EXTREMLEY RARE SILVER CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL FOR THE SURVIVOR “HERBERT W. LEACH” OF THE “JEANNETTE” ARCTIC EXPEDITION OF 1879-1882.
The round medal in silver has a depiction of the 3-mast ship with sails rolled and anchored to ice having a group of men, dogs and dog sleds beside, depicting the abandonment of the ship and the saving of some of its supplies. The reverse having an outer band of writing “Jeannette Arctic Expedition 1879-1882”, below this at the top center engraved “To Herbert W. Leach”. The bottom half “In Commemoration of Perils Encountered and as an Expression of the High Esteem in which Congress Holds His Services” “Act Approved Sept. 30. 1890.” The round medal having an attached small ring which is connected to an ivory colored silk ribbon attached to a pin with a spread wing eagle over a name plate “Jeannette”. NOTE: This medal was produced for either the survivors or the next of kin of those who had perished in the expedition. Eight gold and 25 silver medals were struck by the Philadelphia Mint and were probably designed by Charles E. Barber or George Morgan, engravers to the mint. One of the gold medals having been given to the widow of Lt. DeLong. Herbert W. Leach (1858-1935) was from North Penobscot, Maine. The story of the expedition was recounted in an 1882 book “Arctic Lost Ship Shipwreck Jeannette”. The account of the expedition and its survivors caught the attention of the American public and caused Congress to act with this medal. The crew consisted of 30 officers and men, and three civilians. It departed from San Francisco July 8, 1879. Shortly after September 4, it was caught fast in the ice pack near Wrangel Island. For the next 21 months, it drifted to the Northwest towards the North Pole, steadfast in the ice. On June 12, 1881 the pressure of the ice finally began to crush the Jeannette. It was at that time that provisions were unloaded and the ship sank the following morning. Three boats took off in hope of reaching the mainland. A storm blew up and one of the boats with eight men capsized and sank. The remaining two boats with 25 men continued on. George Melville’s boat with 11 men aboard reached safety; the other landed elsewhere and two men survived and met up with the Melville group. Herbert Leach was one of these survivors. SIZE: Round medal: 1-1/2″ dia. With ribbon: 3-1/2″ l. PROVENANCE: Descended in the family of the survivor Herbert W. Leach. CONDITION: Hardware in very good condition with good lustre, ribbon has some damage but intact. 9-25097 (10,000-20,000) – Lot 2197
Auction: Fine Art, Antiques & Asian - February 2015
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