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!

    dwhiz, green18, Jwt708 and 1 other person 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 Well-Known Member

    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?
  11. Scale Artillery

    Scale Artillery New Member

    Here's mine It was Given in 1911 To Walter Johnson If it the Baseball Hall of famer IDK i was told it was and he did live in southern California at 1 point If you have any info let me know thanks Austin [​IMG]

  12. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    Yours looks like a copy compared to the other two.:sorry:
  13. willieboyd2

    willieboyd2 First Class User

    The Walter Johnson on the 1911 medal is not the baseball player.
    The ballplayer was born in 1887 in Kansas.
    San Francisco Bridge medalists were usually around 14-15 years old,
    the ballplayer would have been 24 in 1911.

    I can not find a Walter Johnson being awarded a Bridge medal in the San Francisco newspaper archives from 1911, but I will keep looking.
    Johnson is a very common name.

    The medals before 1906 were struck by the San Francisco Mint and the later ones were struck somewhere else and are of lower quality.
    I have a 1908 and 1914 medal similar to the "Walter Johnson" one above.

    Could you tell me where you got your medal?
    Did it belong to a relative?

  14. Scale Artillery

    Scale Artillery New Member

    Hi Willie
    I Got the Medal from a Widow in which i had cleaned out the Grage that as her husbands man cave we talked a bit and i learned that he was a dentist and was in the army corps and was stationed up north and he did the Museum that is now Sutter's fort and that is Sutter's Mill Mr Marshall's Dream was to cut lumber but that all turned bad when gold was discovered by his partner and that was all she wrote his dream was dead because of the gold one would think it would be good but they both dies poor and one was a drunk.

    But back to the Medal It came from the same as above and she had altimers and it was very hard to talk to her and her Husband just past away and i didn't want to push the matter but he had a lot of baseball stuff really old items too and i wish i got those because they were all from the early 1900 to 1930's and their was one member of a forum that says he was given that medal but it was as a gift to him for donating to the school but with out definitive proof it's impossible to say know what i mean hear say really isn't a provenance for this They had lived in Orange county earlier when he was a dentist and she said he knew some famous people that were in sports and then she called him to come out and when he didn't show she got upset and i left it alone and finished the snack she gave me that was a very hot peanut butter sandwich never had that b4 Check out the Door knob below and the post that's in red underlined from that poster that posted the info on the medal. Perhaps the member was only trying to please me or they were trying to be a know it all poster ;-(

    I had read some where that these were also given to people that had donated both time and money to the boys org back then but as to this IDK i wish their was a Newspaper artical on him from that time and if he was in town then. If so it should be out their because he is/was a very Famous Player and one of the 1st to be put in the Hall Of fame

    I had thought of the same thing that he was 24 then so maybe he had went their as a volunteer coach to teach the kids baseball

    I'm not trying to mislead anyone on this it's just the info i have acquired over the years and other info i had gathered from forums that i had it posted. I'd like to get more info on this so i can send it off if it is him.

    However there is a Walter S Johnson in San Francisco and he was a philanthropist but i can't find any info on whee he went to school and also he was born in 1884 making him 27 in 1911His Bio is here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_S._Johnson

    What a troublesome item either way it's an interesting item and they carry a good value i have been out bid on several of them on eBay up to $100 amazing uh. And here's another website that's on these medals.


    Samuel J Bridge lived 1809 -1893, born in Boston to a wealthy family. In 1856 he was assigned to San Francisco as a General-Appraiser under the Fed. Gov. He was also in charge of the customs house, Marine Hospital in San Fransisco, he also established the Bridge Medals in 1879.
    Lincoln County state of Maine he donated $2000 of gold coins to the mayor of the county. The mayor used the gold coins to purchase Silver Medals to given to the most Meritorious Boys of Public grammar schools of San Francisco and to notable citizens that donate their time or money to the school "A Bridge Medals"
    Walter Johnson did received one of these Medals. Later on Johnson won 417 games.
    The "G -stands for Grady

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