Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Albion Recorder, August 10, 1998, pg. 4

During my vacation in Colorado Springs, Colorado recently I participated in the 30th annual American Numismatic Association Summer School of Numismatics. This unique experience brought together 325 numismatists and instructors from across the country to the campus of Colorado College for intensive week-long instruction in a variety of topics. I took the class on coin photography, and learned how to take close-up photographs of numismatic items. I brought with me some choice items to photograph from my historical Albion numismatic collection, and thought Iíd share some of the results with my readers this week.

Where would Albion be without Albion College? Almost from the beginning of our history, Albion College (and its earlier names) has been here, growing alongside of the development of our community. The College has a rich Methodist history, and it was originally operated under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, as it was then called. Classes began in the local Methodist Church in late 1843, and in 1844 classes began on campus in the newly constructed Central Building.

The year 1866 was the 100th anniversary of Methodism, which dated back to the days of John Wesley in England. That year the Michigan and Detroit Conferences of the Church decided to celebrate the centennial by raising $100,000 for the endowment at Albion College. There was incentive to do so, as the College was required to raise $25,000 of that amount in order to have the school remain in Albion. Most people donít know this, but there were several attempts through the years to try and move the school out of our town, to places like Jackson, Detroit, and others.

Chairman of the Michigan Conference in 1866 was a young Washington Gardner (1845-1928), who was successful in helping reach the monetary goal. That year the College issued a special commemorative brass medal to celebrate the Methodist anniversary. It is purposely holed at the top, probably for wearing as part of a Conference delegates badge or associated with the fund-raising drive via the Sunday Schools. The medal measures 30 mm. in diameter.

The obverse (thatís the front of the medal in numismatic terms) contains a bust of John Wesley facing right. The legend reads, "HUNDREDTH YEAR OF AMERICAN METHODISM 1766-1866"

The reverse depicts the College logo in the center, a globe representing the earth on its side, with the sunís rays shining down. Below in small print is the Latin phrase "LUX FIAT," meaning "Light let there be." An inner circular area declares, "ALBION COLLEGE, ALBION, MICH." The outer legend reads, "SUNDAY SCHOOL CENTENNIAL MEDAL."

In 1884 the College came out with another medal. Made of white metal, it measures 34 mm. in diameter, and is proof-like in its appearance. The year 1884 marked the 100th anniversary of the ordination of Francis Asbury as the first Bishop of the Methodist Church in America.

The obverse of this medal depicts Asbury kneeling (labeled "ASBURY"), receiving ordination from the superintendent of American Methodism, Dr. Thomas Coke (labeled "COKE"). Between the duo is a small box upon which sits some books, and a bellows for stoking a fire. The legend reads, "FRANCIS ASBURY ORDAINED BISHOP OF THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH DEC 27 1784."

Asburyís ordination was the result of the famous "Christmas Conference" of 1784, in which Asbury received on three successive days, ordination as deacon, ordination as elder, and consecration as Bishop. Ironically, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, strongly protested Asburyís ordination as Bishop. Reacting against perceived ecclesiastical hierarchy conditions which existed in the Church of England where he lived, Wesley wrote, "Men may call me a knave or a fool, a rascal, a scoundrel, and I am content: but they shall never by my consent call me Bishop! For my sake, for Godís sake, for Christís sake, put a full end to this! (From Letters of John Wesley, London, Epworth Press, Vol. 8, pg. 91).

The reverse contains a beautiful scene of the Central Building at Albion College. The cornerstone was laid in 1841, and the building was completed in 1844. The legend reads, "ASBURY CENTENARY LIBRARY ASSOCIATION ALBION COLLEGE 1884." This building was later remodeled and re-named Robinson Hall in 1906. It burned in 1922 and a new Robinson Hall was erected in its place, which still stands today on the campus of our most revered institution.

During 1884 the Asbury Centenary Association was formed which held various celebrations and events. one of them was the issuance of this medal, designed to raise money for the Albion College library. Both individuals and Sunday Schools were encouraged to solicit funds. Those who raised at least $1.00 received one of these. If you raised $5.00 or more, you got a silver version. Three medals were struck in 24 carat gold for one person and two Sunday Schools who raised the most money. These came in a velvet presentation case. Who the "winners" were and where those medals are today is a mystery, but they must have been beautiful, indeed.

This week we present photographs of the two aforementioned medals which I shot during my class at the ANA. If you ever visit Colorado Springs, visit the American Numismatic Association Money Museum at 818 N. Cascade Avenue. Youíll see many of the classic "rarities" such as the 1804 silver dollar, the 1913 Liberty Head nickel, and some items you never knew existed, such as a real U.S. $100,000 bill. Do you know whose portrait is on the $100,000 bill? (Answer: President Woodrow Wilson).

1866 Medal Obverse View

1866 Medal Reverse View

1884 Medal Obverse View

1884 Medal Reverse View

More Numismatic Articles


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