Object: Medallion

Materials: Metal, Cardboard, Paper, Plastic

This object is a commemorative medallion issued by the United States Department of the Treasury in honor of the Bicentennial of the American Revolutionary War. This is the fifth medallion issued in a series of five, for information about the other 4 medallions, please see out blog posts from March 20, March 24, March 27, and March 31, 2014. This medallion features an image of Thomas Jefferson on one side and an image of a handwritten document, representing the Declaration of Independence, with Independence Hall in the background on the other. Next to Independence Hall it reads, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” which is a quote from the Declaration of Independence. Like the previous four medallions, it was issued with two information cards and another medallion inside an envelope with four commemorative stamps on it. The second medallion is made of plastic and shows the official logo of the American Revolution Bicentennial.


Miniature portrait of Jefferson (1788) by John Trumbull. Image via Monticello.org.

Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743 in Virginia, his parents owned a great deal of land and had standing in high society. Jefferson was well educated and had studied law. He was not an orator by any means, but was a very eloquent writer. Jefferson joined the Second Continental Congress in 1775 and this is where his life-long friendship with John Adams started. It was during this Congress that Jefferson was appointed to the five-man committee that was to construct the Declaration of Independence. The committee consisted of Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston.


Inside the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. Image via archives.gov.

It was during the Second Continental Congress that a resolution for independence was introduced by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, it was seconded by John Adams, and approved by the congress. After being appointed to the committee in charge of drafting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson spent June 12-27 writing the declaration. On June 28, 1776 a copy of Jefferson’s declaration was read  to Congress and on July 2, Congress voted in favor of independence and then made edits to the wording and phrasing of Jefferson’s declaration. On July 4, 1776 all 56 delegates in attendance signed the Declaration of Independence, in Independence Hall. Today the Declaration of Independence is on exhibit in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom in Washington, DC.

After the American Revolution ended Jefferson served in the Virginian legislature and then as governor of Virginia from 1779-1881. In 1784, Jefferson served in France, first as trade commissioner and then as Benjamin Franklin’s successor as Minister to France. In 1790 Jefferson became the first Secretary of State under George Washington. He then served as Vice President (1796-1800) under John Adams and then served as the third President of the United States for two terms (1801-1809). His term in office is best known for the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. After the end of his second term as President, he retired to his home in Virgina, called Monticello. Jefferson was a committed supporter of literature and education. He donated his own extensive library to the government, this donation would become the foundation for the Library of Congress and he also founded the University of Virginia. On July 4, 1826, Jefferson died at Monticello a few hours before John Adams; it was the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

This is the final medallion issued in the celebration of the American Revolution and was issued in 1976 which was the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. [Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Resources:
Adams, William Howard. 1983. Jefferson’s Monticello. New York: Abbeville Press.

Cunningham, Noble E. 1987. In pursuit of reason: the life of Thomas Jefferson. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

Fleming, Thomas J. 2003. The Louisiana Purchase. Hoboken, N.J.: J. Wiley.

Randall, Henry S. 1858. The life of Thomas Jefferson. New York: Derby & Jackson.

Wills, Garry. 1978. Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of independence. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.


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