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A Relic of Captain Cook: the 1772 Resolution and Adventure Medal

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A Relic of Captain Cook: the 1772 Resolution and Adventure Medal

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Details

1772 Resolution and Adventure medal. Betts-552. Brass, 42 mm. Very Fine. Mounting hole on edge at 12:00, as made, mounting ring not present. A lovely example of the most famous medal associated with the era of exploration in the Pacific. Two thousand pieces in this composition were struck to the order of Sir Joseph Banks, the lead scientist on Captain James Cook's expeditions, to distribute to natives the ships Resolution and Adventure encountered as they explored the Pacific. At least one was distributed in North America, during Cook's stop in Nootka Sound, on the coast of Vancouver Island, in March 1778. These medals were used in essentially the same way Indian Peace medals were, often accompanied by ceremony, trade, and recognitions of authority. This brassy composition, called "platina" in the original documents, was the only one used for distribution to natives, though silver, copper, and two gold examples were also struck for the king and queen, VIPs, and others associated with the voyage.

No artifact better defines the point of native-Western contact in the Pacific. In fact, a specimen of this medal was literally the very first Western object to ever be given to the natives of the Hawaiian islands. On January 19, 1778, on Cook's third and final voyage, Cook anchored off Kauai and soon saw canoes approaching his ships. According to Cook's journals, "they had from three to six men each, and on their approach we were agreeably surprised to find that they spoke the language of Otaheite and of the other islands we had lately visited. It required but very little address to get them to come alongside; but no entreaties could prevail upon any of them to come on board." Instead, Cook offered trade: "I tied some brass medals to a rope and gave them to those in one of the canoes, who in return tied some small mackerel to the rope as an equivalent." The Resolution and Adventure medal was the brass medal in question, the opening comment in a trade conversation between Anglos and natives that continued through the 20th century. The story of the modern history of Hawaii starts here. Australia honors this medal similarly. A 1777 sketch of an interaction on Tasmania, the first to show Anglos and aborigines together, even depicts this medal being awarded. [The previous link features an article by Peter Lane, which includes more information on the Resolution and Adventure medal than can be found anywhere else, online or off.]

The concept of the Resolution and Adventure medal -- and the design, incorporating the two ships -- inspired the 1787 Washington and Columbia medal, which was also distributed in the Pacific Northwest. Not coincidentally, explorer John Ledyard of Connecticut was a part of both expeditions, and the travels of Cook continued to inspire Western explorations in the Pacific for decades. 

Distributed examples of this medal have rarely survived in such fine condition. Those found in the earth in Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere in the Pacific are usually heavily corroded, sometimes even to the point of being barely recognizable, and sometimes heavily worn as well. This example remains smooth and pleasing, unholed, showing an attractive deep gold patina with some splashes of darker toning. Some light pitting is seen on the left side of the obverse, and a glass finds the light marks and bruises typical of a distributed medal. The wear is even but not heavy, and the eye appeal is excellent and natural. The reverse die break is seen on all awarded specimens; the specimens from the unbroken reverse were struck exclusively for non-Native distribution. Cherished by Betts medal and Indian Peace medal collectors alike, the Resolution and Adventure medal is described by Betts and by John W. Adams in his The Indian Peace Medals of George III, or His Majesty's Sometimes Allies. They are also accurately described, though in a fictional setting, in best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert's novel The Signature of All Things, which describes the natives as they "hammer the medals into fishooks and spear tips," consistent with how those given these medals might have seen brass put to best use. The fact that any survive to collect is a minor miracle.

Additional Information

Grading Service RAW
Grade RAW
Designation N/A
Mint Location N/A
Strike Type N/A
Circulated/Uncirc Not Specified
Grade Add On N/A
SKU or Cert # 12108

Listed below are blog articles related to this product listing, if applicable:

Description

Details

1772 Resolution and Adventure medal. Betts-552. Brass, 42 mm. Very Fine. Mounting hole on edge at 12:00, as made, mounting ring not present. A lovely example of the most famous medal associated with the era of exploration in the Pacific. Two thousand pieces in this composition were struck to the order of Sir Joseph Banks, the lead scientist on Captain James Cook's expeditions, to distribute to natives the ships Resolution and Adventure encountered as they explored the Pacific. At least one was distributed in North America, during Cook's stop in Nootka Sound, on the coast of Vancouver Island, in March 1778. These medals were used in essentially the same way Indian Peace medals were, often accompanied by ceremony, trade, and recognitions of authority. This brassy composition, called "platina" in the original documents, was the only one used for distribution to natives, though silver, copper, and two gold examples were also struck for the king and queen, VIPs, and others associated with the voyage.

No artifact better defines the point of native-Western contact in the Pacific. In fact, a specimen of this medal was literally the very first Western object to ever be given to the natives of the Hawaiian islands. On January 19, 1778, on Cook's third and final voyage, Cook anchored off Kauai and soon saw canoes approaching his ships. According to Cook's journals, "they had from three to six men each, and on their approach we were agreeably surprised to find that they spoke the language of Otaheite and of the other islands we had lately visited. It required but very little address to get them to come alongside; but no entreaties could prevail upon any of them to come on board." Instead, Cook offered trade: "I tied some brass medals to a rope and gave them to those in one of the canoes, who in return tied some small mackerel to the rope as an equivalent." The Resolution and Adventure medal was the brass medal in question, the opening comment in a trade conversation between Anglos and natives that continued through the 20th century. The story of the modern history of Hawaii starts here. Australia honors this medal similarly. A 1777 sketch of an interaction on Tasmania, the first to show Anglos and aborigines together, even depicts this medal being awarded. [The previous link features an article by Peter Lane, which includes more information on the Resolution and Adventure medal than can be found anywhere else, online or off.]

The concept of the Resolution and Adventure medal -- and the design, incorporating the two ships -- inspired the 1787 Washington and Columbia medal, which was also distributed in the Pacific Northwest. Not coincidentally, explorer John Ledyard of Connecticut was a part of both expeditions, and the travels of Cook continued to inspire Western explorations in the Pacific for decades. 

Distributed examples of this medal have rarely survived in such fine condition. Those found in the earth in Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere in the Pacific are usually heavily corroded, sometimes even to the point of being barely recognizable, and sometimes heavily worn as well. This example remains smooth and pleasing, unholed, showing an attractive deep gold patina with some splashes of darker toning. Some light pitting is seen on the left side of the obverse, and a glass finds the light marks and bruises typical of a distributed medal. The wear is even but not heavy, and the eye appeal is excellent and natural. The reverse die break is seen on all awarded specimens; the specimens from the unbroken reverse were struck exclusively for non-Native distribution. Cherished by Betts medal and Indian Peace medal collectors alike, the Resolution and Adventure medal is described by Betts and by John W. Adams in his The Indian Peace Medals of George III, or His Majesty's Sometimes Allies. They are also accurately described, though in a fictional setting, in best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert's novel The Signature of All Things, which describes the natives as they "hammer the medals into fishooks and spear tips," consistent with how those given these medals might have seen brass put to best use. The fact that any survive to collect is a minor miracle.

Additional

Additional Information

Grading Service RAW
Grade RAW
Designation N/A
Mint Location N/A
Strike Type N/A
Circulated/Uncirc Not Specified
Grade Add On N/A
SKU or Cert # 12108

Related Blog Article(s)

Listed below are blog articles related to this product listing, if applicable:

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