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Friday, 31 October 2014

154) Coinage of Greece (Part I): Ancient Greek Coinage of the City-States (Poleis) : Drachma(e) and Obols:

154) Coinage of Greece (Part I):

Ancient Greek Coinage of the City-States (Poleis) : Drachma(e) and Obols:   

Drachma (or “Drachmae” Plural) was the currency of Greece since ancient times before Greece joined the European Union in 2001. 

The name Drachm or Drachma means “a handful” or “handle” or “to grasp” (“drassomai” in Greek) or “the graspable” (or a handful) in old Greek and comes from the Greek verb “dratto” (meaning “to grasp”).

The pre-numismatic Age:
Each Drachma was divided into six “Obols” or “Oboloi” or “Obelei” (meaning “metal sticks or rods” originating from the Greek word for a spit) with six spits making a handful. About 6 Obols could be grasped in one hand at a time, as such, 6 Obols became the Drachma by a rule of grammar. 
An image illustrating what constituted a handful of "six Obols later constituting a Drachma.

Before coinage was used in Greece, in pre-historic/pre-numismatic times, as iron was considered valuable for forging tools and weapons, because of its value, its casting in spit form represented a form of transportable bullion and it was used as measures of exchange in daily transactions.

To facilitate trade and business transactions, various metallic pieces diverse in weight and shape were circulated among the then known world in the pre-numismatic age. “Tripodes”, “axes”, “skewers” were generally used in payment or exchange.

Around 1100 BC, Obols were used as a form of “bullion”, in the shape of bronze, copper or iron ingots which were denominated by weights.

Later, as other precious metals were adopted by city states (there were more than 2000 self-governing Greek city-states called “poleis” in Greek), for minting coins, transporting iron spits in the form of bullion became bulky and inconvenient. This led to a Spartan legislation which prohibited issuance of coinage and the continued usage of iron spits so as to prevent hoarding of wealth.

The Numismatic Age:
Each city began to mint its own coins with recognisable symbols of the City known as “badge” in numismatics, along with suitable inscriptions, and the coins would be referred to either by the name of the city or by the images depicted on them. Thus, the Corinthian Stater (another name for Drachma coins) was called “hippos” (“horses”) and “colts”, the Aeginetic Stater was called “chelone” while the Athenian tetradrachm was called “owl” based on the images portrayed on them.

Of the 2000 city-states in Greece, some of the more well-known ones minting Drachma coins include: Abdera, Abydos, Alexandria, Aetna, Antioch, Athens, Chios, Cyzicus, Corinth, Ephesus, Eretria, Gela, Catana, Kos, Maronia, Naxos, Pella, Pergamum, Rhegion, Salamis, Smyrni, Sparta, Syracuse, Tarsus, Thasos, Tenedos, Troy etc.

After Alexander the Great’s conquests, the name Drachma was used in many Hellenistic kingdoms in the Middle East, as well as the Ptolemaic kingdom in Alexandria which minted large coins in gold, silver and bronze, the most notable Ptolemais coins being the gold Tetradrachm and Octadrachm, silver Tetradrachm, Decadrachm and Pentakaidecadrachm. The Arabic currency was known as Dirham (presently still the currency of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates as such, a hybrid term derived from the Dirham and Drachma – the Didrachm was adopted in usage.

An Athenian silver Didrachm of the Heraldic type from the time of Peisistratos (545-510 BC), showing on the Obverse a four-spoked wheel and on the Reverse showing a diagonally divided  incuse square.

Drachmae were minted on different weight standards at different Greek mints.

The Basic standards of the Ancient Greek monetary system were:

The “Attic” standard, based on the Athenian Drachma of 4.3 gms of silver,

The “Corinthian” standard, based on the Stater of 8.6 gms of silver, subdivided into three silver Drachmas of 2.9 gms.

The standard which came to be most commonly used was the Attic or Athenian standard in which a silver Drachma weighed 4.3 grams.

Coins issued to the “Attic” standard of the Athenian Drachma:
The Obol was further subdivided into Tetartemorioi (singular Tetartemorion) which represented ¼ of an Obol, or 1/24th of a Drachm.

