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Category: Exonumia



Bronze, AU+

73 mm (2-7/8”), 181.4 grams

HISTORY: Walter Kirtland Hancock (1901–1998), born in St. Louis, Missouri, became a prolific sculptor, creating powerful and monumental images in bronze, marble, granite, and architectural bas relief. He studied at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, then moved on to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under the instruction of Charles Grafly (1862‒1929). In 1925, Hancock won the esteemed Rome Prize, studying for the next three years at the American Academy in Rome. He returned to Pennsylvania where he succeeded Grafly as the academy’s Instructor of Sculpture, a position he held until 1967.

World War II began on September 1, 1939, with the German invasion of Poland. A few months following, Hancock was commissioned to create this medal for the Society of Medalists. It is interesting he chose a theme that he defined as “Victory of Man and Nature over the Powers of Destruction.”

OBVERSE: Of this medal, Hancock wrote, “… as the earth renews itself after the ruin of storm, so man must rebuild his towers—material and spiritual—after the wreck of war.” (Note: Hancock would enlist in the U.S. Army in 1943.) The inscription, “THERE WILL BE OTHER TOWERS FOR THEE TO BUILD,” is from the poem “Castle Builder” by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807‒1882). In keeping with his monumental style, Hancock sculpts two muscular, nude men raising and seating a fluted, marble column onto its base. Between their feet on the lower step is the signature “© HANCOCK.”

REVERSE: There is no inscription here, only an allegorical scene of an oak tree stump, a “shattered forest which I thought / destroyed beyond hope of future springs.” The newly sprouted oak branches realize the “dream of new leaves and returning wings.” Hancock chose these words from 1934 Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet Robert Hillyer (1895‒1961), whose poem “In Time of Mistrust” was the design inspiration for the reverse of this medal. A sun rises in the background, casting deep, silhouetted shadows in the oak leaves and roots of the stump.

EDGE: Smooth and rounded, the top edge is engraved “SOCIETY OF MEDALISTS TWENTY-SECOND ISSUE 1940 - WALKER HANCOCK SCULPTOR” while the bottom edge is engraved “MEDALLAC ART CO. N.Y. BRONZE.”