Don Everhart, the United States Mint’s senior sculptor-engraver, retired from his position in Philadelphia last week. This week I’m exploring some of my favorite Everhart medal and coin designs. Yesterday I looked at the remarkable 2006 State quarter for Nevada. Today: a commemorative medal honoring an important group of American women.
The Women Airforce Service Pilots Bronze Medal, 2009
Congress authorized this medal in 2009 to honor Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) of World War II for their pioneering military service, which led to reform in the U.S. Armed Forces. The WASP included the first women to fly American military aircraft. They flew more than 60 million miles in every type of U.S. aircraft and on every type of assignment flown by their male counterparts, except for combat. Thirty-eight WASP pilots made the ultimate sacrifice and died for our nation during these missions.
For the medal’s reverse, Don Everhart positioned three aircraft—an AT-6, a B-26 (Martin Marauder), and a P-51—along with the WASP wings emblem and several inscriptions as mandated. The design is exquisitely detailed, with a lightly textured field, and carefully balanced with a nice use of negative space. The positioning of the planes in foreground, middle-background, and background give the design a dramatic sense of movement, depth, and interaction. The text is also well balanced, a technical and artistic challenge with so much wording (THE FIRST WOMEN IN HISTORY TO FLY AMERICAN MILITARY AIRCRAFT and ACT OF CONGRESS 2009). Everhart made skillful use of the “canvas” available to U.S. medals, which are struck on mint presses different from those used for producing billions of circulating coins. Medal presses apply greater pressure and they strike larger planchets—the bronze versions of this Congressional Gold Medal, available for sale to the public, are up to three inches in diameter, much larger and thicker than any circulating U.S. coin. In Everhart’s design the wings of the AT-6, the dominant figure in the composition, fly off the sides of the medal as if the plane is about to leave its bronze surface and take to the air. The effect is dynamic and breathtaking.
In his book American Silver Eagles: A Guide to the U.S. Bullion Coin Program, retired U.S. Mint chief engraver John Mercanti praised Everhart’s work on this medal and offered it as an example of good design: “Don Everhart’s perfectly balanced reverse design beautifully describes the story of the WASP fliers.”
The gold version of the medal was presented to surviving members of the WASP on March 10, 2010, with family members and other representatives also in attendance at a ceremony at the Capitol Visitor Center’s Emancipation Hall in Washington, D.C.
You can add the three-inch bronze version of the medal to your collection by ordering directly from the U.S. Mint.
Click here to read part 3, “The Statue of Liberty reverse, Presidential dollar series.”