sigma Phi including Johnson. Therefore Johnson was one of the last members of Alpha Sigma Pi. He then passed into a junior fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon, and the senior fraternity Psi Upsilon before graduating in 1978.