Society of Cincinnati Medal Belonging to Polish-Born Hero of American Revolution to be Auctioned in Cleveland
General Thaddeus Kosciuszko was a Polish-born hero of the American Revolution and the Chief Engineer of West Point. In Cleveland next Wednesday, there will be an auction of Kosciuszko's Society of Cincinnati medal.
Enameled Gold Order of the Society of the Cincinnati, Designed by Major Pierre L'Enfant and Construction Attributed to Duval & Francastle, Paris, 1784. One of only 140 original eagles designed and conceived by Major Pierre L'Enfant for the inaugural members of the Society of the Cincinnati, the nation's oldest patriotic organization. The Society was founded in 1783 by officers of the Continental Army and their French counterparts who served together in the American Revolution. This particular eagle is believed to have belonged to Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish-born hero of the Revolution and Chief Engineer of West Point. In 1783, Kosciuszko was appointed Brigadier General and initiated into the Order by General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.
Gold insignia with eagle and wreath motif, both sides with head and tail feathers having white and black enamel, red enamel eyes, distinct eyebrows and black beaks. Obverse oval medallion showing Cincinnatus receiving a sword from two senators, originally with blue enamel sky and green enamel grass within inscription OMNIA. REINQT. SERVAT. REMPB. (He Forsook All Things to Serve the Republic), but now mostly lacking. Reverse medallion showing Cincinnatus with sun and palisade behind, originally with blue sky and green field enameling within inscription in black on white ground VIRT. PRAEM. SOCI. CIN. RUM. INST. A. D. 1783 (a Prize for Virtue - Society of the Cincinnati Instituted 1783), also mostly lacking. The wreath at top and lower crossed branches likewise originally decorated with green enamel and red berries, with double oval loop suspension ring. Without original blue and white ribbon and bow.
Provenance: Inherited by the consignor through direct descent of Stevens Thompson Mason (1760-1803), a U.S. Senator from Virginia, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Armistead (1760-1825), who were personally acquainted with Kosciuszko. According to family history, Kosciuszko was awarded the eagle, which he then gifted to Mary Elizabeth Armistead, for whom he had great affection. It has been passed down in the Mason family ever since. Kosciuszko biographer, Casimir Kajencki, references a documented meeting between Stevens Thomson Mason and Kosciuszko at the latter's apartment on Third Street South in Philadelphia over the winter of 1797-1798 (Thaddeus Kosciuszko: Military Engineer of the American Revolution, El Paso, Tex.: Southwest Polonia Press, 1998, pp. 202-203). Thaddeus Kosciuszko (1746-1817), to his friend Mary Elizabeth Armistead Mason (1760-1825), to her grandson Stevens Thomson Mason (1811-1843), to his sister Catherine Armistead Mason (Rowland) (1818-1884), to her son John Thomson Mason (1844-1901), to his son Stevens Thomson Mason (1880-1950), to his daughter Adelaide Houghton Mason (b. 1918), by descent to the present owner
Dimensions: h: 2.5 x w: 1 inch.
A few years ago, George Washington's Society of Cincinnati medal, which had been in the possession of the family of the Marquis de Lafayette (the medal had been a gift to Lafayette by Washington's adopted granddaughter, Nellie Lewis), sold for over $5.3 million.
The Society of Cincinnati is America's oldest patriotic organization, and was established by Major General Henry Knox in honor of George Washington. The Society took its name from Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, the ancient Roman who left his farm to accept dictatorial powers during a war emergency, only to relinquish those powers and return to farming when the war was over.