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Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

John Flude's Medal


IN late February 1786 there arrived at Dartmouth College a gift for its president from 'Mr. Flude of London,' accompanied by a letter from 'J. Trumbull,' both hand-delivered by 'Mr. Grout.' These details are evident from the reply to 'J. Trumbull' by John Wheelock, second president of the College. 1

Dartmouth College March 1st 1786

I embrace with pleasure the earliest opportunity to acknowledge the favor of your letter, bearing date February 8th. With that I received by the hand of Mr Grout the Medal 2 which is presented by Mr Flude of London to the President of Dartmouth College for the time being.

This expressive mark of public love, and personal politeness, is considered with grateful reflections, and will be viewed in every age as a testimony of that patriotic spirit, which inspires the donor, and particularly of his great regard to the interests of humanity and science.

The value of the present is much increased by the obliging manner, in which you are pleased to communicate it. The reasons for its delay, as mentioned in your letter, are weighty and sufficient. I feel myself indebted, and beg you to accept many thanks for your kind attention and care of it I am, with the greatest consideration and regard,

Sir your most obedient & humble servant
J Wheelock

Mr J. Trumbull Endorsed: Letter from President of Dartmouth College

J. Trumbull's letter, if preserved, has not been found; his identity and that of Mr. Grout remain unknown.

News of the medal's arrival spread throughout the colonies by way of newspapers. For instance, The Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser of Monday, 22 May 1786 (page 3, column 1) reported: 'New York, May 15. We hear from good authority, that the president of Dartmouth College, in the state of New-Hampshire, has very lately received from a respectable gentleman in London, an elegant Gold Medal, with an ingenious design, expressive of the future glory of America; and of that union which is the strength of society. The donor has presented it as a memento of his attachment to the United States of America, and of his particular regard for that rising seminary.'

The gift itself is an oval-shaped medal with a slightly convex obverse in gold; a silver scalloped bezel and beading surround a figure scene chased in high relief repousse work. 3 The scene depicts Aesop's fable 'The Old Man and his Sons,' bearing the inscription Unanimity is the strength of society. A father, unable to reconcile his quarrelsome sons, shows them how sticks tied together cannot be broken while this can be done with them individually. 4 The less-than-perfect workmanship of the artisan who put the gold and silver components of the medal together is evident. The gold is slightly rotated counterclockwise, about four millimeters from the hanging vertical. Facing the left side, the border of the gold is not entirely covered by the silver of the bezel, leaving about one millimeter exposed.

In the opinion of Mr. Richard Edgcumbe, Department of Metalwork, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 'The figure scene would have been the work of a specialist chaser, almost certainly from its manner one of the chasers who decorated watchcases at this period. There had been a great vogue for watchcases with figure scenes which ended in the most fashionable circles around 1770 when the rococo died, but some gold cases and a great many silver cases continued to be executed with figure scenes of a similar type to that on the medallion. Two further craftsmen at least would have been involved in the making of the medallion: the engraver who executed the inscription, and the maker or makers of the medallion.' 5

The reverse of the medal, also slightly convex, is of sterling silver. It has a heraldic shield in the middle of the upper part, poorly executed with a two-engrailed top, pointed bottom, and beaded borders. Seven horizontal bars with vertical cross-hatching, indicating the color red, alternate with six white bars; in the left upper corner, a small square with some dots. Altogether a representation of the earliest official flag of the United States of America, adopted as such in 1777 and in use until 1795. Below the shield, engraved in calligraphic design, is the dedication, ' The Gift of / John Flude, / Broker, / Gracechurch Street, / London, 5th April 1785 / to / the President of/ Dartmouth College / for the time being / at Hanover, in / the State of / New Hampshire.' The calligraphy shows at least two, possibly three, levels of craftsmanship, the better one evident in the engraving of the text in italics, although the layout lines have been left; the block-lettering is more poorly done. Except for an indent at the letters I and D of the word President, the surface is quite uniform.

It is not clear if any particular significance is to be attached to the date of 5 April 1785. The words 'for the time being' were commonly used in the sense of 'for the present.' 6 They also occur, for example, in the charter of Dartmouth College (2763), ` . . John Wentworth Esquire .. . the Governor of our said Province of New Hampshire for the time being. . . .' The original case in which the medal arrived has been replaced by a modern one; a gold chain was added, probably in the late 1920s.

