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

Exploring Conflict, Collaboration, and Conciliation in Colonial Families before the American ...

20Sep 12:00PM 2017

The Quincy, Adams, and Hancock families represent three different social classes all living in the small village of Braintree, MA before the American Revolution. This ...

Conversation

John McCormack and David K. Niles: How Two Reinvented Bostonians Altered American Politics and ...

20Sep 6:00PM 2017
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30pm.

John McCormack and David Niles came from large and poor families within religious minority communities. With no formal education, they reinvented themselves and moved ...

Special Event

An Extraordinary Life: An Evening with John Quincy Adams

21Sep 6:00PM 2017
SOLD OUT!

This event is sold out. President John Quincy Adams, the eldest son of founders Abigail and John, remains America’s most fascinating statesman. He began his ...

From our Blog

John Quincy Adams and the Education of a “Warrior Patriot”

When President John Quincy Adams delivered his first annual message to Congress on December 6, 1825, he noted that “the want of a naval school of instruction, corresponding with the Military ...

“An Amusing Journey”: John Quincy Adams Explores Silesia

On 17 July 1800 John Quincy Adams and his wife Louisa Catherine embarked on an extended tour of Silesia, now southwest Poland. John Quincy chronicled their tour in a series of letters to his brother ...

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