BrianRxm The Samuel Bridge Silver Medal BrianRxm
San Francisco Public Schools Achievement Medal
Awarded to Boys from 1879 to 1915
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The Samuel Bridge silver medals were awarded to the top male students of San Francisco schools
from 1879 to 1915. They were usually known as "Bridge Medals".
The Denman Medal was a similar medal awarded to girls.
Bridge Medal O'Donnell
1. Samuel Bridge Medal awarded to Frank O'Donnell in 1895
The Samuel Bridge silver medals were awarded to the top male students of San Francisco grammar
schools from 1879 to 1915.
A similar medal, the Denman Medal, was first awarded in 1865 to graduates of the Denman Grammar
School, a school for girls only. In 1889 the Denman medals were awarded to the top San Francisco
school girls under the same rules as the Bridge medals for boys.
The Bridge and Denman medals were last issued in 1915 and then discontinued.
They were usually awarded in May of each year when the schools held graduation ceremonies.
Some were also issued in January to students who graduated at half-term.
The boys awarded Bridge medals were usually 14 or 15 years old.
Newspaper notices:
Names of medal awardees were published in the local newspapers, including the Daily Alta California,
San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Morning Call.
From the Daily Alta California, May 30 1890:
The Scholastic Proficiency of Prize Pupils Rewarded
In accordance with the custom which has been in vogue in the Public School Department of this city
for several years past, the pupils who have attained the highest percentage in the annual
examinations and the best general average during the year, have had their diligence rewarded with
medals from the Bridge and Denman funds, established for that particular purpose.
The San Francisco Chronicle June 6, 1915 issue mentions the award of Bridge and Denman medals
that year but there are no further mentions of these awards.
Design and production:
The medals had a generic design with the profile of Samuel Bridge on the obverse and a place for the
awardee's name on the reverse.
They usually came with a loop or an attachment for a loop, possibly for wearing.
Obverse: Bust of Samuel Bridge facing left / GIFT OF SAMUEL J. BRIDGE / MDCCCLXXVIIII [1879]
Reverse: Banner above and wreath / AWARDED TO in banner
In 1907 the banner around "AWARDED TO" was removed.
The medals were made of silver and were 34mm in diameter.
Planchets of varying thickness were used and the medals weighed from 15 to 21 grams.
The medals were engraved with the recipient's name and stamped with the year awarded.
The medals were first struck at the Philadelphia Mint from 1879 to 1890.
In 1890 the US Mint stopped producing private medals and shipped the dies to San Francisco.
From 1891 to 1906 they were struck at Albert Kuner's office on Montgomery Street.
Kuner was a German goldsmith who arrived in San Francisco in 1849 and who engraved many of the
private gold coins for Moffat & Co., Wass, Molitor & Co., and Kellogg & Co.
Kuner died in January 1906 and later an earthquake destroyed his shop, records, and dies.
Robert Schaezlein, a San Francisco silversmith and badge manufacturer, created new dies and struck
the medals from 1907 to 1915.
Samuel Bridge:
Samuel James Bridge (June 1, 1809 to November 6, 1893)
He was born and died in Boston, Massachusetts, a member of a wealthy family there.
In 1841 he was an appraiser in the Boston Custom House.
In 1856 he was assigned to San Francisco as Appraiser General of the Pacific Coast.
He also was the Commissioner in charge of the building of the Customs House and US Mint.
He later donated a statue to Harvard University.
Samuel Bridge established "Bridge Medal Fund for Boys" in 1879.
The City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Schools publication Twenty-sixth
Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Schools for the School Year Ending June 30, 1879
page 310, "Bridge Medal Fund" noted:
A former resident of San Francisco, for many years holding the office of Appraiser-General under the
Federal Government, taking deep interest in the public schools and desirous of emulating the
distinguished example of [Benjamin] Franklin in founding medals for worthy public school boys,
made a handsome gift to the city, in the last school year, the circumstances and purposes of which
are fully explained in the following resolution, adopted by the Board of Supervisors:
Resolution No. 13,550
Whereas, Samuel J. Bridge, of Dresden, County of Lincoln, State of Maine, has donated the
sum of $2,000, gold coin, unto the Mayor... to be used for the purchase of silver medals
for distribution among the most meritorious boys of the Public Grammar Schools of San Francisco...
