Australia Victoria Melbourne
Medal - Melbourne Exhibition Building Foundation Stone 1879 (AD)
Other Details: This is a bronze strike of the medal issued to commemorate the laying of the Foundation Stone for the Melbourne Exhibition Building. Gold medals were distributed in February 1879, manufactured by the Melbourne Mint. The Mint also prepared two silver and ond bronze pieces for its own collection. This medal was displayed at the 1880 Exhibition as part of the Mint exhibit.
A bronze strike of the medal issued to commemorate the laying of the Foundation Stone for the Melbourne Exhibition Building. Gold medals were distributed in February 1879, manufactured by the Melbourne Mint. The Mint also prepared two silver and ond bronze pieces for its own collection. It features an artist's conception of the building as it would appear for the 1880 International Exhibition. The reverse was employed to engrave recipients names within an olive wreathon the gold pieces, this silver reference piece has not been engraved
At centre a view of the proposed Exhibition Building with Southern Cross in the sky above right; around above, MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION ; in exergue, 1880 / FOUNDATION STONE / COMMEMORATION MEDAL
The Melbourne International Exhibition Foundation Stone medal was issued in a remarkably short time. On 13 February 1879 the medal was suggested to a meeting of the Executive Commissioners of the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. Members would receive medals in time to wear them in their button holes at the laying of the foundation stone of the Exhibition Buildings, a mere six days later. The seemingly impossible task was given to Mr Were, one of the Commissioners. Were went straight to the Melbourne Mint the instant the meeting closed and left a note suggesting that the design picture the building, the name of the Commissioner, the date, the southern cross and further ornamentation.
The Mint leapt into action, undaunted by their lack of a die engraver. A pair of old soverign dies were selected and softened, and their design removed. Ernst Altmann, a Melbourne die cutter and jeweller, was pressed into service by Deputy Master of the Mint, V. Delves Broughton. Two days later Altmann wrote to the Mint advising that he was unhappy with the balance of the design they had suggested. The exhibition building appeared to be floating in space, and Altmann suggested that the words 'FOUNDATION STONE' and 'COMMEMORATION MEDAL' be added underneath. The changes were made, and the next morning Altmann handed over the dies. He waited while they were hardened, rushed them back to his workshop to polish them, and had them back to the Mint by noon. A total of 70 gold medals were struck that afternoon, as well as six silver pieces for the stone-laying ceremony. A further two silver pieces and one copper piece were struck, now in the Museum Victoria collection. The obverse die cracked under the strain. The medals were ready in time for the ceremony.
Later, in June that year, the Commissioners ordered additional medals, and Altmass cut a second obverse die. 36 medals were struck. A year later a further 53 medals were struck. -Sharples, John. 1985. The 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition Foundation Stone Medal. -D. Tout-Smith 13/10/2003.
Transfer from Melbourne Branch of Royal Mint, 1978
Obverse: MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION around above a front view of the proposed building; 1880 / FOUNDATION STONE / COMMEMORATION MEDAL in exergue
Type of item
22 mm (Outside Diameter), 4.07 g (Weight)
Car. 1880/12 but bronze
[Article] Sharples, John. 1985. The 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition Foundation Stone Medal.