In time, the medal has become an heirloom of the College used as a badge of the president's office on certain formal occasions, together with the original charter of the College and the Wentworth Bowl, a silver monteith, gift of the governor of New Hampshire, John Wentworth, after he had attended the College's first commencement exercises in 1771. The respective histories of the latter two have been well documented.7 In contrast, there remain a number of questions, as yet unanswered, pertinent to a fuller understanding of the history of the medal. Who was John Flude? What motivated him to make this gift? Why at that particular time?

According to his tradesman's card, John Flude (the name is probably pronounced flood) was a pawnbroker with a shop at 2 Gracechurch Street in the City of London. 8 There were two entrances to the shop, one on the left for the general public, the right, somewhat more discreet, for the more propertied class. The public entrance has the trademark of the pawnbroker on the left and right posts, three balls with the lettering `Money Lent' under it. Colloquial names for the balls included 'The Swinging Dumplings' and 'The Sign of the Two to One,' the latter intimating that anything brought to the pawnbroker carried a two to one chance of ever being seen again by the owner. 9 The text of the three ovals over the store, reads

Wardrobes bought
Unredeemed Goods sold
in Town & Country JOHN FLUDE Whole sale & Retail

The display cases are filled with unredeemed pledges, forfeited after one year and seven days, as established by law. The word silversmith, while used in the text of the trade-card, does not occur on the shop-front. A pawnbroker (commonly called 'Uncle' ) often advertised his business in conjunction with another trade, particularly that of gold- or silversmith, without actually being a craftsman in the field. Pawnbroking was, in the main and contrary to its portrayal in fiction, pictorial arts, and newspapers, an honorable land lucrative) business, a carefully regulated trade with special charters and laws. 10 The terms pawnbroker and broker were used interchangeably.' 11

Regarding John Flude, Mr. David Beasley, librarian of Goldsmiths' Hall, London, writes, `I have searched through the index of apprentices and freemen of the Goldsmiths' Company but his name does not appear. I have not found a maker's mark entered at the Assay Office at Goldsmiths' Hall either. It is possible that he may have entered a mark in one of the two missing registers of this period -- the smallworkers 1739-1758, the largeworkers 1733-1758. His name is not mentioned in the indices of the Minutes of the Court of Assistants (the Company's governing body) or the Committee Minutes.' Flude's name was found '... as a subscriber to the third edition of a publication entitled "The American Negotiator: or the various currencies of the British Colonies in America . . . " (published in London in 1761, 1763 and 1765). He is listed as a pawnbroker, of London.' 12 Mr. Richard Edgcumbe concurs,'. . . it would seem probable that Flude was not in any sense a working silversmith.' 13

Only few further details related to John Flude's life have been gathered from a number of sources. Early London directories list Flude as a 'freeholder of Middlesex' and 'a member oft he Innholders' Company. Livery lists of the latter show that he became a liveryman in 1764, and served in the Court of Assistants for several years. His address was given as Gracechurch Street up to 1731, and subsequently as Butt Lane, Deptford. He disappeared from the livery list after 1806, and probably died during that year.' 14 John Coulter notes that his name'... first appears in the St. Paul, Deptford ratebooks for a house on the west side, and at the southern end of Butt Lane (now Deptford High Street) in the Autumn of 1792, and was there until the middle of 1808. Thereafter Hannah Flude was rated for the house until the middle of 1823.' 15 Flude had married Hannah New in 1786, according to an item in The Universal Daily Register 16 of 6 November 1786 (page 3): 'A few days ago was married at Lambeth Church, Mr. John Flude, of Grace-church-street, to his third wife, Miss Hannah New, of Cornhill.' Coulter notes that 'John Flude does not appear to have been buried at St. Paul's Deptford (not at least if 1808 was the date of his death) but Hannah Flude, widow, of Butt Lane, aged 77 years, was buried there on the 30th. of August 1823.' 17

