Wiener Letters


The Emma Lazarus Medal, issued in 1983


On October 6, 1982 Wiener sent her first sketches for the Emma Lazarus medal, and this request: “If you could possibly get me Emma Lazarus’ signature it would be much nicer than a lettered printed name. If you don’t like the (Statue of) Liberty, which will be just a tiny silhouette on the medal, tell me so. I just thought it needed that special accent in this case.”




Lazarus drawings for obverse and reverse (10-6-82)


While the reverse design was approved, Gerta remarks about a suggestion to modify the obverse (11/23/82): “I shall do the head first, and I am not happy to frame it with a quotation from the poem – but I understand your wanting to put it on. BUT I hate the words “huddled masses.” I think it is degrading and ugly. Since you are using only part of the poem anyway (thank goodness) why not say: ‘Give me your tired, your poor … yearning to breathe free.’ If someone knows the poem they will add the ‘huddled masses,’ if they don’t know the poem they won’t know the difference. I hope you can send me her signature, as I want to match the style of writing the poem to her handwriting, so the poem, her name and the dates can form an harmonious frame for her face.”


Continuing this same subject, Ms. Wiener writes (3/27/83): “I’ve been working like a slave to accommodate Emma Lazarus’ crazy handwriting – tiny and with endless uppers and lowers – into the space of the medal’s edge. I had to widen (the border) very much if the script – even with uppers and lowers cut down – was to be legible! And with her signature added, the dates had to go next to the head – raised for balance. The lettering on the frame will be incised. It will be small but legible but I hope that no graphologist will get hold of it and analyze it. I’m taking great liberties with her handwriting – by necessity!!”



Lazarus sketch for obverse (3-27-83)


But Gerta was still not completely satisfied, and immediately writes: “Don’t think I’ve gone nuts – keeping up a running correspondence with you! After I sent you the letter with my solution for the knotty problem of arranging the quote and the name of Emma Lazarus on the rim of the medal, I came up with another and I think better way. I’m sure you will be satisfied and that’s it.” And I was.




Lazarus sketch for obverse (3-27-83)


Ms. Wiener sent photographs of the completed plaster models on 4/22/83.




Lazarus plaster models for obverse and reverse ( 4-22-83)


After receiving examples of the Emma Lazarus medals, Gerta writes (12/30/83): “I was so delighted to see how good they are, and I cannot understand why the same people could have produced such inferior work as the Isaac Stern medal! Or was it a different mint? (Note that the Isaac Stern medals were made by Metal Arts, while the Emma Lazarus medals were produced by Johnson Matthey).


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