Featured Who is Samuel J. Bridge and why did he give a medal to Frank O'Donnell?

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by willieboyd2, Jul 19, 2011.

  1. willieboyd2

    willieboyd2 First Class User

    I have had this medal for many years, it belonged to my father before me.


    Samuel J. Bridge Medal
    AWARDED TO / Frank O'Donnell / 1895
    Size: 33mm
    Weight: 18.74gm
    Metal: Silver, darkened over time
    The medal has a ring with a piece of frayed ribbon attached.

    I finally got around to researching it.

    It is inscribed "Frank O'Donnell, 1895".
    I knew that Frank was a relative of my father's mother, whose maiden name was O'Donnell.
    The family lived in San Francisco in the late 1800's and early 1900's.

    The medal is pretty dark, and I didn't know it was silver until I did the research.

    Who was Samuel James Bridge?
    He lived from June 1, 1809 to November 6, 1893.
    He was born and died in Boston, Massachusetts, a member of a wealthy family there.
    In 1856 he was assigned to San Francisco as Appraiser General of the Pacific Coast.
    He also was the Commissioner in charge of the erection of the Customs House,
    Mint, and Marine Hospital in San Francisco.
    He established the Bridge Medals in 1879.

    Bridge Medal Fund:
    From the:
    Twenty-sixth Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Schools
    City and County of San Francisco, School Year Ending June 30, 1879

    A former resident of San Francisco, for many years holding the office of
    Appraiser-General under the Federal Government, taking deep interest in the
    public schools and desirous of emulating the distinguished example of
    [Benjamin] Franklin in founding medals for worthy public school boys,
    made a handsome gift to to the city, in the last school year,
    the circumstances and purposes of which are fully explained
    in the following resolution, adopted by the Board of Supervisors:

    Resolution No. 13,550
    Whereas, Samuel J. Bridge, of Dresden, County of Lincoln, State of Maine,
    has donated the sum of $2,000, gold coin, unto the Mayor...
    to be used for the purchase of silver medals for distribution among the most
    meritorious boys of the Public Grammar Schools of San Francisco...
    [to be] an honorable mark of proficiency and distinction - "A Bridge Medal"

    Who was Frank O'Donnell?
    Frank O'Donnell had to be a relative of my father's mother whose maiden name was O'Donnell.

    San Francisco newspaper article:
    The San Francisco Call newspaper of June 8 1895 (Page 12)
    listed the graduates of the "Washington Evening School" Ninth Grade
    including "Bridge medalist" Frank O'Donnell.

    Naturally, it is not for sale!

    green18, Jwt708 and SilverSurfer415 like this.
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  3. BRandM

    BRandM Counterstamp Collector

    That's a great piece Willie, and a family heirloom to boot. I love posts like yours where the OP discusses the history of a coin, medal or other collectible. It's nice that it has the ribbon attached as well. It makes it even more special because it's complete. Thanks for showing it and the history lesson too.

  4. willieboyd2

    willieboyd2 First Class User

    I just received an email from a man whose grandfather received a Bridge Medal in 1896.

    Jwt708 likes this.
  5. BRandM

    BRandM Counterstamp Collector

    Thanks for the update willieboyd2. Interesting history for sure.

  6. Great story willieboyd, Very nice medal! Thanks for posting it.
  7. willieboyd2

    willieboyd2 First Class User

    Another Bridge Medal:

    This one has no family connection, it came from the usual source for odd items:


    Samuel J. Bridge Medal awarded to Joseph Clark in 1891

    Obverse: Same as the first medal
    Reverse: AWARDED TO / Jos. Clark / 1891 (Joseph Clark)
    This medal is missing the ribbon attachment loop and is heavily scratched.
    It is the same size as the first medal but weighs less, 17.17gm.

    The Report of the Superintendent of Common Schools of the City and County of
    San Francisco for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1891 lists a "Jos. Clark" as one
    of the Bridge Medal Pupils, Eleventh Award, May 1891, at the Hearst Grammar School.

    After receiving the second medal I did some more research on these medals and
    found that they are listed as number SC-52 in the catalog:
    Medals of the United States Mint: The First Century, 1792-1892
    by R. W. Julian, published by the Token and Medal Society, 1977.

    These medals were struck at the San Francisco Mint, now known as the "Old Mint".

    The Bridge medals were for boys only, a James Denman had had established the
    "Denman Medal Fund for Girls" in 1865.
    Samuel Bridge established his "Bridge Medal Fund for Boys" in 1879.

    Jwt708 likes this.
  8. BRandM

    BRandM Counterstamp Collector

    Thanks for the update willieboyd. It's always interesting to hear "the rest of the story".

  9. willieboyd2

    willieboyd2 First Class User

    Somebody informed me that Charles Barber designed these medals,
    but I do not have any actual reference for that.

  10. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Supporter! Supporter

    I want to chime in with Bruce - this is a great post and very worthy of the new "Featured Thread." Just like Bruce, I love these posts about coins, exonumia, etc. where the poster includes their research and delve into the history of the item. Even cooler that this has a connection to you @willieboyd2. So, I'm just curious, are you actively collecting these Bridge Medals?
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