There is then the distinct possibility that the obverse of the medal originally was the panel for the lid of a watch or jewelry box, which, having been pawned at John Flude's shop, became his property after its owner failed to redeem it, but since so little is known of John Flude, speculation outruns facts in considering what motivated him in making his gift to the president of Dartmouth College. Flude may have been aware of the College and its missionary work among American Indians, having been exposed to this aspect of Eleazar Wheelock's work during a number of sojourns in London of two emissaries of the College, Reverend Samson Occom and Reverend Nathaniel Whitaker, who raised funds during a tour of England, Scotland, and Ireland between 1766 and 1768. John Wheelock himself, as the second president of the College (accompanied by his youngest brother James) was in London on a similar mission in July 1783; in the spring of 1784 John Wheelock's second brother, Eleazar Jr., also with James, was in London primarily on private business, but also to collect 'philosophical apparatus' for the College, previously promised to John Wheelock. 18 If Flude had become acquainted with one or more of the Wheelock brothers, he would have addressed the gift to John Wheelock by name. Another motivating factor for Flude may be hinted at in the reference in John Wheelock's letter to '. . . that patriotic spirit, which inspires the donor.' It is not unlikely that John Flude may have been among the 'disaffected patriots' in the London metropolis, especially in the City itself. The endemic antiministerial attitude of the London citizenry in general, but of the merchants and tradesmen in particular, became, between 1763 and 1782, strongly focused in support of the American Revolution. The various groups were, however, careful to stress their primary credentials, by calling themselves 'patriots.' 19

A thorough search of available manuscripts, as well as printed and photographic sources, has revealed a number of notable events in the life of the medal at Dartmouth College since John Wheelock wrote his letter to J. Trumbull in 1786. Wheelock must have been quite pleased with John Flude's gift; he used it when he sat for the making of a miniature, sometime between 1786 and his death in 1817. This has become evident from a letter of John Richards to Doctor Josiah Whitney Barstow A. B. 1846, M.D. 1852 after receiving a daguerreotype the physician had made of the miniature.

Hanover NH Oct 25 1858

J. W. Barstow M D.
Dear Sir

I recd. the Daguerreotype of Dr. John Wheelock and am under the highest obligation for it. The small hand is a defect of the painter. It should have been spread more, it looks like Father Ainsworth's.

I send you a rude facsimile of the medal (same size) which appears on the miniature. The medal is in possession of Dr. Lord, open for exhibition to the curious. [Emphasis added.] It proves moreover, I think, that the miniature was taken in England, and as Dr Wheelock was born Jan 28, 1754 and the medal bears the date Ap.5.1785 it would make him 31 when the likeness was taken. Doubtless Mr Flude made him sit and suspended the medal on his breast for his own gratification. Of Mr Flude I know nothing but what appears on the medal.

If you had several copies taken, send me another, I will remit the cost and the postage

Yours truly
John Richards

A pen and ink sketch of both sides of the medal, still extant, accompanied the letter. 20

The miniature itself has not been found, but an ambrotype of the miniature came to the College from the legacy of Dr. Henry Bond (1790-1859) A.B. 1813, M.D. 1817; its oval shape measures 6 x 5 cm. This photograph could well be the one referred to by John Richards, since the terms for various types of contemporary photographic plates (daguerreotype, ambrotype, tintype) were used interchangeably.

In the ambrotype Wheelock's right hand rests on a book standing upright. The hand is clearly abnormal; it is small and narrow, with only three fingers visible. This may simply have been the result of the artist's poor effort to paint the hand, as surmised by Richards ('.. . a defect of the painter'). However, a physically abnormal hand, truthfully rendered by the painter, is equally likely. The latter assumption finds support in Richards's reference to a hand of 'Father Ainsworth.' The Reverend Laban Ainsworth 1778 is described as ' . . . of medium stature, thick set, good features, and well formed, except a hand disabled by early sickness.' [Emphasis added.] 21 Not only may there have been a deformity of the right hand; it appears that Wheelock's right shoulder and the right side of his face were smaller as compared to the opposite side. There also was a marked deformity of the lower right lip. These right-sided physical abnormalities could have represented congenital birth defects or might have been caused by injury at the time of birth.

