Two Political Medals With Interesting Stories, Grover Cleveland & Huey Long

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by johnmilton, Jun 3, 2020.

  1. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    One of the great things about collecting political pieces is that many of them have interesting stories surrounding them. Unlike a date and mint collection of regular issue coins, there is often a story behind the reasons why a given piece was issued. Here are two examples, one from the 1880s and the other from the 1930s.

    1884 Pressed Wood.jpg

    In 1884 Democrat, Grover Cleveland, defeated Republican, James G. Blain. It was the first victory for a Democrat in 24 years. These two unusual campaign pieces for Cleveland and Hendricks (left) and Blain and Logan (right) are made of pressed wood.

    "Beef Takes the Presidential Chair March 4, 1885"

    In 1884 the Democrats won the White House for the first time in 28 years. From 1860 when Abraham Lincoln defeated three opponents to 1880 when James Garfield narrowly defeated Winfield Scott Hancock, the Republicans had won every race. In 1884 one of the Republican’s favorite candidates, James G. Blaine, lost to Grover Cleveland. Prior to 1882, Cleveland had never held an elected office higher than county sheriff. In 1882 Cleveland was elected mayor of Buffalo, New York. In 1883 he was elected Governor of New York. The following year he won the Democratic presidential nomination and was elected president. This meteoric rise irritated many Republicans, and they expressed their frustrations on a political medalet.

    1885 Anti-Cleveland.jpg

    The obverse of the piece, which is a little larger than a quarter, features a Buffalo at the top which stands for Grover Cleveland's home town. Below the buffalo is the phrase, "Beef takes the presidential chair March 4, 1885." "Beef" referred to Clelevand who was large 'beefy" man and may have been a sly comment about his intelligence. March 4 was the presidential inauguration date until 1936 when it was moved to January 20.

    Below these words is the phrase "R.R.R. did it." This referred to a speech that the Reverend Samuel D. Burchard gave just before the election in New York City. Burchard declared

    "We are Republicans, and don't propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been Rum, Romanism and Rebellion."

    This statement was a direct insult to the Irish Catholic community. The Democrats pounced on it before Republican candidate Blaine could repudiate it. In less than 24 hours the Democrats were passing out “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion” leaflets in Irish neighborhoods . The preacher's intemperate language cost the Republicans many votes in the state of New York and with it, the election.

    The reverse of the token features a bird's body with the head of Grover Cleveland atop it supported in the air by a snake. The words "united South" are written on the snake. This referred to the support that Cleveland and Democratic candidates received from the southern states for much of the 19th through the 20th centuries until the Republicans initiated their "southern strategy" in the mid 1960s. The snake recalled visions of "copperheads" which was the name given to northerners who supported the southern cause during the Civil War. The bird might have been symbolic of the rooster which was the symbol for the Democratic Party from the 1800s to the 1930s. On either side of this image is the phrase, "I say nothing because I have nothing to say," which may have been another swipe at Cleveland's intelligence.

    There are three more comments at the bottom of the design. "Renegade Press" probably refers to the widespread reporting of the unsavory deals that James G. Blaine had made with the railroad industry during his political career. "Free Traders" refers to Cleveland's opposition to the protective tariff which was an issue that divided Republicans and Democrats throughout the 19th and most of the early 20th century. Republicans believed in protecting American companies from foreign competition while many Democrats advocated tariffs for their revenue function. Finally "Dependents" probably referred to the many office seekers who would benefit from a Cleveland victory, although there were just many Republicans who would have benefited from a Blaine victory.

    This token was issued in copper and white metal. It is scarce but not rare, and any collector who is seriously interesting in acquiring it can locate an example with a little effort.

    Huey Long Picture & Button.jpg

    Louisiana senator, Huey Long, planned to run against Franklin D. Roosevelt for president in 1936. He organized "share the wealth" clubs are the U.S. He called for the re-distribution of income and wealth using the phrase "Every Man a King."

