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1792 French Essai struck in bell metal

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My Argenor (Paris) auction catalog arrived today and I spotted this 1792 essai piece struck in bell metal. It illustrates the close social and cultural relations between France and our young country.

 

385.jpg

 

Its lot 385 in the catalog with a 280 Euro estimate.

 

http://www.argenor.com/en/index.php

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My Argenor (Paris) auction catalog arrived today and I spotted this 1792 essai piece struck in bell metal. It illustrates the close social and cultural relations between France and our young country.

 

385.jpg

 

Its lot 385 in the catalog with a 280 Euro estimate.

 

http://www.argenor.com/en/index.php

 

Hmm...nope. I just can't see the relationship between it and my young country. :ninja:

 

Mind you my young country has a long history of alliance with France going way back into mediaeval times. That alliance took a severe beating, and the French lost a lot of support here in Scotland when they started lopping royal heads.

 

I wonder what Ben Franklin would have made of that if he had still been around? After all, there appeared to be much more social and cultural links between the US and France back in the heady days of `independence' than there was after the French Revolution.

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Hmm...nope. I just can't see the relationship between it and my young country. :lol:

 

 

Well, I suppose the choice of words was rather uscentric. :ninja: My err and my apologies. "my" would have been a better choice and one I should have caught, although I did post it in the "US Coppers Forum." :cry: At risk of getting way off topic, is this one more interesting (Lot 622)?

 

622.jpg

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Lol! That Cromwell shilling almost looks too good to be true. :ninja:

 

...but getting back to your original piece and cultural links etcetera.... when was it that the Disme came into existence in the USA? Was it before / after/ or roughly the same time as the Decime in France?

 

Ian

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I really like the medal. Thanks for sharing.

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...but getting back to your original piece and cultural links etcetera.... when was it that the Disme came into existence in the USA? Was it before / after/ or roughly the same time as the Decime in France?

 

 

Interesting question and one that I do not know. I'm out of town for the next few days, but I'll be interested in seeing if someone picks up this thread. If I remember my history correctly, I believe there was a great deal of influence sharing between the two nations in addition to the links forged by Franklin. Unless I've total botched my history, Washington D.C. and Paris were laid out by the same archtiect/urban planner.

 

I have to be careful not to define a new collecting topic. I can't afford one of those dismes!

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Back from NASCAR in Phoenix and a few days of sun. I can't wait for the grey days to pass and the sun to come out again in California!

 

Dismes (deems) and decimes roughly date to the same period (1792 US) and 1793 in France. The US group wanted to strike out on their own and not copy from Europe. I don't know about the founders of the First Republic, but it would appear that the cross fertilization influenced some coins (the liberty cap, etc, the Libertas medal designed by a French engraver, etc). Franklin's Fugio designs are the most at odds with the French influence to my mind, where the mint engravers and the early coppers capture the cross-fertilization of ideas between the two young republics. I believe the real parting of ways would come with the Napolean era.

 

Again, my quick read of what I think I see. I'm happy to defer to anyone with a better understanding of the history of the period.

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Throughout history countries have always copied from another when it came to coinage. In some cases the copies were almost identical, in others only the general idea was copied. And depending on which time period and which countries similarities can wax and wane.

 

But in a general sense, yes there are similarities between US & French coinage. Some of them coincide with the revolutionary periods of both countries but I would say that even more of them appeared much later.

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Back from NASCAR in Phoenix and a few days of sun. I can't wait for the grey days to pass and the sun to come out again in California!

 

Dismes (deems) and decimes roughly date to the same period (1792 US) and 1793 in France. The US group wanted to strike out on their own and not copy from Europe. I don't know about the founders of the First Republic, but it would appear that the cross fertilization influenced some coins (the liberty cap, etc, the Libertas medal designed by a French engraver, etc). Franklin's Fugio designs are the most at odds with the French influence to my mind, where the mint engravers and the early coppers capture the cross-fertilization of ideas between the two young republics. I believe the real parting of ways would come with the Napolean era.

