Historical Artifacts and Numismatics

Historical Artifacts

The Artifact Collection holds more than 2,000 objects that represent several centuries of American history. Highlights include the pen Abraham Lincoln used to sign the Emancipation Proclamation; a windowsill from a Harvard detention house, signed by students confined for bad behavior in the early 19th century; the swords of William Prescott and John Linzee who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill; George Washington’s epaulettes; and a silver urn made by Paul Revere in the neoclassical style he adopted toward the end of the American Revolution. A late-17th-century chest of drawers later became known as the “the Witch Bureau” when an 1861 description recorded that “from the middle drawer…one of the Witches jumped out who was hung on Gallows Hill, in Salem.” The full range of artifacts at the Society encompasses examples of armor, canes, china, clocks and pocket watches, firearms, furniture, jewelry, powder horns, political ephemera, silver, and textiles.

Numismatics

The MHS numismatic collection consists of approximately 7,000 medals and tokens, 30 coins, 400 buttons and ribbons, and 3,000 examples of paper money. The strengths of the collection are early colonial Massachusetts coinage, paper money circulating in Massachusetts in the colonial period, paper money and fiscal paper issued by the Continental Congress, obsolete bank notes and scrip issued in Massachusetts, and medals and tokens related to Massachusetts and to the Society's manuscript collections. Most of the coins and medals in the collection are described in Malcolm Storer's Numismatics of Massachusetts (Boston, 1923), published as volume 76 of the MHS Collections.

How to Find Artifacts and Numismatics

With the exception of Revolutionary-era artifacts that are cataloged in ABIGAIL, information about the artifact collection is available only at the MHS.  Contact the Curator of Art for more information.

Viewing Artifacts and Numismatics

View artifacts online, experience the collections in person, or visit the online Gallery to view highlights of the collection. Artifacts not on display are available by appointment only.  Contact the Curator of Art for more information.

Upcoming Events

Brown Bag

"Let it be your resolution to be happy": Women's Emotion Work in the Early Republic

23Oct 12:00PM 2017

Tasked with maintaining the comfort and happiness of their families even in the face of adversity, many middling- and upper-class women in the early-nineteenth century ...

Conversation

Advise and Dissent? The Role of Public History in Modern Life

23Oct 6:00PM 2017
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30 pm ...

What is the role of historical organizations in a politically polarized environment, a world of “alternative facts” and a social fabric that is being torn ...

Modern American Society and Culture Seminar

Allaying Terror: Domesticating Artisan Refugees in South Vietnam, 1956

24Oct 5:15PM 2017

This essay explores the publication of photographs of North Vietnam refugee artisans in English-language mass print media. These images served as an extension of American ...

From our Blog

Gertrude Codman Carter’s Diary, October 1917

Today we return to the 1917 diary of Gertrude Codman Carter. You may read the previous entries here:   Introduction | January | February | March | April | May June | July | August | September ...

“Mark, Traveler, this humble stone”: Quaint and Curious Epitaphs ...

I find a visit to any of New England’s burying grounds fascinating year-round, but I consider treading among slate gravestones and timeworn monuments in October a quintessential New England ...

Read more from our blog

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