The Order of Lincoln and the Lincoln Academy, I never heard of either of these until I went to the Central States Numismatic Society Coin Show in Rosemont, Illinois last week. One never knows what will turn up at a coin show. Usually coin shows do not have much for a collector of medals and decorations but this one held a pleasant surprise for yours truly. With the current high prices of gold and silver most tables had cases full of bullion items and the higher priced coins in slabs which meant that I could pass them by without slowing down for a closer look. The show was large and I thought I was going to make short work of it until I saw the badge illustrated below, in a dealers case. It is a large breast badge worn by regents and officers of the Lincoln Academy. This massive badge is 77.3 mm wide and weighs 94.34 grams, is hallmarked sterling and was made by the Herff Jones Company. In the center is the Illinois State Seal with the Latin motto “PALMAM QUI MERUIT FERAT” which translates as “Let him who has earned it bear the reward”. The back has a hinged pin between two sharp spikes which were originally hooks that some dingbat clipped off with a wire cutter. A quick check on Google led me to some sites with the information needed to understand this badge. First the Lincoln Academy is not some school where rich folks send their children as I had feared but rather it is an organized body which administers the Order of Lincoln. The order was established in 1964 by former Illinois Governor Otto Kerner and was declared to be the highest award of the State of Illinois by former Governor James R. Thompson in 1989. The order can be awarded to anyone with an Illinois connection for accomplishments in any field of endeavor causing great benefit to humanity. (I’m sure I have vastly oversimplified this in the interest of brevity.)
The Order of Lincoln and the Lincoln Academy were modeled on the French Legion of Honor and the French Academy. As a result the actual badge of the order looks similar to the French Legion of Honor badge with the major exception that the center medallion on the obverse has the Illinois State Arms and the reverse features a portrait of Abraham Lincoln.