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Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian, by Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick
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James Smithson portrait medallion, 1817James Smithson portrait medallion, 1817

This medallion, which Smithson commissioned in 1817 from Nicolas Pierre Tiolier, the chief engraver at the Paris Mint, was among the personal effects brought back from England with the Smithson bequest in 1838. Evidently proud of the result, Smithson etched his name on the back and attached a handwritten tag identifying it as "my likeness." The portrait served as the basis for the first official Smithsonian seal, created in 1847 and used until 1893. One of the few Smithson relics to survive the fire of 1865, the medallion is now part of the National Numismatic Collection at the National Museum of American History.

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