This Civil War Token depicts a portrait of General G. B. McClellan on the obverse and the Knickerbocker Currency logo on the reverse. Knickerbocker Currency was stuck by William H. Bridgens, the same man who was the die-cutter for Lindenmueller Currency.
open: 11 7/8 in x 17 5/8 in x 1 13/32 in; 30.1625 cm x 44.7675 cm x 3.556 cm
closed: 11 7/8 in x 8 3/4 in x 1 1/2 in; 30.1625 cm x 22.225 cm x 3.81 cm
The struggle between North and South was followed with great interest at home and abroad. Portraits of the leading players helped those far from the action imagine the individuals they read about in newspapers. This album was kept by Karl Schenk, who became president of Switzerland in 1865. It contains small portraits known as cartes-de-visite because they were about the size of calling cards people presented at the door when visiting fashionable residences. Introduced in the late 1850s, when a process was devised for making multiple prints from a single glass negative, they functioned mainly as collectables to be preserved in albums.
This particular Civil War Token depicts a patriotic theme. The obverse, front of the coin, depicts a profile image of George Washington while the reverse, back, shows two hands shaking between laurel sprigs and the words “PEACE FOREVER.” One hand is labeled as the North and the other hand is labeled as the South.
In the beginning of 1862, citizens went on a hoarding frenzy as high inflation plagued the market after the outbreak of the Civil War. Their target: coins of gold, silver, and copper. The hoarding problem was so extreme that the government halted the minting of coined money and by the end of 1862 there were hardly any metallic coins in circulation. This was acutely felt by business men and customers alike since coinage in small denominations was most commonly tendered at that point in time. In order to alleviate the situation, merchants and tradesmen sought alternatives to government issued small change. Privately issued tokens, typically one cent and made of copper and similar in size to government issued coinage, were used instead and by late 1862 these Civil War Tokens were circulating in Cincinnati and New York. This particular token’s text, “FOR PUBLIC ACCOMODATION,” reflects the pecuniary problem that was happening at that time.
Obverse Image: Man with a large hat, bandanna around his neck, and a shirt decorated with stars.
Obverse Text: I AM READY / 1861
Reverse Image: Approximately forty (40) stars.
Reverse Words: THE UNION MUST & SHALL BE PRESERVED
There are numerous examples of Civil War Tokens that display sentiments in favor of the Union. Many of the patriotic series Civil War Tokens were issued in New York. The lack of tokens in the South has been attributed to the fact that the majority of private minters were located in the North. This token depicts a pro-Union stance: “I AM READY” and “THE UNION MUST & SHALL BE PRESERVED.” Once these tokens were circulated, they would remind their user of the Union’s justifications for war and buoy up nationalist spirits.
Photographs can be powerful connections to the past. Soldiers, for example often had their portraits made before going off to war so that loved ones would have a rememberance of them in the event they did not return. This decorative mat is unusual and suggests the pride the owner may have felt about his status as a fighting soldier.
Ambrotypes were most popular in the mid-1850s, and, therefore, are less common than other formats for portraits of Civil War soldiers. Ambrotypes are cased collodian negatives backed by dark cloth, paper, or varnish. In this example, pink coloring has been applied to the subjects's cheeks to make the portrait feel more warm and human.
overall: 4 in x 4 in x 3/16 in; 10.16 cm x 10.16 cm x .4318 cm
1861 - 1865
Small metal box to protect matches, two-piece lantern, metal frying pan, and cup. Hardtack.
A match safe, lantern, frying pan, and cup would have been part of a soldier’s equipment. Hardtack is the name given to a thick cracker made of flour, water, and sometimes salt. While it has been called by several nicknames, the Union Army of the Potomac referred to the ration as hardtack, and the name stuck. When stored properly, hardtack would last for years. Because it could be prepared cheaply and would last so long, hardtack was the most convenient food for soldiers. The army furnished hardtack by weight, but in most units the biscuits were doled out by number, with a ration generally being nine or ten.
Currently not on view
Civil War and Reconstruction
Virginia Dell Sours Atkinson, C. F. Ray Sours, and John A. Sours