Richards's assumption that the miniature was done in England is incorrect. John Wheelock's only visit to England took place in the latter part of 1783 22 and he did not receive the medal until 1786. In using the medal 'suspended ... on his breast,' Wheelock must have considered it as a true badge of office. Either the miniature itself or a photograph of it was used in 1875, when Ulysses D. Tenney painted an oil-on-canvas portrait of John Wheelock at the request of Benjamin E Prescott 1856, Who became governor of New Hampshire in 1877 and who donated the painting to the College in 1880. Tenney did not depict the medal, Wheelock's hands, or the deformity of the lip.

It remains unclear where and by whom the medal was kept after John Wheelock's death in 1817; it was most likely transmitted from one administration to the next. At the inauguration on 28 June 1893 of William Jewett Tucker as the ninth president of Dartmouth College the Reverend Alonzo H. Quint 1846, speaking in behalf of the board of trustees, handed the president-elect not only the original charter of the College, but also '. . . this massive gold emblem, given by an eminent citizen of London in the last century to belong to the presidential office.' 23 The inauguration of the next, tenth, president, Emest Fox Nichols, on 19 October 1909 also included the handing over of the charter, but not of the medal; in its stead President Tucker handed over the Wentworth monteith as a symbol of 'The Successors of Wheelock' (subsequently called The Wheelock Succession). The absence of the medal in the proceedings may have had a mundane reason, namely, that it could not be found. Sometime after the last days of June 1893 the medal must have been misplaced and forgotten about, until its reappearance in November 1914. In October of that year, Wilder Dwight Quint 1887 (son of Alonzo H. Quint) published The Story of Dartmouth. In it Quint mentioned ' . . . the curious and beautiful gold "jewel" still worn suspended from the neck of Dartmouth's president on great occasions'; it had come '... from John Flude, a London broker.' 24 This item caught the eye of Gray Knapp 1912, at that time Secretary to the President (1912-1914) and later Secretary of the College (1914-1917). He, never having seen the medal, searched for it and, on Thursday, 12 November 1914, found it among old papers in the treasurer's vault in Parkhurst Hall, the administration building, which had been opened in 1912. 25 The Dartmouth Alumni Magazine of December 1914 carries the assertion that 'President Nichols will probably resume the old custom of wearing the jewel on all important academic occasions.' 26 This, however, did not happen until the presidency of Nichols's successor, Emest Martin Hopkins. Neither man is seen wearing the medal at the inauguration of Hopkins in 1916, but it is worn by him at the commencement exercises of 1928. From that time on the medal appears to have been in regular use at official occasions.


I am grateful for the generous assistance I have had in exploring the story surrounding John Flude and his medal:

Ruth M. Blair, Manuscripts Cataloger, The Connecticut Historical Society Mr. Richard Edgcumbe, Department of Metalwork, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Mr. David Beasley, Librarian of Goldsmiths' Hall, London
Edward C. Lathem, Dean of Libraries and Librarian of the College, Emeritus
Virginia L. Close, Humanities & Social Sciences Reference Bibliographer
Kenneth C. Cramer, Archivist, Dartmouth College
Claire B. Packard, Executive Secretary, Office of the Librarian
Erling H. Heistad, Special Instructor in Jewelry, Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College
Dr. Paul B. Sullivan, for checking references in London Linda Edgerton, Norwich, Connecticut


1. Baker Library, Special Collections. MS 786201.

2. Various terms have been used for the object under discussion: medallion, emblem insignia, badge of office, Flude's medal, jewel, president's medal, president's jewel. Medal, the appellation originally used by John Wheelock, will be used throughout this article.

3. The medal weighs 62 pennyweight (96.5 grams) and measures 127.6 by 80.3 mm; the distance between the centers of obverse and reverse is 22.6 mm. The depth of the repoussé work ranges from 2.0 to 2.8 mm.

4. In August 1776, together with Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, Thomas Jefferson served on the first commission to recommend a design for a seal of the United States of America; the proposal of this commission was not adopted. Interestingly, at a later date, Jefferson noted in his Account Book, A proper device (instead of arms) for the American states united would be the Father presenting the bundle of rods to his sons. The motto "Insuperabiles si inseparabiles" (Insuperable if you remain inseparable).' Thomas Jefferson, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson., ed. Julian P. Boyd, vol. I., 1760-1776 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1950), 495.

