Second-place silver medal for the controversial 1908 London tug-of-war
Winner’s medal issued for the London 1908 Summer Olympics. Silver, 33.3 mm, 19 gm, by Bertram Mackennal, Birmingham. The front, inscribed, “Olympic Games, London 1908,” features a victorious athlete being crowned with a laurel wreath by two seated females; the reverse depicts St. George, the patron saint of England, slaying a dragon as a goddess looks on. The edge is stamped “Vaughton” and inscribed with the name of the event, “Second Prize—Tug-of-War.” Complete with official Vaughton presentation box, gilt stamped, “Olympic Games, Second Prize, Tug-of-War, London. 1908.” The tug-of-war was an Olympic event from 1900 to 1920, and the 1908 competition proved quite controversial. Great Britain swept the event, with three different police units winning gold, silver, and bronze. These second-place silver medals were awarded to the Liverpool Police, who had easily defeated the American team in the quarterfinals. After the match the Americans protested that the Liverpool team was wearing illegal footwear, claiming that their boots were too big and heavy, had metal cleats and steel heels, and various other complaints. Despite receiving attention in the press, the issue went no further after the US team declined a barefoot rematch. With a direct relation to this unusual Olympic story, this is a spectacular piece.