Brain Scoop: Can Peace Be Purchased?
Dr. Lawrence J. Lee
The peace medal collection has not been systematically examined in nearly two decades. In 2017, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science reached out to Lawrence J. Lee, PhD, of Lincoln, Nebraska, to appraise the collection. Since then, Dr. Lee has visited the collection many times; he and curator of archaeology Stephen Nash will soon publish a systematic overview of the Crane Collection of Peace Medals in the Museum’s Annals series. Francis Crane amassed the vast majority of the Museum’s peace medal collection in the 1950s and 1960s; his notes and correspondence richly inform our research.
Were Peace Medals the Price of Loyalty?
Beginning in the late 18th century and continuing through much of the 19th century, the US government offered peace medals as gifts to leaders of Native American communities. The British, French, and Spanish governments had long used medals stamped with images of their respective kings in international diplomatic efforts; the United States began copying that practice using images of the president as soon as the presidency came into being in 1789.
No matter which president was on the front, peace medals were important instruments in US diplomacy with Native American tribes across North America. They were offered as gifts of introduction and to celebrate treaty signings and other significant events.
Stephen E. Nash, PhD
Senior Curator of Archaeology and Director of Anthropology