5. Richard Edgcumbe to Dick Hoefnagel, 18 January 1990.

6. A Boston Globe article, 15 November 1914, reflected another, erroneous, interpretation: 'The words "for the time being" indicate the precarious condition of the college, which evidently seemed at the time destined to be short lived at Hanover.'

7.Jere R. Daniell II,'Eleazar Wheelock and the Dartmouth College Charter,' Historical New Hampshire 24, No. 4 (Wincer 1969): 3-31; Philip H. Dunbar 1950, Monograph on the Wheelock Monteith, ([Hanover, N.H.] 1950). Typescript of Art 101 Thesis, Baker Library, Special Collections, Alumni D9115m. Century.

8. Ambrose Heal, London Tradesmen's Cards of the XVIII Century. An Account of Their

Origin and Use (London: B. T. Batsford Lrd., 1925), 28, 85, Plate LXXI. The engraver was James] Delegal of Bishopsgate (a continuation of Gracechurch Street). Dennis A. Dinan, former editor of The Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, noticed the plate in a softcover edition of Heal's book, published by Dover Publications in 1968.

9. C. A. Cuthberth Keeson,'Pawnbroking London,' in George Robert Sims, Living London: Its Work and its Play, its Humour and its Pathos, Its Sights and its Scenes, 2 v. (London: Cassell & Company, 1902-03), 2: 36-42.

10. Kenneth Hudson, Pawnbroking: an Aspert of British Social History (London: Bodley Head, 1982).

11. The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., s.v.' Broker,' no. 2.

12. David Beasley to Dick Hoefnagel, 1 November 1990.

13. Richard Edgcumbe to Dick Hoefnagel, 18 January 1990.

14. Miss J. M. Wraight to Dick Hoefnagel, 11 February 1991. `Freeholder of Middlesex' indicates that Flude owned property in Middlesex County; the latter became part of Grearer London in 1965. Of the livery companies' guilds of the City of London, twelve were major and sixty-two, minor companies. The Innholders' Company was one of the minor ones. Flude's membership does not necessarily imply that he acquired it through a period of apprenticeship with an innkeeper; he may have inherited it or paid for the privilege.

15. John Coulter to Dick Hoefnagel, 28 February 1991.

16. Founded in January 1785, the name of the newspaper became The Times in 1788.

17. John Coulter to Dick Hoefnagel, 28 February 1991.

18. Dick Hoefnagel, 'Benjamin Franklin and the Wheelocks.' Dartmouth College Library Bulletin n. s. 31 (1990): 1-27.

19. John Sainsbury, Disaffected Patriots: London Supporters of Revolutionary America, 1769-1782 (Kingston, Ont.: McGill--Queens University Press, 1987).

20. Baker Library, Special Collections. MS. 858575. The Reverend John Richards (1797-1859) of Farmington, Connecticut, Yale 1821, received an honorary D.D. from Dartmouth in 1845. He had begun, in August 1858, work on ' a volume on the Antiquities & Alumni of Dartmouth College . . .' (Baker Library, Special Collections. MS. 859152), but his death in March 1859 prevented its completion. The work was continued and published by George T. Chapman 1804 as Sketches of the Alumni of Dartmouth College, From the First Graduation in 1712 to the Present Time: With a Brief History of the Institution (Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1867).

21. George T. Chapman, Sketches of the Alumni of Dartmouth College, From the First Graduation in 1771 to the Present Time: With a Brief History of the Institution (Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1867), 23.

22. See Dick Hoefnagel, 'Benjamin Franklin and the Wheelocks,' fn. 18, above.

23. William Jewett Tucker, The Historic College, Its Present Place in the Educational System. An Address Delivered by William Jewett Tucker upon his inauguration as President of Dartmouth College, June 28, 1893 with the Exercises Attending the Inauguration (Hanover. N.H.: Printed for the College, 1895), 6.

24. Wilder Dwight Quint, The Story of Dartmouth. With illustrations by John Albert Seaford (Boston, Mass.: Little Brown and Company, 1914), 71.

25. The Dartmouth (19 November 1914): 1.

26.'Famous College Jewel Found.' The Dartmouth Alumni Magazine 7, No. 2 (December 1919):52.