 

Again, my quick read of what I think I see. I'm happy to defer to anyone with a better understanding of the history of the period.

 

 

From what I can gather, `disme' (pronounced `deem') is a derivation of / abbreviation of the french `dixieme' (pronounced `deez yehm') meaning `a tenth part of'. This would link the term to pre revolutionary french coinage rather than the revolutionary `decime' coin (pronounced `day seem'). That would also be more in keeping with the relationship between the French Monarchy and revolutionary Americans.

 

Interestingly, a notation for decimal fractions was introduced for the first time in 1585 in a pamphlet called `La Disme' by Simon Stevin of Holland. It would not surprise me to learn that the naming of the US coin was in recognition of Stevin's work.

 

Ian

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From what I can gather, `disme' (pronounced `deem') is a derivation of / abbreviation of  the french `dixieme' (pronounced `deez yehm')  meaning `a  tenth part of'.  This would link the term to pre revolutionary french coinage rather than the revolutionary `decime'  coin (pronounced `day seem'). That would also be more in keeping with the relationship between the French Monarchy and revolutionary Americans.

 

Interestingly, a notation for decimal fractions was introduced for the first time in 1585 in a pamphlet called `La Disme' by Simon Stevin of Holland. It would not surprise me to learn that the naming of the US coin was in recognition of Stevin's work.

 

Ian

 

I'm probably getting in way too deep, but let me react with what I think I'm seeing in my quick read of some of the literature. The French and American revolutionary movements are influencing one an other, politically and intellectually. You see the influences in art, political philosophies (freedom, liberty, equality) and in the move away from classical themes on coins (Washington objected to his portrait on coins as he would appear as a monarch, a political reality they were rejecting). Dupre's Libertas medal features the head of liberty and the liberty cap (the freed slave cap adapted as a symbol of the French revolution) and that influenced the design for the American half cent and cent. The reverse of the Libertas medal is classic allegory straight out of tradition French medal design, clearly linked with the past and not the art of the revolution. The French medal depicted above comes closer to the American coins with the wreath and text on the reverse.

 

Now, what's happening in America. The Birch patterns have science and industry on them. Franklin's Fugio cent has time flies and mind your business. These are attempts to reject the classical notion of coins and promote a new culture. Similar ideas are being promoted in the French revolution (the coins see the introduction of genius inscribing the tablet, etc.). The chain design on the reverse of the first cent derives from Franklin and the revolutionary ideals.

 

Those designs don't work. But, the lady Liberty and liberty cap do work as a mix of the new aesthetic coming out of revolutionary thought with enough attention to classical designs to gain legitimacy. The wreath replaces the chain on the reverse to soften the image and adapt a more classical design.

 

The next round for American and France (with Napolean) is to evolve new classical designs, designs that express the legitimacy and power of the government. The difference for American is the emergence of Liberty as the classical device and in France it's Napolean, a full scale return to the classical design of a monarchy.

 

Now to the tenths. Many different currencies (including French) were circulating in America. Each produced to their own standards. Some early patterns (the Nova Costello series?) attempt to capture the complexity of the difference systems. The founding fathers realized the complexity would doom the new currency to the failures experienced by every other attempt to introduce a derivitave currency. I believe they adopted the decimal system because it was different from the existing European schemes, it was easy to calculate, and could be grounded in the intrinsic value of the metal (copper, silver, gold) because of the easy of calculating tenths, quaters, halves. Given the intellectual influences, it would not surprise me as well if Stevin's work was at the intellectual heart of the decimal idea in America, but I am not familiar with any studies of the origin of the idea. That doesn't mean they haven't been written, it means I haven't read enough to know the history of the development of the idea beyond the simplistic summary I've presented here.

