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San Francisco Schools Bridge Medal to Mervyn in 1902 and a warning to the future

Started by WillieBoyd2, October 07, 2023, 05:27:48 PM

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The San Francisco school district awarded the Samuel Bridge silver medals to the top male students of each city public school from 1879 to 1915. The medals were usually known as "Bridge Medals." The Denman Medal was a similar medal awarded to female students.

The medals were first struck at the Philadelphia Mint and then at San Francisco facilities.

Samuel James Bridge was born in Boston, Massachusetts and was a member of a wealthy family. In 1856 he moved to San Francisco to take a government position and became a member of the city society. He established "Bridge Medal Fund for Boys" in 1879 and provided the money for the medals.

I have a collection of around ten Bridge medals and recently bought another one on Ebay.

This medal was listed on Ebay in June 2023 but for some reason it was listed again in September 2023.

The seller did not state the recipient's name in the listing, possibly because the name was partly obscured by scratches. The medal had the year "1902" punched on it.

I managed to read the recipient's name as "Mervyn Wehe" and purchased the medal.

Bridge Medal awarded to Mervyn Wehe in 1902
Silver, 34 mm, 20.14 gm
AWARDED TO / Mervyn Wehe / 1902

I did not find a direct account of the awarding of the medal to Mervyn Wehe. Sometimes the local newspapers would publish lists of school graduates but I could not find them for 1902.

I did find some information on a Mervyn Wehe which would indicate that he was the medalist.

Mervyn Wehe was born in San Francisco, California, on March 21, 1889 making him the right age (13 to 14) to be awarded a medal in 1902.

Mervyn married Gertrude Langstaff, born 1892, the daughter of William J. Langstaff, the vice-president of the Dodge, Sweeney & Co., a wholesale dealer of supplies for grocery stores. Mervyn was a salesman for the company.

Mervyn was a member of the Native Sons of the Golden West (NSGW) fraternal organization.

From the NSGW newsletter The Grizzly Bear, June 1918 Page 32:

Official Directory of Parlors of the N.S.G.W. San Francisco City and County
Golden Gate, No. 29 - Mervyn Wehe, Pres; Adolph Eberhart, Sec. 188 Carl st., San Francisco; Mondays:
N.S.G.W. Bldg., 414 Mason st.

Mervyn Wehe and his wife Gertrude Wehe both died in October 1918 from the "Spanish Flu".

From The Retail Grocers Advocate, San Francisco, November 1 1918, Page 7:

Langstaff Family Stricken

William J. Langstaff, 422 Belvedere Street, vice-president of Dodge, Sweeney & Co. is waging a grim battle against the Spanish influenza which has descended upon his home with all its fury, sweeping away two members of the family and laying low three others.

A daughter, Gertrude Langstaff Wehe, and her husband, Mervyn Wehe, a popular salesman for Dodge, Sweeney & Co., both succumbed to the disease, the young wife dying on the afternoon of the 21st and the husband on the following morning.

They left three children, the oldest of whom, Dorothy, age 5, is now fighting for her life against the relentless malady that has made her and her brothers orphans.

William J. Langstaff and another daughter, Dorothy Langstaff, an aunt of the little girl mentioned above, also have the influenza and are in a serious condition.

Mervyn Wehe left two surviving sons and it is not known if his daughter Dorothy "age 5" survived.

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You apparently enjoy researching medals and tokens for the picture it gives of the life of normal people as much as I do. What caught me in your story was the smart, promising youngster marrying the boss's daughter and the epidemic influenza, incorrectly named Spanish influenza.

The latter point is quite relevant today. Childhood and lifetime immunisation of adults is perhaps the greatest success story of medicine in the last two centuries. It is also incredibly cost-effective US calculations show that for $1 spent on vaccines, the health system saves $44.

However, since COVID-19 deniers loudly grabbed the stage for their falsehoods with extremist muslims playing a supporting, but locally important role, the story is under threat. In 2021, global injections diminished from 400 million to 363 million (the first time ever the number diminished), slipping to 351 million in 2022, while the global population is growing, so around 100 million who should have been protected are not and about half of them are children. As a result, influenza-related hospitalisations have risen to 5 million and 2022 saw 650 000 deaths caused by influenza. That is over 1780 people every day.

Thank you for the story of poor Mervyn and Gertrude and perhaps even 5 year old Dorothy. It allowed me to tell my story. Wherever you live, don't listen to those who don't care about human life. Take care of yourself and your children. Get those injections.

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