    The Huey Long Toilet seat medal

    Huey Long was one of America's most colorful politicians. Early in his political career he did some positive things for the citizens of his home state, Louisiana, but like many politicians who get drunk with power and their own sense of self-importance, he became a demagogue. From the late 1920's until his assassination in 1934 he would hold the offices of Governor of Louisiana and United States Senator. Given his iron grip on Louisiana politics, he became known in political circles as "the Kingfish."

    Long's political philosophy was summed by two slogans, "Share the Wealth" and "Every man a king, but no one wears a crown." Long preached that there was plenty of wealth for everyone during the Great Depression, but that people were poor because it was improperly distributed. His program called for a $5,000 grant to every household and a guaranteed $2,000 to $3,000 annual income to every family. To pay for this he proposed the confiscation of large fortunes and incomes above a maximum amount. At first Long proposed a 100% tax on all personal fortunes above $100 million, all incomes above $1 million and a 100% death tax on all inheritances above $5 million. Later he lowered the threshold for the personal fortune tax to $50 million, lowered it again to $10 to $15 million and then to $5 to $8 million, "if necessary." To push his agenda Long formed Share the Wealth clubs though out America and planned to oppose President Franklin Roosevelt for re-election in 1936.

    Needless to say Huey was not popular among upper class Americans, but those who supported Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal disliked him as well. Franklin Roosevelt once described Huey Long as one of the two most dangerous men in America. The other dangerous man was General Douglas MacArthur.

    On August 26, 1933 Senator Long was attending at party at the exclusive Sands Point country club on Long Island, New York, which is not far from New York City. Huey got "loaded" and had to perform a bodily function that is often necessary for those who overindulge. The story varies, but one version was that upon entering the men's room Huey found that every stall was taken. Somehow he ended up relieving himself on the pant leg and shoes of another gentlemen who was using the facility. That gentlemen responded by landing a well placed punch which gave the "King Fish" a black eye.

    Huey Long Toilet Medal.jpg

    The owner of Colliers Magazine was so pleased by this incident that he offered to raise funds to award a gold medal to Long's assailant. The Medallic Art Company, which is well known among numismatists for their more distinguished products, produced the gold medal and a number of additional pieces in bronze and silver. The American Numismatic Society hosted a blacktie affair at their headquarters in New York City on the evening that the medal was awareded.

    The Huey Long medal is in the shape of a toilet seat. The obverse features a fist striking fish with curly hair, like Long had, with a crown flying off of its head. The date "MCMXXXIII" (1933) appears at the right with a bathroom sink in the background. Below there is a phase in Latin which when translated reads, "A deed on behalf of the public done in the chamber. " The reverse has a slogan which reads, "By public acclaim for a deed done in private ... August 26, 1933." The Medallic Art logo appears at the bottom.

    The Huey Long toilet seat medal is fairly scare, and has become popular with political and exonumia collectors. Recent auction prices have been in the $450 to $550 range for the bronze pieces
    -jeffB likes this.
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  3. Rushmore

    Rushmore Coin Addict

    I wonder what became of the original gold piece. Huey was assassinated a few years later by Dr Carl Weiss. Not too long ago I saw an old episode of Unsolved Mysteries that covered the assassination, Huey may have been accidentally shot by his security detail and Dr Weiss was the fall guy.
  4. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    I don’t think Weiss was “a fall guy.” The security guard theory is based upon the theory that there was a hail of bullets and some of them ricocheted off the marble walls and hit Long. There are marks left on the walls to this day.

    Another aspect of this is that Long got poor medical care. Long’s doctor was selected more for his politics than his ability. A better doctor might have saved him.
  5. ewomack

    ewomack 魚の下着 Supporter

    Randy Newman recorded Long's song "Every Man A King" and also wrote a song about Long called "Kingfish." Both appear on his 1974 album "Good Old Boys."

    I won't link directly to "Kingfish" since it contains some "adult" language, but the curious can easily find the song.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2020
  6. fretboard

    fretboard Defender of Old Coinage!

    Very interesting read, well written! :D
    johnmilton likes this.
  7. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    Hmmm where have we heard something like this recently?

    {sorry , I know, political)
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