Various multiples of these denominations were also struck:

1 Dekadrachm equivalent to 10 Drachmas (weight: 43 gms)

1 Tetradrachm equivalent to 4 Drachmas (weight: 17.2 gms)

I Didrachm equivalent to 2 Drachmas (weight: 8.6 gms)

1 Drachma equivalent to 6 Obols (weight: 4.3 gms)

1 Tetrobol equivalent to 4 Obols (weight: 2.85 gms)

1 Triobol (hemidrachm) equivalent to 3 Obols (weight: 2.15 gms)

1 Diobol equivalent to 2 Obols (weight: 1.43 gms)

1 Obol equivalent to 4 Tetartemorions (weight: 0.72 gms)

1 Tritartemorion equivalent to 3 Tetartemorions (weight: 0.54 gms)

1 Hemiobol equivalent to 2 Tetartemorions (weight: 0.36 gms)

1 Trihemitartemorion equivalent to 3/2 Tetartemorions (weight: 0.27 gms)

1 Tetartemorion equivalent to ¼ Obol (weight: 0.18 gms)

1 Hemitartemorion equivalent to ½ Tetartemorion (weight: 0.09 gms).

In addition to the above, 70 Drachmae (later 100 drachmae) equalled 1 Mina, while 60 Minae equalled 1 Athenian Talent.

Both Minae and Talents were never minted, but represented weight measures used in commodities and metals like silver and gold.

The history of the Greek Numismatic Age:

The history of Greek coinage was divided into four periods – the “Archaic”, the “Classical”, the “Hellenistic” and the “Roman”.

The Archaic period began with the introduction of coins to the Greek world during the 7th century BC until the Persian Wars around 480 BC.

The Classical period began in 480 BC and lasted till around 330 BC which lasted until the conquests of Alexander the Great.

The Hellenistic period began around 330 BC and lasted till the 1st century BC lasting until the Roman absorption of the Greek world.

The Roman period:  Greek cities continued to produce their own coins for several centuries under Roman rule. The coins produced during this period are called Roman Provincial coins or Greek Imperial coins.

The ancient Greek coins of all four periods span over ten centuries.

The Archaic Period coinage (7th century BC to around 480 BC):

In the late seventh century BC, coins were minted for the first time by Ionian Greeks and the neighbouring non-Greek Lydians. The Greeks were instrumental in spreading this early “coinage” throughout the Mediterranean, introducing it to many non-Greek nations with whom they came in contact including in China and Western Asia Minor.

Initially, Greek coins were stamped with designs or “types” only on the obverse while the reverse carried impressions of the punch used to stamp the metal into the obverse die.

From the end of the sixth century BC, the punch carried a die for the reverse too, leading to the majority of the Greek coins being made thereafter with types on both sides.

The first coins struck during this period were made of “electrum” (an alloy of gold and silver, both metals being found in abundance in the area.

Scan Electrum coin from Lydia 6th century BC. It shows a lion head on the Obverse together with an image of the sun in the upper background. On the Reverse are depicted plain square imprints.
Electrum coin from Ephesus (620-600 BC). It shows the front half of a stag on the obverse. On the Reverse is seen a square incuse punch.

By mid- 6th century BC, development of technology facilitated minting of coins of pure gold and silver.

The Numismatic system of Aegina:

The Drachma was believed to have been established on the island of Aegina during the 7th century BC, in addition to those of the Ionian Greeks.

The first silver coins were either round or elongated in shape which were minted on the island of Aegina by the benevolent tyrant of Argos, Phiedon. He was the Head of the Amphyctiony (a Confederation of seven Doric Greek city-states that included Aegina).

 Trade between Aegina and Ionia brought about prolific exchange/circulation of coins of Aegina and Ionia. The motif on the coins on Aegina was a sea turtle symbolising that the island of Aegina was a major sea-faring power. The “turtle coins” of Aegina were widely recognised and accepted.
A silver Stater or “Didrachm” of Aegina around 550 – 530 BC. On the obverse showing a sea turtle with large pellets on the back. On the Reverse there is an incuse square with eight sections.

From about 600 BC to 450 BC, coins of Aegina were circulating all over the Aegean.

Coins were being minted in several other areas as well. An interesting coin was the obverse coin design of Corinth which featured the “Pegasus” or horse design. These coins were nicknamed the silver “colts”. These and other such coins were instrumental in the development of coinage in north-western Greece and in Southern Italy and Sicily.
 The Greek world at this time was divided into more than 2000 self-governing city-states (called “poleis” in Greek) and towns, with most of them having their own coinage. Some of these coins circulated beyond the poleis suggesting that these were used in inter-city commerce, for example, the silver Drachms of Aegina.

