Red Cross Merit Medals Part I

Introduction:

This decoration is particularly interesting in that it could be awarded for two entirely different reasons. Those decorations issued with the addition of the war decoration were issued for meritorious service, in time of war, not warranting the award of the Red Cross Honor Decoration, second class.  Recipients were usually volunteer health workers, members of the Red Cross, or staff of the War Help Bureau.  This type of the award was a reward for actions in support of the humane efforts of the Red Cross.  On the other hand those decorations awarded without the war decoration were given to those who had made a financial donation to support the efforts of the Red Cross.

Medal Numismatics:

Date Issued:  This decoration was created on August 22, 1914 on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Red Cross.

Classes or Types:  This award was issued in two classes

  • Red Cross Silver Merit Medal with and without war decoration
  • Red Cross Bronze Merit Medal with and without war decoration

Interesting Facts:

  • The medal was a part of a range of five decorations to honor service and support of the Red Cross. The awards are: the Service Star of the Red Cross, the Red Cross Decoration, first class, the Red Cross Officer Cross, the Red Cross Decoration, second class (see previous Red Cross decoration blogs for a description of these awards), The Red Cross Merit Medal in silver and the Red Cross Merit Medal in Bronze.
  • The awards without war decoration were given to recognize a financial donation to the Red Cross in support of the war effort
    • Red Cross Silver Merit Medal donation = 300 crowns or 100 Krona for three years
    • Red Cross Bronze Merit Medal donation = 100 krona or 10 Krona a year
  • Emperor Franz Joseph was the Proprietor of the Red Cross and thus of its decorations and medals
  • The requirement for a donation to receive the awards without war decoration could be waived or suspended by the emperor
  • Applications for the Red Cross Merit Medals were to be submitted to the Red Cross Merit Medal Department of the Red Cross
  • Silver medals with war decoration were commonly granted to nurses, care givers, those serving in the volunteer medical service and soldiers for rescue work.
  • Medals were granted posthumously

Hallmarks: 

  • JS in an oval: this may be the hallmark of Johann Schwerdtner or Johan Souvall
  • The 1872-1922 900 fine silver hallmark
  • Vienna Assay Office punch
  • An A in a rectangle with a dot below the A: 1890-1921 Vienna assay office stamp
Figure 1: Silver Red Cross Decoration with war decoration.  Image courtesy of  Dorotheum.

Figure 1: Silver Red Cross Merit Medal with war decoration. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 2: Silver Red Cross Decoration.  Image courtesy of  Dorotheum.

Figure 2: Silver Red Cross Merit Medal. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Design: An oval medal suspended from an attached eye.  The eye of the medal varies depending on whether it has the war decoration. Those without the war decoration have a stylized wedge shaped eye while those with the war decoration have a curved eye.

Figure 3: Silver Red Cross Decoration with war decoration, obverse.  Image from the author's archive.

Figure 3: Silver Red Cross Merit Medal with war decoration, obverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Obverse of the Red Cross Merit Medal with war decoration (Figure 3):  Inside a raised rim is an enameled wreath composed of oak leaves on the left and laurel on the right.  The wreath is enameled dark green.  The wreath is tied at the bottom and in two places on each side with a ribbon, which is also enameled green.  Inside the wreath is a fine beaded line around the entire circumference of the medal.  Inside the beaded line are two angels in vestments facing toward the center of the medal.  Above the angels heads, in the center of the medal, is a five-pointed star with rays emanating from it.  Between the angels and near their feet is a cloud.  The angels hold between them a white enameled Gothic shield on which is a red Geneva Cross.  Below the angels is the inscription PATRIAE AC HVMANITATI (Patriotism and Humanity).  All of the elements inside of the war decoration are smaller than on the medals without the war wreath.

 

Figure 4: Bronze Red Cross Merit Medal (Gilt version).  Image from the author's archive.

Figure 4: Bronze Red Cross Merit Medal (Gilt version). Image from the author’s archive.

Obverse of the Red Cross Merit Medal:  Inside a raised rim is a fine beaded line around the circumference of the medal.  Inside the beaded line are two angels in vestments facing toward the center of the medal.  Above the angels heads in the center of the medal is a five-pointed star with rays emanating from it.  Between the angels and near their feet is a cloud.  The angels hold between them a white enameled Gothic shield on which is a red Geneva cross.  Below the angels is the inscription PATRIAE AC HVMANITATI (Patriotism and Humanity). All of the elements of the medal are larger than on the medals with the war wreath.

Figure 5: Silver Red Cross Merit Medal with war decoration, reverse.  Image from the author's archive.

Figure 5: Silver Red Cross Merit Medal with war decoration, reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Reverse of the Red Cross Merit Medal with War Decoration:  Inside a slightly raised rim is a wreath composed of oak on the left and laurel on the right.  The wreath is of the same metal as the decoration.  Inside the wreath is a fine beaded line following its circumference.  Inside the beaded line are the dates 1864 and 1914, one above the other. The dates are in a smaller size than found on the medals without war decoration.

Figure 6: Silver Red Cross Merit Medal, reverse.  Image courtesy of  Dorotheum.

Figure 6: Silver Red Cross Merit Medal, reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Reverse of the Red Cross Merit Medal: Inside a slightly raised rim is a fine beaded line.  Inside the beaded line is a plain field on which is the date 1864 and 1914 one above the other. The dates are larger then those found on the medal with war wreath.

Size:

  • The medals without war decoration are 44 mm tall and 36 mm wide. The medals are 3 mm thick. The attached Gothic shields are 1 mm thick.
  • The medals with war decoration are 44 mm tall and 36 mm wide. The medals are 2.5 mm thick. The attached Gothic shields are 1 mm thick.

Type of Material:

  • Silver and enamel
  • Silver gilt bronze and enamel
  • Bronze and enamel
  • Bronze gilt and enamel
  • Gilded war metal

Variations:

  • Silver Medal Type I= a 900 fine silver medal as described above
  • Silver Medal Type II: A silver gilt bronze medal as described above.
  • Silver Medal Type III: A medal as described above except the reverse is plain. This was probably done to provide a space for a personal inscription.
  • Bronze Type I: A chocolate bronze medal as described above.
  • Bronze Type II: A gold plated bronze medal as described above (see Figure 4).
  • Bronze Type III: A light bronze medal as described above. All of the medals with war decoration seem to be of this type.

Designer: Unknown

Manufacturer:

  • Hauptmunzamt Wien (Imperial Mint, Vienna)
  • Johann Souval
  • CF Rothe of Vienna
  • Vince Mayer and Sons, Vienna

Number Issued:

  • Silver Medal with war decoration = Unknown
  • Silver Medal = 230
  • Bronze Medal with war decoration = Unknown
  • Bronze Medal = Unknown

In part II of this discussion of the Red Cross Merit Medals I will describe the cases and envelopes in which the awards were issued, the ribbon associated with the awards, the award certificates and miniatures of the awards.

Until then I hope you enjoyed this article

Rick

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