Calendar Medal Relating to Emancipation Day


Some calendar medals reflect American political change. Massachusetts-born Harvard graduate and lawyer Aaron White (1798-1886) played an active role a rebellion that occurred in Rhode Island in the early 1840s and that was designed to make suffrage more widely available. This movement, led by Thomas W. Dorr, failed, and White fled to the small town of New Boston, Connecticut. There he continued to practice law, and, dispairing at the widespread adoption of paper currency and coins made from inexpensive metals, hoarded old coins. During the Civil War, on the occasion of the Emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the rebel states, White designed this calendar medal. The front has seven columns headed by the names of months which begin on the same day of the week – JAN (/) OCT, APR (/) JUL, SEP (/) DEC, JUN, FEB (/) MAR (/) NOV, AUG, and MAY. Months with a number of days different from 31 are underlined. Five rows of numbers below this indicate days of the month from 1 to 7, 8 to 14, 15 to 21, 22 to 28, and 29 to 31. The space left over on the bottom row reads: EQUINOXES (/) MAR.20.SEP.23. The dates of the equinoxes are for 1863. A mark at the top reads: CALENDAR (/) FIG.DAY (/) CHANGE [. . .] YEARLY. Around the rim are dates of historic importance, marked INDEPENDENCE, CONSTITUTION, and EMANCIPATION.

This calendar could be used in 1863 if the first column represented Thursdays in January and October, the second Thursdays in April and July, the third Thursdays in September and December, the fourth Thursdays in June, the fifth Thursdays in February, March in November, the sixth Thursdays in August, and the last Thursdays in March. In a different year, the columns would represent other days of the week. There does not appear to be a provision for leap years.

The reverse side has a table of multiples of the numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 by powers of 2 from 2 to 64. Text below this reads: AARON WHITE, (/) NEW BOSTON CONN (/) JAN.1.1863. PRICE 25 CTS. Around the rim are the dates of birth and death of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and the Marquis de Lafayette. The dates of the spring equinox is given as March 20, which was true from 1848 through 1883. The date of the fall equinox is given as September 23, which was true in 1862 and 1863 but not 1864 or 1865.

The object came to the Smithsonian from the collection of Henry Russell Wray.


Q. David Bowers, Lost and Found: Coin Hoards and Treasures, Atlanta: Whitman Publishing, 2015, esp. 67-70.

Peter J. Coleman, The Transformation of Rhode Island 1790-1860, Providence: Brown University Press, 1963, esp. pp. 270-294.

The website has a biography of Aaron White.

Date Made: for 18631863

Maker: White, Aaron

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Connecticut

Subject: MathematicsCalendar


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Mathematics


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: MA.316923Accession Number: 228694Catalog Number: 316923

Object Name: calendar medal

Measurements: overall: .2 cm x 4 cm x 4 cm; 3/32 in x 1 9/16 in x 1 9/16 in


Record Id: nmah_1121880

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