Around 510 BC, Athens began minting silver Tetradrachm coins (equal to four Drachm). The Athenians of the pre-numismatic era used the Obol (a small iron rod) as currency.

From 510 to about 40 BC, the Tetradrachm with the owl’s head stamped on it was the first great trade coin in the world. The owl was associated with the city goddess Athena, the goddess of wisdom. This image is even found today on the national side of the Greek 1 Euro coin.

Around the mid-fifth century BC, the largest number of these coins were minted, when Greek cities in the Delian League had to send tribute payments of 5000 talents to Athens which were used for building the Pantheon and other large buildings, ruins of which have endured to the present day.

Several coins, particularly silver coins from northern Greece were minted for export to various regions in the Persian Empire during the times of Persian kings Darius I (521-486 BC) and Xerxes (486-465 BC).

As Athens and Aegina were hostile to each other, the Tetradrachm was minted to a different weight standard by Athens, the “Attic” standard Drachm of 4.3 gms (as against the “Aeginetan” weight standard of one Drachma of 6.1 gms). 

Over a period, Athens’ power grew to that of a super-power and their coinage became the predominant coins of commerce and Aegina lost its naval prowess.

  Athens’ abundant supply of silver from the mines at Laurion ( “Laura” means “narrow path or alley” in Greek and “Laurion” refers to the area of the “ancient mine tunnels”) facilitated an abundant supply of Athenian silver coins which featured the Goddess Athena’s owl (the symbol of wisdom) on one side and the bust of the Goddess herself on the other. After the end of the Peloponnesian War (404 BC), Aegina’s coinage went into a decline and with their sea-faring days coming to an end, the sea-turtle was replaced with a land tortoise.
 A silver Drachma of Aegina (404-340 BC) (minted to the Aeginetan weight standard of 6.1gms). On the Obverse is shows a land tortoise and on the Reverse is an inscription which looks something like this “AIF” (meaning “of the Aeginetans”, “Aegena” and a dolphin) and a dolphin.

As Athenian Tetradrachms and other coins circulated widely, other cities minted coins to the weight standard of the Athenian coins.

The Classical Period coinage (480 BC to around 330 BC):

During this period Greek coinage reached a high level of technical and aesthetic quality. Several fine gold and silver coins minted in various cities portrayed their patron god or goddess or a legendary hero or champion of the city on one side and a symbol of the city on the other.

During this period, Syracuse was one of the most important centres of numismatic art and had renowned engravers like Kimon and Euainetos who were responsible for some of the finest designs on Syracusan coins several of which have endured to the present day.

The large silver Decadrachm or 10 Drachms coin from Syracuse is regarded as one of the finest coins minted in the ancient world.

 Syracusan coins had developed a high standard of uniformity in their strikes/imprints – most coins featured on one side the head of the nymph Arethusa and on the other a victorious “quadriga” as the Syracusans were frequent winners in this event (a “quadriga” is a chariot drawn by four horses abreast, the Roman equivalent to the Ancient Greek “tethrippon”, which was raced in the Ancient Olympic Games and other contests).
 A Syracusan Tetradrachm coin (415-405 BC). The Obverse shows the head of the nymph Arethusa surrounded by four dolphins and a rudder, while the Reverse shows a racing quadriga, its charioteer crowned by the goddess Victory who is in flight. (In the later Roman coins, a similar image of the Goddess Victory was called Nike).

A Tetradrachm of Athens (5th century BC). The Obverse shows a helmeted bust of the patron goddess of the city Athena.

On the Reverse the Tetradrachm shows the owl symbol of Athens, an olive sprig and the inscription “AOE” (meaning “AOENAION” or “of the Athenians”).

Between 550 BC to 510 BC, among the first centres to mint coins during the Greek colonisation of mainland Southern Italy (Magna Graecia) were Paestum, Crotone, Sybaris, Caulonia, Metapontum and Taranto.

The Hellenistic Period coinage (330 BC to around First  Century BC):

By 330 BC, as Grecian civilization/influence spread outwards, Greek settlements in southern Italy were minting Drachmas which had a great influence on the Roman Empire, which adopted coins as against the bronze bars which they had been using hitherto.

During the Hellenistic period, Greek culture spread across a large part of the known world viz. Egypt, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and North-western India. Greek trade spread Greek coins across this vast territory and the new kingdoms began to produce their own coins mostly in gold and silver. These coins lacked the aesthetic quality of coins of the earlier periods of Greek numismatics.

