Front of Preble Medal.Front of Preble Medal

Artist/Maker: John Reich (1768-1833)

Created: 1806

Origin/Purchase: Washington, D.C.

Materials: copper-bronzed medal

Dimensions: 6.4 (2 1/2 in.)

Location: Parlor

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by purchase to John Hartwell Cocke at the Dispersal Sale in 1827; by descent to Mrs. Mazyck Wilson Shields; by bequest to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1943

Accession Number: 1943-2

Historical Notes: In tribute to his successful attack on the city of

Reverse of Preble MedalReverse of Preble Medal

 Tripoli during the fall of 1804, Congress commissioned this medal honoring navy commodore Edward Preble.[1] President Jefferson may have received this medal as a gift from the United States mint, where John Reich designed the dies from which two hundred copper medals and one gold one were struck. After Preble's return to the United States in 1805, Jefferson praised his actions to Congress:

The energy & judgment displayed by this excellent officer thro' the whole course of the service lately confided to him, and the zeal and bravery of his officers & men ... cannot fail to give high satisfaction to Congress and their country, of whom they have deserved well.[2]

Preble began his career with the navy as a midshipman and lieutenant in the Revolutionary War and rose to the rank of captain in 1799. He joined the forces fighting the Barbary pirates in Tripoli in 1803 and commanded the third squadron to be sent to the Mediterranean. His actions at Tripoli laid the groundwork for the 1805 peace treaty.[3] Jefferson undoubtedly remembered Preble fondly not only for his military success but also for his gift of a hogshead of Marsala wine from Madrid. Jefferson reciprocated by sending Preble a polygraph, a letter-copying machine that he purchased from Charles Willson Peale in Philadelphia.[4]

- Text from Stein, Worlds, 242

Podcast: The Barbary Pirates of the Mediterranean


  1. ^ J.F. Loubat, The Medallic History of the United States of America: 1776-1876 (New York: published by the author, 1878; reprint, New Milford, CT: N. Flayderman & Co., Inc., 1967), 135-50.
  2. ^ Jefferson to United States Congress, February 20, 1805, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration: RG 46-Records of the U.S. Senate. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ Malone, Jefferson, 5:37-39; DAB, "Edward Preble."
  4. ^ MB, May 30, 1805, 2:1154, & July 12, 1805, 2:1158. Transcription available at Founders Online.