Figure 1: Type I Silver Merit Cross, obverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum

Introduction:

When Emperor Franz Joseph assumed the throne in Austria one of his earliest actions was to establish the merit crosses to be awarded to those who demonstrated proven devotion to the fatherland, many years of valuable service, or other significant services in support of the public welfare. This decoration replaced the Civil Merit Medal which had been introduced in 1848. This decoration was highly regarded and personally approved and presented by the emperor up until World War I.  In this blog I will describe the Silver Merit Cross variations, the designer, manufacturers, number issued and the ribbon.

Decoration Numismatics continued:

Silver Cross:

  • Type I:  Type I Silver Cross 1849-1918 obverse (See Figure 1 above): A 28 mm Rupert type cross with wide flared enameled arms bordered in silver. In the center of the cross is an applied, round medallion. The medallion is silver with a raised rim inside of which is inscribed VIRIBUS UNITIS (with united strength, the motto of Franz Joseph’s reign) the silver letters are separated by ovals. At the top of the circular silver center medallion are a pair of clasped hands (this represents the loyalty of the people. Inside the first ring is a second raised silver border. Inside this inner border are the initials FJ (Franz Joseph) on a lined silver background.  The monogram is silver and is part of the center medallion.  The upper arm of the cross has a ball shaped eye for suspending the cross from the ribbon. (See Figure 1 above)

Figure 2: Type 1 Silver Merit Cross, reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum

  •  Type I Silver Cross 1849-1918 Reverse: The reverse of the cross is red enameled with a silver border. The center medallion is silver and has a granulated border around it. It has a raised silver rim inside of which is a round silver medallion. On the lined silver medallion is the raised date 1849 in silver. The upper arm of the cross has a ball shaped eye for suspending the cross from the ribbon.
  • Type II Silver Cross 1914-1918:  The same as the type I cross except the crosses are 33-36 mm in diameter

 

Figure 3: Type 3 Silver Merit Cross, obverse. Image from author’s archive.

 

  • Type III Silver Cross 1875-1914 obverse:  The same as Type II except that the obverse center medallion portion surrounding the monogram is more concave.

Figure 4: Type 3 Silver Merit Cross, reverse. Image from author’s archive.

 

  • Type III Silver Cross 1875-1914 reverse:  The same as Type II except the reverse has a circle of laurel leaves around the edge of the reverse medallion instead of a pebbled finish. This cross was known to be made by Rothe & Neffe.

Designer: Paul Sprenger of the firm Alexander Kittner

Manufacturer:

  • Anthia Bachruch (1914-1918)
  • Karl Bohm, (1914-1918)
  • F. Braun (1849-1875)
  • Heinrich Jauner (1914-1918)
  • Hauptmunzamt Wien (Imperial Mint, Vienna)
  • Alexander Kittner (1849-1875)
  • Alexander E. Kochert (1914-1918)
  • Wilhelm Kuntz (1914-1918)
  • Rudolf Marshall (1914-1918)
  • Vincent Mayer and Sons (1875-1918)
  • Gebruder Resch (1914-1918)
  • Rothe & Neffe (1875-1918)
  • Rozet and Fischmeister (1875-1918)
  • Georg Adam Scheid (1914-1918)
  • Schneider Bros (1914-1918)
  • Karl Schwerdtner (1914-1918)
  • Heinrich Ulbrichts Witwe (1914-1918)

Number Issued: Unknown

Ribbon:

  • Prior to September 20, 1914 crosses were only issued on a 39 mm red ribbon. After September 20, 1914 crosses for military merit were issued on a 40 mm red and white-laddered (War Ribbon) ribbon the same as is used for the bravery medals.

Figure 5: Gold Merit Cross on civil ribbon. Image from author’s archive.

Figure 6: Gold Merit Cross on war ribbon with swords. Image from the author’s archive.

  • A small rectangular ribbon for this decoration, sometimes issued with small attachments to indicate specific awards, was introduced in October 27, 1917. 

Figure 7:, Gold Merit Cross with crown on war ribbon with swords. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 8:, Gold Merit Cross with crown on war ribbon. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 9:, Gold Merit Cross with crown on civil ribbon. Image from the author’s archive.

 

Figure 10:, Silver Merit Cross with crown on war ribbon with swords. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 11:, Silver Merit Cross with crown on war ribbon. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 12:, Silver Merit Cross with crown on civil ribbon. Image from the author’s archive.

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Hope you enjoyed this blog. In part VI of my discussion of the merit crosses I will describe the wide variation in the cases in which the merit crosses were issued. Until next time I hope you find joy in our shared interest

Rick

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