Nevertheless, Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek coins are considered to be the finest specimens of Greek Numismatic art, including the largest gold coins minted in the Hellenistic world minted by Eucratides (Reign:171-145 BC) and the largest silver coins minted by the Indo-Greek King Amyntas Nikator (Reign: 95-90 BC).
 The gold 20 Stater coin of Eucratides I, which was the finest and largest of gold coins minted in the Ancient world.

The most striking feature of the Hellenistic period coinage was that these coins depicted portraits of living people, mainly the ruling Kings, because it was reasoned by the Kings that they ruled through a “divine status” conferred upon them (for example - Kings of Ptolemaic Egypt and Seleucid Syria). The names of Kings were often inscribed on the coins together with his portrait on the obverse and the coat of arms or other state symbol on the reverse.

The Roman Period coinage:

The Drachma existed in the second century BC, even when Greece was under the rule of the Roman Empire and remained a part of the Byzantine Empire until 1453 when it fell under Turkish Rule, which lasted till 1827 (almost four centuries).

Coinage of the Roman Empire for 3 ½ centuries following the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BC is termed the “Roman Imperial Coinage” or as “Roman Provincial Coinage”.

The Imperial Coinagewas minted under the Imperial authority, mostly at Rome in the Antonine period and circulated widely.

The Provincial coinage on the other hand included all coins which were not “Imperial” or listed as Roman Imperial Coinage. These coins were also referred to as “Greek Imperial coins”. These coins were sub-divided into four categories:

a)  City coinages: Coins struck in the name of cities were the most common variety. Except for a small number of silver coins, cities minted bronze coins which circulated locally and provided the majority of small change in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire.

A bronze coin struck in Nicaea between 138-180 AD. On the obverse, the coin depicts the draped bust of Faustina II, Regina (Queen) facing right, while on the reverse it depicts a turreted and veiled Tyche, the city-goddess of Nicaea seated on a rock holding a rudder and resting one arm on a rock.

Coins of the Greek city-states portrayed unique symbols and emblems which represented their city and promoted the prestige of their city-state.

The Corinthian Stater depicted “Pegasus”, the mythological winged horse tamed by their hero Bellerophon.
 Image of a Corinthian Stater with Pegasus on one face and Bellerophon on the other face.

 Coins of Ephesus depicted the bee sacred to Artemis. Drachmas of Athens depicted the owl of Athena. Drachmas of Aegina depicted a “chelone”. Coins of Heraclea showed Heracles. Coins of Gela depicted a man-headed bull, the personification of the river Gela.

Coins of Knossos depicted the labyrinth or the mythical creature minotaur, a symbol of Minoan Crete. Coins of Melos depicted a “melon” (meaning an “apple”). Coins of Thebes showed a Boeotian shield. The coins of Rhodes showed a rose.
 Image of a silver Drachma of Rhodes showing the radiate head of Helios (Sun) on the obverse and a rose on the reverse.

Alliance coinages: Cities sometimes struck coins to celebrate “alliances” with another city or cities – “homonoia” or (“OMONOIA” meaning "Alliance" in Greek) for the purpose of settling disputes or building up coalitions to enhance a city’s status. Almost a 100 cities issued “Alliance” coins of which several pieces have survived to the present day.
 A bronze coin of Cibyra, on the reverse represented by a veiled goddess holding fruits in her hands, celebrating an alliance with Hierapolis, represented by a seated Zeus holding an eagle and a sceptre in his hands and on the obverse having a draped bust of Faustina II, Regina (Queen).

b)  Coinages of Provincial leagues (Koina):

Coinages were issued in the names of a number of “Koina” or “Provincial or Regional federations of cities” in the east. In the Roman period, worship of the Emperor was the focus of the function of Koina and these coins often depict a temple of the Imperial cult. The coins of the Provincial Leagues resembled the civic coins of the Greek city-states. The Koina of Crete, Thessaly, Macedonia, Lesbos, Ionia, Galatia and Pontus issued such coins among other leagues.

