Knox man recovers WWI Victory Liberty Loan medal

Gary Weaver, of Knox, holds a Victory Liberty Loan coin presented to Victory Loan workers during World War I. The coin was recovered from a house in Youngstown, Ohio. (By Randy Bartley)

KNOX - Gary Weaver was puzzled. While demolishing a house in Youngstown, Ohio, he came across some unclaimed items in the attic.

"The previous owner had died and they could not find any family members. He was a Mason," said Weaver, a Knox businessman. "We had all his Masonic stuff and we sold it to a local Mason."

There was something else that was left behind, something Weaver had never seen before. It was an unusual coin that was presented to a special group of people a century ago.

The half-dollar sized coin was a Victory Liberty Loan medal. The obverse of the medal exhibits an eagle grasping three arrows in one claw, and an olive branch in the other, flying below the U.S. Treasury Building, and reads "Victory Liberty Loan."

The reverse reads: "Awarded - By the U.S. Treasury Department For Patriotic Service In Behalf of the Liberty Loans - Made From Captured German Cannon."

Photos indicate the medal was originally suspended from a red, white and blue vertically striped ribbon.

A story in the April 14, 1919, issue of the "Greater New York Bulletin of the Merchant's Association of New York" carried a notice to all Liberty Loan workers who "participated in the Victory Liberty Loan campaign."

The announcement said the "medal was the first of its kind to be distributed in the United States."

The medal was cast from "several German cannon" captured at Chateau Thierry by American troops.

The Battle of Chateau Thierry was fought on May 31, 1918 and was one of the first actions fought by the American Expeditionary Force.

The website Cointalk says Liberty loans or bonds were sold by the federal government during World War I to raise money for the war. These were labeled as "loans" because they promised interest to the bearer.

As one advertisement from the period said, "The money to be raised by the Victory Liberty loan already has been spent. It furnished the "'punch'" that won the war and saved the lives of 100,000 of America's bravest boys. It is this unshed blood you are paying for when you subscribe to the Victory Liberty loan."

On March 3, 1919, the Victory Liberty Loan Act was signed into law. The medals were conferred by the Treasury Department on volunteers in the Victory Liberty loan campaign.

The unknown Mason in Youngstown was one of those workers.

As for Weaver, he carries the coin with him.

"It is an odd piece and I just like having it," said Weaver.