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

Modern American Society and Culture Seminar

Creepy Crawling in Los Angeles: The Manson Family and Cultural Mixing as Apocalypse

24Apr 5:15PM 2018

Charles Manson made national news in 1969 when several “Family” members were arrested for murder, but by then he was well-established in Los Angeles. This ...

Conversation; This Land is Your Land

This Land is Your Land Series: Public Land

25Apr 6:00PM 2018
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30.

Massachusetts has undertaken large scale preservation of open space by government entities. The Boston Public Garden, the Emerald Necklace, the first American public ...

Early American History Seminar

The Time of Anarchy: the Susquehannock Scattering and the Crisis of English Colonialism, 1675-1685

1May 5:15PM 2018

Part of a larger book project, this paper argues that the seemingly distinct conflicts across the English colonies in the 1670s were actually connected by the political ...

From our Blog

Charles Cornish Pearson and the Great War, Part V

This is the fifth post in a series about the wartime experience of Charles Cornish Pearson. Go back and read Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV for the full story.   Today we return to ...

This Week @ MHS

The Society is CLOSED on Monday, 16 April, for Patiots' Day/Marathon Monday. Enjoy the race! After the holiday we get right back into the public events here at the MHS. Here are the details: - ...

Read more from our blog

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