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

History of Women and Gender Seminar

Reproducing Race in the Early Americas

23Oct 5:30PM 2018
Location: Knafel Center, Radcliffe Institute

This roundtable will use the body as frame for examining racial formation in the Caribbean and U.S. from the eighteenth century to the present. The presenters will ...

Author Talk

Swindler Sachem: The American Indian Who Sold His Birthright, Dropped Out of Harvard, and Conned the ...

24Oct 6:00PM 2018
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30

Jenny Pulsipher opens a window onto 17th-century New England and the English empire from the unusual perspective of John Wompas, a Nipmuc Indian who may not have been all ...

Teacher Workshop

Fashioning History

27Oct 9:00AM 2018
Registration: $25

Throughout history, our choices about what we wear tell the world about our personality, position, background, and beliefs. From textile in Boston Boycott, manufacture in ...

From our Blog

This Week @MHS

We have a busy week ahead with a couple of seminars, an author talk, and a workshop. - Monday, 22 October, 5:15 PM: Paul Revere's Ride through Digital History with Joseph M. Adelman, ...

Calling All High School Students: Apply for a 2019 John Winthrop ...

Are you a student who loves history?  Are you a teacher with students who are intrigued by primary source research?  Want the chance to spend some time in the MHS archives?  Check out ...

Read more from our blog

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