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Swiss Gratitude Medals

As the Swiss learned during the Napoleonic wars; declaring neutrality is not enough unless you can defend it. By the time WWI started the Swiss were prepared. They mobilized their armed forces and were quickly ready to defend their fortified borders. Calling up about 25 percent of the population to military service for a small nation like Switzerland has some serious economic costs. Besides the obvious direct costs there were hidden costs. The tourist trade income was drastically cut as was industrial and agricultural production. Added to this is the cost of feeding and housing large numbers of refugees and military internees. This was a dire situation for a small country that needed to import food even in peace time. Fortunately for the Swiss the United States was able to prevent famine in Switzerland and the Swiss were very grateful. President Wilson as the representative of the American People, was presented with a medal on behalf of the Swiss People. The medal was funded by public subscription and every one who donated enough money got a bronze or silver medal like the two illustrated below. The design is the same as the official medal given to President Wilson featuring an American eagle flying to the left (east) with wheat in it’s talons and an inscribed reverse. The medals are not rare indicating that large numbers of Swiss participated in the funding effort.