[to be] an honorable mark of proficiency and distinction - "A Bridge Medal"
The March 26, 1962 San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) newsletter
San Francisco Public Schools Bulletin had an article on the Bridge and Denman medals.
Red Cross 'find' provides SFUSD history note
The Golden Gate Chapter, American Red Cross and the local Junior Red Cross have provided a
unique service for the San Francisco Unified School District by discovering a historic medal award.
The Denman Medal, which approximates the size of a silver dollar, was presented to girl students
between 1888 and 1915, ending during the World War I era.
The Samuel J. Bridge Medal, was awarded to outstanding boy graduates of S.F. grammar schools
between 1879 and 1915.
Medals of the United States Mint: The First Century, 1792-1892 by R. W. Julian,
published by the Token and Medal Society (TAMS), 1977, lists these medals as number SC-52.
"The Denman Grammar School Medals of San Francisco" by Michael Wehner,
TAMS Journal September/October 2011 - Vol. 51, No. 5.
Bridge Medal Examples:
Bridge Medal Jackson
1. Samuel Bridge Medal awarded to Grace Jackson in 1890
Silver, 34mm, 15.04gm
AWARDED TO / Grace Jackson / 1890
The Report of the Superintendent of Common Schools of the City and County of San Francisco
for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1890
lists the Bridge Medal Pupils, Tenth Award, May 1890.
No "Grace Jackson" is listed but there is an "Oliver M. Jackson" listed as an awardee from the
Lincoln Evening School.
It is possible that the wrong name was engraved on the medal and that it was impossible to obtain a
corrected medal due to limited stock from the US Mint.
The Lincoln Evening School was located in the Hearst School Building at Hermann and Fillmore Streets.
The Transactions of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, 1919,
lists an Oliver M. Jackson living at 1102 Kirkham St., Oakland (California).
Bridge Medal Clark
2. Samuel Bridge Medal awarded to Joseph Clark in 1891
Silver, 34mm, 17.17gm
AWARDED TO / Jos. Clark / 1891 (Joseph Clark)
This medal is missing the ribbon attachment loop and is heavily scratched.
The Report of the Superintendent of Common Schools of the City and County of San Francisco
for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1891
lists a "Jos. Clark" as one of the Bridge Medal Pupils,
Eleventh Award, May 1891, at the Hearst Grammar School.
The Hearst Grammar School was located at Hermann and Fillmore Streets in San Francisco then.
It closed in 1976.
A Joseph Peter Clark filled out a World War I draft registration card.
He indicated that he was born April 1874, living on Polk Street, San Francisco, and was married to Lillian.
The birth year would be close to the right age, especially then when boys had to attend school and also work.
He and Lillian (or Lillie) had various addresses in San Francisco, in 1960 he was a boilermaker
for the San Francisco Naval Shipyard (Hunters Point) and lived in a house on Silver avenue.
Bridge Medal O'Donnell
3. Samuel Bridge Medal awarded to Frank O'Donnell in 1895
Silver, 34mm, 18.74gm
AWARDED TO / Frank O'Donnell / 1895
The San Francisco Call newspaper dated June 8, 1895 listed the graduates of the
Washington Evening School Ninth Grade, including "Bridge medalist" Frank O'Donnell.
Frank O'Donnell was born in San Francisco in 1880, lived all of his life in the city, and died in 1958.
He worked for various newspapers and then for the State of California as a civil servant.
Bridge Medal Mehrtens
4. Samuel Bridge Medal awarded to August Mehrtens in 1897
Silver, 34mm, 16.53gm
AWARDED TO / August Mehrtens / 1897
The San Francisco Call newspaper of June 21, 1897, page 8, had an article on the graduates of the
South End School mentioning August Mehrtens as a Bridge Medalist.
Not much can be found about August Mehrtens.
Bridge Medal Hansen
5. Samuel Bridge Medal awarded to Frank J. Hansen in 1905
Silver, 34mm, 20.97gm
AWARDED TO / Frank J. Hansen / 1905
The San Francisco Call newspaper of June 30, 1905 had an article on the graduates of the
Humboldt Evening High School.
Closing Exercises of Schools Largely Attended
Efforts of Graduates Receive Applause
Those who received medals were:
Bridge medal - F.C. Brindupkey, Frank J. Hanson (sic), William Conry; Denman medal, Rosa Gluck.
