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

Interreligious Responses to the Settlement House Movement, 1880-1924

25Apr 5:15PM 2017

By 1913, over 400 settlement houses catered to immigrants and laborers across the United States. This paper analyzes how Catholic and Jewish immigrant communities in New ...

Author Talk

John Quincy Adams and the Politics of Slavery: Selections from the Diary

26Apr 6:00PM 2017
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30pm.

In the final years of his political career, President John Quincy Adams was known for his objections to slavery. As a young statesman, however, he supported slavery. What ...

Cooking Boston

Cooking Boston: Eating Other People's Food

27Apr 6:00PM 2017
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30pm.

Program 2: Eating Other People's FoodIn the second half of the 20th century, Americans were re-introduced to the food of the world. Most famously, Julia Child in ...

From our Blog

This Week @ MHS

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE LIBRARY IS CLOSED ON WEDNESDAY, 26 APRIL, FOR A STAFF EVENT.  This week's program schedule is heavy in the middle, with a seminar and a pair of public programs. Here are the ...

“All things are in common now”

Today is the 242nd anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolution. The MHS holds some terrific letters and diaries containing first-hand accounts of ...

Read more from our blog

Have you seen?