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I believe they adopted the decimal system because it was different from the existing European schemes, it was easy to calculate, and could be grounded in the intrinsic value of the metal (copper, silver, gold) because of the easy of calculating tenths, quaters, halves. Given the intellectual influences, it would not surprise me as well if Stevin's work was at the intellectual heart of the decimal idea in America, but I am not familiar with any studies of the origin of the idea. That doesn't mean they haven't been written, it means I haven't read enough to know the history of the development of the idea beyond the simplistic summary I've presented here.

 

The `half disme' and `disme' were produced in 1792 . The fascinating point from my viewpoint is that the Directoire in France only started producing decimal coinage in 1794/5 (L'an 4) (5 centimes, decime and 2 decimes). The french `centime' didn't come into existence as a coin in it's own right until 1796. All the French coins have Marianne facing left wearing the Phrygian cap.

 

Now then, the US Half Cent of 1793 (which still predates french decimalisation) depicts Liberty (left) but instead of wearing the Phrygian cap she has it on a stick (must have been a warm day when she was posing for the artist). The resemblance of the1793 half cent to the piece you commenced this thread with is `uncanny' (as in `must have been directly copied from').

 

I wonder what denomination the French piece was an essaie for?

 

There is little doubt that the US dabbled with decimal before france, ergo the french `decime' coin /term could not possibly have influenced the use of the name `disme' on US coinage. The influence had to come from elsewhere. Where? Well the `dixieme' ecu was in existence for decades, but for me the cards stack up in favour of the source being Stevin's work entitled `La Disme'. In other words Dutch influence.

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This conversation challenges me to dig a little further and I found this page with an auction catalog description for a Libertas medal:

 

http://www.grasshoppernet.com/usmexna/libertas.htm

 

I probably should have known that Franklin helped design the piece (apparently he commissioned it in Paris). So, he did contribute to the French influence on American coins (he commissioned Dupre) and his letters note the linkage with the French king:

 

quoting from the catalog:

 

Franklin to Livingston, April 15, 1783:

"I have caused to be struck here the medal which I formerly mentioned to you, the design of which you seemed to approve. I enclose one of them in silver, for the President of Congress, and one in copper for yourself; the impression in copper is thought to appear best, and you will soon receive a number for the members. I have presented one to the King, and another to the Queen, both in gold, and one in silver to each of the ministers, as a monumental acknowledgment, which may go down to future ages, of the obligations we are under to this nation. It is mighty well received, and gives general pleasure. If the Congress approve it, as I hope they will, I may add something on the die (for those to be struck hereafter) to show that it was done by their order, which I could not venture to do until I had authority for it."

 

 

The US Mint restruck the revolutionary medals in pewter for the Bicentennial. The set was supposed to include the Libertas medal (I subscribed to the series on that basis), but could not include it because of copyright issues. (I believe that had something to do with another restrike by the Paris mint for the bicentenial and not Dupre's or Franklin's copyright which should have long sice expired.) I'll have to drag that set out and photograph it if anyone is interested.

 

More on the Libertas medal here:

 

http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeqg1oh/favc009a.htm

 

1783cu-o.jpg1783cu-r.jpg

 

Note France as the protector as the baby (America) battles (and defeats) the snakes with its bare hands. I've always liked this medal.

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Fascinating stuff Bill. It figured that the connection was pre-revolutionary France.

 

What i'm struggling with now is that a full ten years after the `Libertas' medal was commissioned by Franklin, designed by Gibelin, and engraved by Dupre, the `re-united artists of Lyon' have the exact same design struck in bell metal for presentation to the French National Convention as an `essaie' (?) . This was mere months before the USA released the same design on the obverse of its half cent.

 

Either `copyright' meant little to the Provisional French Government and plagiarism meant nothing to the `artists of Lyon' in 1792, or the item is a jeton de presence rather than an `essaie'....... or i'm missing something (probably the latter).

 

As an aside, Dupre of course was the subject of the (in)famous story of the `lucky angel' ( Louis D'Or with the Genie De France reverse 1792/3 ) in relation to his escape from the Bastille (and a date with madame Guillotine).

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