A bronze coin minted in the Koinon of Macedonia between 138-161 AD. The Obverse depicts a laureate-headed portrait of Antoninus Pius wearing cuirass and paludamentum. On the reverse is depicted a thunderbolt with four wings.

c)  Provincial issues:

These coins were struck for use in a single province, probably under Roman Provincial or Imperial control. Provincial coins comprised silver coins, mostly drachms, didrachms or tetradrachms and bronze issues. Sometimes, these coins were struck in Rome and sent to the Province concerned. At other times, they were minted at local mints.
 A silver provincial coin issued in Antioch, Syria (minted between 177 -180 AD). The Obverse depicts a laureate-headed portrait of Commodus wearing paludamentum, while the Reverse depicts an eagle standing on a thunderbolt, with spread wings, a star between the legs and a ram’s head in exergue.

d)  Coinage of client kings:

During the Antonine period, the Kings of Bosporus (which was situated on the Straits between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov) struck gold and bronze coins and the Kings of Edessa in Mesopotamia struck silver and bronze coins on the patterns of the Greek city states.

 A gold coin depicting the Bosporan King Sauromates II minted between 180-192 AD. On the Obverse is a draped bust of Sauromates II wearing a diadem, on the right periphery is a club, while on the reverse is the laureate head of Commodus wearing paludamentum.

(Part II of this Post  includes some of the most popular coins of  Ancient Greece, some of which have endured to the present day), link as under).


1) Coinage of Greece (Part II): Some popular coins of Greek antiquity

2) Ancient Greek Olympic Games on Coins of Antiquity  

3) Modern coins of Greece: Drachmas & Leptas; Commemorative Coins link back to Greek antiquity

4) Modern coins of Greece: Euro & Commemorative Coins.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

153) Commemorating the 225th Anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS): Coins issued by the U.S. Mint in 2015:

153) Commemorating the 225th Anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS): Coins issued by the U.S. Mint in 2015:

We have all grown up during our formative years in the 1970s watching “Westerns”, particularly during a period when Television was yet to be introduced in India. Western heroes like Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif, Lee Marvin, Yul Brynner, Donald Sutherland, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Lee Van Cliff, Eli Wallach, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas etc. and movies like “The Dirty Dozen”, “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly”, “McKenna’s Gold” we were familiar with & we never tired of watching these movies several times over.
 We were as familiar with the “Old West/Wild West ” terms – Homesteads, Cowboys, Ranches, Sheriffs, Marshals, Deputies, Posses, Outlaws (Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Clanton Brothers etc.), lynching, Stage Coach and Railroad robberies and Western genre writers like James Fennimore Cooper, Zane Grey, Louis L’amour etc. as perhaps any US citizen/resident during this era. My collection of Comics included The Cartwright Brothers (Bonanza) & Western frontiersmen – Daniel Boone, Kit Carson, David "Davy" Crockett, Jim Bowie etc.

 In fact, I almost had  the entire “Sudden” (or James Green Series) written by Oliver Strange in the 1930s and revived by Frederick H. Christian in the 1960s. Sudden in one of the fictional stories titled “Sudden“ was made a U.S. Dy. Marshal by the Governor of Arizona and sent on undercover missions to maintain law and order.

Although the U.S. Mint is no longer shipping Coins to India, I could not resist doing this post, when I learnt that the Mint is commemorating the 225th Anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service through coins.

The United States Marshals Service (USMS) was envisaged under the Judicial Act of 1789, as a U.S. Federal Law Enforcement Agency within the Department of Justice. As such, it is the oldest U.S. Federal Law Enforcement Agency established on 24.09.1789 with 13 U.S. Marshals (one each for the 13 States which had joined the American Federation).

The USMS took its current name in 1969.

Duties and functions of the U.S.M.S.:

 As the oldest and most versatile Federal Law Enforcement Agency in the USA, the USMS is involved in virtually every Federal law enforcement initiative.

Its primary function was to execute all lawful warrants issued under the authority of the United States. The US Marshals status is that of officers of the courts charged with assisting federal courts in their law-enforcement functions.

U.S. Marshals duties and responsibilities during the settlement of the American West or “Wild West” days:

During the settlement of the American West or “Wild West” days, Marshals were tasked with day to day law enforcement in various parts of the West which had no local government of their own.

Marshals were permitted to recruit special deputies as local hires or as temporary transfers to the Marshals’ Service from other Federal law-enforcement agencies. They were also authorised to swear in a posse to assist with hunting down outlaws and criminal elements including counterfeiters and other such duties on an ad hoc basis. Marshals were given extensive authority to support the Federal Courts within their judicial districts and to carry out all lawful orders issued by Federal judges, Congress and the US President.

