Author Topic: Fenian Brotherhood Token  (Read 278 times)

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Offline brandm24

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Fenian Brotherhood Token
« on: January 26, 2020, 10:36:43 AM »
The Fenian Brotherhood (FB) was an Irish / American nationalist organization founded in 1858 by two Irishmen, John O'Mahony and Michael Doheny. Both men had fled Ireland because of their political activities in support of Irish independence. In effect it was the sister organization to the Ireland based Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).

The word fenian is derived from the Irish fianna. The fianna were roving bands of Irish warriors who found employment with noble families by providing them protection. One today might describe them as mercenaries.

In their early years the brotherhood was a force to be reckoned with. They had cultivated important political allies in America and had a large cadre of members and supporters. Though peddling influence in many areas, they're best known for their two abortive  armed incursions into Canada, one in April, 1866 and the second in April, 1870. The purpose of both was to seize control of the province's transportation network which they hoped would force Britain to exchange Ireland's freedom for its return. Both invasions ended badly.

These failures, along with internal strife within the organization, led to a split in the mid-1880's. Disaffected members split off and formed what became known as Fine Gael (Tribe of the Irish) with the same objective as the FB of Irish independence. Although the organization went dormant in later years, it was resurrected in 1933 as a political party. It's still in existence today.

These Fenian tokens, sometimes called medals, were issued to members in 1866. The dies were cut by Sewell, a New York City sinker and struck by the Scovill Manufacturing Co. in Waterbury, CT. They're 29mm brass and holed for suspension. Originally, all came with ribbons but apparently none have survived. The token is very rare and is listed in references as a Rarity-6 with only 13 to 30 extant examples. My feeling is that there's likely no more than 20 that still survive.

My particular specimen is in poor condition. It was dug by a metal detectorist in a churchyard in Goshen, NY many years ago. I've attached an image of one offered at a recent auction so you can better see the legends and devices. The counterstamped British Florin stamped "Fenians" was acquired from a Belfast collector in 2012. Please note today the word fenian is often used in a pejorative way to describe a Catholic or Nationalist.

A search for recently auctioned examples turned up about 7 or 8 pieces. To underscore their rarity, the prices realized ranged from 300 to 360 Euros. A Heritage offering in September, 2008 had a hammer price of 300 USD. I also came across another dug specimen posted on an online coin forum. The detectorist found the piece at a c1720 homestead in Monmouth, County, NJ in 2014 or 2015. At only 41 USD paid for mine I'm pleased to have acquired a token I've long wanted to add to my collection of Irish conflict pieces.

Bruce
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Offline brandm24

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Re: Fenian Brotherhood Token
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2021, 03:50:51 PM »
Here's a specimen I came across recently offered by a prominent US token dealer. The interesting thing about this one is the small die-struck circle that apparently indicates where the hole for the ribbon should be drilled. It may be that they were originally struck un-holed giving the recipient the option of doing so or leaving as is. I've not seen this struck feature on the other half dozen or so examples I've seen.

Bruce
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Re: Fenian Brotherhood Token
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2021, 02:50:48 PM »
Congratulations. A good catch, even in worn condition (you may argue it looks more genuine this way).

I guess the "brotherhood" part of the name was a reference to the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Still, both names fail to appreciate the important role of women, in particular in the Easter rising. Significantly, women were neither among the signatories of the proclamation nor among those executed on 3rd May 1916, though Constance Markievicz got a death sentence that was commuted, as the court stressed ONLY because she was a woman.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.