Commemorative medal in copper, 48 mm. dia., created at the behest of Benjamin Franklin in honor of the American victory at Yorktown, engraved by French sculptor Augustin Dupré and struck at the Paris Mint, 1782. Obverse with legend "LIBERTAS AMERICANA" and date "4 JUIL. 1776" surrounding depiction of the head of Liberty, facing left, with flowing hair, and a liberty cap to the right. Reverse features legend "NON SINE DIIS ANIMOSUS INFANS," (roughly, "The infant is not bold without divine aid,") along with dates October 17, 1777 and October 19, 1781 (American victories at Saratoga and Yorktown, respectively) featured above and below detailed depiction of an infant Hercules, strangling two serpents while the fierce goddess Minerva defends him from a pouncing lioness with a spear and shield decorated in fleurs-de-lis. In this depiction, Hercules and the serpents are meant to represent the fledgling United States and the British armies under Burgoyne and Cornwallis, while Minerva represents France and the lioness represents Great Britain.
The Libertas Americana medal was conceptualized by Benjamin Franklin, who was tasked with designing a monument to honor the important American victory at Yorktown while he was serving as US minister to France. Franklin proposed a design for a medal instead, detailing his idea in a March 1782 letter to Robert Livingston. In the letter he describes a depiction of an infant Hercules strangling two serpents, with Minerva sitting by as his nurse. Though the medal's eventual reverse design was a more active and aggressive portrayal of Hercules and Minerva, with a lioness added to represent Britain, Franklin's original message was clearly conveyed. The iconography in the medal's obverse inspired an array of early United States coin designs.
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