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Mel Wacks tells Berlin medal story

The Congressional Gold Medal honoring Irving Berlin can now be seen because of research by Mel Wacks. © 2018 Jewish-American Hall of Fame. Prepared by Mel Wacks NLG.

Following years of searching, Mel Wacks has finally obtained photographs of the Congressional Gold Medal presented by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to popular songwriter Irving Berlin on Feb. 18, 1955.

Wacks knew that Berlin was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the bill P.L. 83-536, 68 Stat. A120, approved on July 16, 1954, and signed by President Eisenhower at the White House a few days later, witnessed by Berlin and his wife. There are pictures of Eisenhower signing the bill and pictures of Eisenhower presenting the gold medal to Berlin – but there were no pictures of the medal. Not even Google could unearth a picture.

So, Wacks wrote to the Department of the Treasury and requested a photo of Berlin’s Congressional Gold Medal under the Freedom of Information Act. In a letter from the Department of the Treasury, dated Jan. 30, 2018, Lateau Jones, Acting Disclosure Officer/Freedom of Information Act Public Liaison, enclosed photos of the medal and the galvanos (signed “G[ILROY] ROBERTS 1954). Since the photographs were black and white, Wacks had a friend, Manu Sagarbarria, color them gold.

Berlin’s Congressional Gold medal is featured for the first time on the front cover of The Shekel, the quarterly magazine published by the American Israel Numismatic Association (edited by Wacks) and in an article about Berlin, composer of “God Bless America,” that celebrates the theme of Jewish American Heritage Month (May) – Jewish contributions to American music. The medal’s photograph will be added to Berlin’s biography on the Jewish-American Hall of Fame’s website, www.amuseum.org/jahf.

A copy of this issue of The Shekel, The Journal of Israel and Jewish History and Numismatics, and three other issues published in 2018, can be obtained by sending $25 dues (in USA) to AINA, P.O. Box 20255, Fountain Hills, AZ 85269. AINA is also online at www.theshekel.org.

Below, you can enjoy a rare Irving Berlin television appearance showcasing just one of his many hit compositions (source: www.youtube.com/wasittoyoutoo).

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.


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