Historical and Commemorative Medals
Collection of Benjamin Weiss


by Tiffany and Company: USA, 1857, Bronze, 78 mm
Obv: Two men, representing Morton and Hans, with dogs, on coast of Alaska exploring the Open Polar Sea.
Rev:  Eagle above shield between seated History and standing Liberty.  The design is modified from the Arms of the State of New York.
Extremely rare.
Ref: Gould and Bresset, 1960, #102;  Weiss BW312

This medal has the same obverse and reverse as that made by the Tiffany Company in 1857,  which was made in gold and awarded by the State of New York to Dr. Elisha Kent Kane for his Arctic expeditions and for searching for the lost Franklin expedition. The original gold medal is inscribed on its edge "Presented to Dr. E. K. Kane, U.S.N., for his gallant services in search of Sir John Franklin, by the State of New York, 1857." A smaller medal with a slightly different design was awarded at the same time to Lieut. H.S. Hartstein/Hartstene, USN, also for his Arctic discoveries and for his search for Kane whom he eventually recovered.
The Franklin Expedition (more properly the British North-West Passage Expedition of 1845-48) was led by Sir John Franklin, Royal Navy. They were seeking a sea route linking the Atlantic with the Pacific Oceans via the Arctic Seas, a passage that had been sought for centuries, with the British having a major interest in this endeavor. One such attempt was begun in the spring of 1845, when Her Majesty's Discovery Ships Erebus and Terror carried some 129 men to the Arctic - never to return. Search expeditions failed to find the ships, but did discover various artifacts and bones from the lost Expedition.
During the Kane expedition their vessel became ice-locked so he sent out a dog sledge party under William Morton, in company with an Eskimo named Hans (Hans Hendrik) to explore the area further. These two, who are depicted on the obverse of the medal, were the only men who ultimately saw open water.
In addition to the gold medal presented to Kane, an example of this medal in bronze and an example of the Hartstein medal in silver are extant (Dick Powell Collection, Kodiak, Alaska). (Taken, in part, from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Jan. 9, 1858.) (Many thanks to Glenn M. Stein, FRGS, who generously provided this information.)
The example of the medal shown above is in bronze and appears to have been made in two parts, joined together at the edge.

LINK to Kane's Open Polar Sea (from www.ekkane.org)

LINK to Alaska Exploration (from www.pbs.org)