Astor Medal

In 1832, the American Fur Company struck a number of medals bearing the image of John Jacob Astor, the company founder, to give to friendly Native Americans at Fort Union. Today, only seven silver and five copper medals are still known to exist. Most of them have a small hole in the top edge so they can be strung on a necklace.

A copper Astor medal without the hole for stringing on a necklace. Click image to download a PDF of the front and back of this medal.

As presented on the medal, “Astor’s profile was ample, virile, and severe in the manner of Roman emperors,” writes an Astor biography. “The strong, square face is softened by a double chin.”

In 1926, the Great Northern gave replicas of this medal cast in clay to members of the Columbia River Historical Expedition. The replicas were made by the University of North Dakota School of Mines, which had a still-famous pottery school (now part of the university Department of Art and Design). This particular replica was sold from the estate of a graduate of that school, so it was probably never in the possession of the GN or expedition members.

A pottery Astor medal made at the University of North Dakota. Click image to download a PDF of the front and back of this medal.

As shown in the photo (but not the PDF), the replica medals came on a beaded string. They are highly prized by collectors today, more because of the fame of North Dakota’s pottery school than because of John Jacob Astor or the Great Northern Railway.

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