Frank J. Hansen was listed as a Ninth Grade graduate.
In 1910, a Frank J. Hansen was listed as a carpenter living at 1950 Lombard Street, San Francisco.
Bridge Medal Calder
6. Samuel Bridge Medal awarded to John Roland Calder in 1908
Silver, 34mm, 20.79gm
AWARDED TO / John Roland Calder / Pacific Heights School / June 1908
This medal was struck by Robert Schaezlein's company and has his new design.
The San Francisco Call newspaper of June 18, 1908 had an article on the graduates of the
Pacific Heights School.
Many Hear Program by Graduates and Chorus of Students
Graduating exercises were held at Pacific Heights School, Miss A. M. Stincen principal,
yesterday afternoon in the school building in Jackson street.
Miss F. M. Bliven's class - Bridge medals: Roland Calder, Baltzer Petersen.
John Roland Calder:
John Roland Calder was born on May 29, 1893 in Malden, Massachusetts.
His family moved shortly thereafter to San Francisco.
He frequently used the name "Roland Calder".
He attended the University of California at Berkeley, majoring in Agriculture.
He was a member of the Camera Club and the Rifle Club.
He graduated with a degree in agriculture in 1917.
Roland was in a military training program and received a commission as an Army Lieutenant in 1916.
His military record shows no active service in World War I.
Sometime before 1922 Roland married Marian Stiltz, also a 1917 University of California graduate.
She was a trained singer, a mezzo-soprano, and sang for women's groups in the area.
Roland and Marian lived in Berkeley and then in Oakland, California.
Roland worked mostly in photography and later as a public school teacher.
The couple did not have any children.
He was a salesman for the Trainer & Parsons Optical Company at 228 Post Street, San Francisco.
He was a member of several photography and camera clubs and entered photographs in contests.
In 1929 Roland filmed employees of the Ransohoffs women's clothing store as they moved
from 225 to 259 Post Street. He may have filmed a comedy there at the same time.
Both films, "Last Scenes of 225 Post" and "Just Any Day at Scandalhoffs" can be found online.
Roland Calder took this photograph in 1940 at a San Francisco nightclub:
Roland Calder Turban Power
7. "Turban Power"
The Music Box, 859 O'Farrell St., San Francisco, California
Photographed by Roland Calder, March 19, 1940
Marian died in 1969, Roland moved to Winters, a small town near Napa, and died there in April 1981.
Roland and Marian Calder are interred at a cemetery in Winters.
Bridge Medal Marston
8. Samuel Bridge Medal awarded to Warren G. Marston in 1914
Silver, 34mm, 18.14gm
AWARDED TO / Warren G. Marston / 1914
This medal has been roughly treated, is missing the loop, and has a hole drilled in it.
He does not appear in the June and December 1914 San Francisco Chronicle newspaper or
San Francisco Examiner lists of graduates.
A "Warren Galbreathe Marston" was born on November 25 1899 in Chicago, Illinois.
He lived in San Francisco in 1910 according to the US Census, and attended Lowell High School,
a college preparatory school.
He attended the University of California in Berkeley as a pre-medical student.
He graduated from the St. Louis University School of Medicine in 1928.
He married Minnie E. Thomas in 1927.
Dr. Warren G. Marston signed a death certificate in St. Louis on Jan 10, 1937.
He is listed in the 1940 US Census as living in St. Louis and working as a surgeon.
Dr. Warren G. Marston, F.A.C.S., F.I.C.S. of St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis
was listed as a member of the International College of Surgeons, United States Chapter, in 1949.
(F.A.C.S. is Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and F.I.C.S. is the International College)
Dr. Marston died in February 1965 in St. Louis, Missouri.
Bridge Medal May
9. Samuel Bridge Medal awarded to Kenneth C. May in 1915
Silver, 34mm, 18.32gm
AWARDED TO / Kenneth C. May / 1915
This is the last year that Bridge medals were awarded.
A "Kenneth C. May" was born on December 12, 1901 in Auburn, California.
He lived in San Francisco later.
He was a First Lieutenant in the California National Guard from 1925 to 1927.
He is listed in the 1930 US Census as living in Portland, Oregon, married to Edith, and working as a
manager with a stock and bond company.
Later he worked for the US Department of Agriculture in San Francisco.
By the 1960's he was retired and living with Edith at 1950 Gough Street, a very swank apartment.
Kenneth May passed away in November 1977.
Bronze Blank Bridge Medal:
Bridge Medal Blank
10. Blank Bronze Bridge Medal
Bronze, 34mm, 19.12gm
This bronze medal has no year or inscription and has the original US Mint reverse banner.
It might be a US Mint trial piece or pattern or possibly was struck by Albert Kuner
to test the dies received from the Philadelphia Mint.
And finally...
The San Francisco Call of Friday, May 29, 1896, Page 11, published this article:
No More Souvenirs for Bright Girls and Boys
The Bridge and Denman Prizes Will Not Be Used Next Term
A Luxury for Few — An Injury to Many — The Pupil at the Foot of the Class
It has been virtually determined by the educational Solons that the medals, which for so many years
past have been awarded to the public school children upon their graduation from the grammar grades
in recognition of excellence in scholarship and deportment, are more harmful than beneficial.
At the end of the term these glittering souvenirs that, with their blue ribbon attachments,
have been worn so proudly by so many bright and well behaved boys and girls will be in use no longer.
They are doomed and will soon be only a recollection of past days. Pride is not the sole feeling
associated with these medals, for their distribution as experience shows has been provocative also
of many heartaches and jealousies. Conformably to instructions from the Board of Education,
Superintendent Babcock recently sent a circular letter to primary, grammar and high school principals,
inquiring: "In your judgment is the presentation of medals advantageous?"
The answers received thus far from a score of principals, including several of the representative
schools, are emphatically in the negative.
"I am firmly of the opinion," says William H. Edwards of the Crocker Grammar "that
the distribution of medals for scholarship and deportment is an unalloyed evil, and for one I wish
the Board of Education would find some means of abolishing the nuisance. Those who win the medals
are those from whom no effort is necessary. Often the most deserving do not get them. Often they
are the cause of jealousy and bard feeling. Often the recipients obtain them by cheating and sharp
"Often those who do get them place no value upon them. I do not", writes James T. Hamilton
of the Lincoln Grammar, "regard medals as a proper incentive to study. Few pupils work for
them after the first two or three months. The rest of the class drops out of the race. Those that
do work for medals are the bright pupils, who need no such stimulus".
"No matter how fairly awarded, there are always some pupils, and often a few parents, dissatisfied".
Miss Clara M. Johnston of the Fairmount Primary thus tersely and strongly expresses her views:
"If medals are to be distributed, the number should be increased, giving the pupils who have made
great improvement an equal chance with those who are naturally bright or whose home surroundings
are such that they have every advantage. In my own neighborhood some of the brightest children
come from homes where parents are unable to read or write, where no daily paper is taken and where
there are few if any books in the house. Such pupils deserve medals before those ranking hither".
The system of medal distribution finds an out-and-out advocate in W. W. Stone of the
South San Francisco Primary, who says: "I believe in the medal system. Like all other stimulants,
medals should be given on the prescription of competent mental doctors. If there are men or women
or children whose powers of mind or body do not glow best under the motive energy of healthful
emulation I have never met them. Medals properly mixed and purely administered stir the sluggish
blood and impart activity to the halting brain."
Miss Agnes M. Manning of the Webster Primary and Mrs. Tiarah J. Mann of the Hawthorne Primary
also think that the medals should be retained and distributed impartially. Superintendent Babcock
says that medals ratify the pride of a few at the expense of the many, and should accordingly be
discontinued. The pupil at the foot of his class is, he holds, entitled to the utmost respect if
he be in earnest in his desire to learn and will, in the long run, be likely to come out a winner.
The San Francisco Call of Wednesday, March 31, 1897, Page 14 noted:
It is expected that the Denman medal fund of $3000 and the Bridge medal fund of $3000
will be made a part of the annuity fund, as they are no longer used for their original purpose,
owing to the fact that the awarding of medals to pupils engendered jealousy and ill-feelings.
The San Francisco Call of Friday, September 6, 1912 had this lost-and-found advertisement:
LOST - On Saturday. August 30, bridge medal, engraved on back FRANK C. TRACEY.
June 28, 1912. Return to F. C. TRACEY 136 Chenery St.; reward.
The San Francisco Municipal Record of Thursday, January 2, 1913, page 141 noted:
A communication from Harry Hook regarding the loss of a Bridge medal, and requesting duplicate
of same, was referred to the School Committee.