The Marshals and their deputies served writs – subpoenas, summonses and warrants etc. issued by the Courts. They were charged with making arrests and handling all federal prisoners. They disbursed funds as ordered by the courts, paid the fees and expenses of court clerks, U.S.Attorneys, jurors and witnesses etc. They were also instrumental in renting out courtrooms and jail space and hired bailiffs, criers and janitors for cleaning up the court rooms etc.

 Even later on, when specialised Federal Agencies such as customs and revenue collectors for collecting taxes and tariffs were established the workload on the US Marshals increased as the Marshals and their deputies were the only officers available to these Agencies to enforce the law vis-à-vis the tax/tariff collection on the ground and to go after the defaulters.

 Interestingly, Marshals were not paid a regular salary and were paid 10% of the tax/tariff collections made by them. Similarly for other duties performed by them, they were only entitled to fees for arranging Court room space, janitor services, carrying out executions of convicted felons etc. It was only on 01.07.1896, that the fee/percentage of collections system of paying Marshals was abolished and Marshals were put on annual salary.

Even miscellaneous tasks, such as taking the National Census in 1870 and once every 10 years thereafter, distribution of presidential proclamations, collecting statistical information and names of government employees and residents of the area were also performed by them.

Several Dy. Marshals in the American West are remembered as legendary heroes who brought about a semblance of order in the face of rampant lawlessness when the West was settled.

Some notable services provided by the U.S. Marshals during the “Wild West” era:

During the American Revolution, several U.S. Marshals participated with distinction in the military service.

In August 1794, a Supreme Court Justice certified that the Whiskey Rebels were too powerful to be suppressed by the Marshal in the District. Accordingly, President Washington called out the state militia to march against the Whiskey rebels. U.S. Marshal David Lennox rode with the militia, under the command of President Washington himself. This is the only time in U.S. history that a President had taken the field at the head of his army.

Upon passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, by Congress, one of the jobs that fell upon the U.S. Marshals was the “recovery” of fugitive slaves.  U.S. Marshals enforced the Act by arresting fugitive slaves and returning them to their Southern masters. Marshals were permitted to form a posse and to deputize any person to aid in the recapture of fugitive slaves. Failure to cooperate with a Marshal resulted in a fine of $5000 and imprisonment.

The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue was a famous fugitive slave case where James Batchelder was the second Marshal to be killed while preventing the rescue of a fugitive slave in Boston in 1854.

During the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) U.S. Marshals confiscated property used to support the Confederacy and helped locate and arrest Confederate spies.

In 1872, U.S. Marshals assisted Internal Revenue Agents (who had no arrest powers) in enforcing the whiskey tax laws.

Between 1865 and 1900, U.S. Marshals were instrumental in keeping law and order in the “Old West” era and apprehending the infamous Dalton Brothers Gang (a group of outlaws during 1890-1892 specialising in bank and train robberies), William “Bill” Doolin (Bandit and founder of the Wild Bunch – an outlaw gang specialising in robbing banks, trains and stagecoaches in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas in the 1890s) and Ned Christie (also known as NeDe WaDe in Cherokee was a member of the executive council in the Cherokee Nation senate & an advisor to Chief Bushyhead. He held off U.S. lawmen in the so-called “Ned Christie’s War” after being wrongfully accused of murdering a U.S. Marshal & being declared an outlaw. He was killed in the shoot-out, however, Christie’s name was later cleared when a witness testified that it was another man who had killed the Marshal. This incident was a blot on the U.S. Marshals Service) and helped put down the Pullman Strike in 1894 (This was a nationwide railroad strike which pitted the American Railway Union against the Pullman Company, the main railroads and the Federal Government of the U.S.A.).

Some well-known Marshals of this and later period have been:

Wild Bill Hickok (Dy. Marshal Fort Riley, Kansas), Bass Reeves (one of the first Black men to receive a commission as U.S. Dy. Marshal, West of the Mississippi River. During his service he arrested over 3000 felons and shot and killed 14 felons in self-defence - the fictional character "The Lone Ranger" was closely based on his exploits), Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp & Morgan Earp (Dy. U.S. Marshals, Tombstone, Arizona – Wyatt & his Associates challenged the Clanton and McLaury brothers at the O.K. Corral), William “Bat” Masterton (Dy. U.S. Marshal Kansas & Southern Distt. New York), Dallas Stoudenmire (U.S. Marshal who tamed a remote, wild and violent town of El Paso, Texas), Richard Griffith (U.S. Dy. Marshal who rose to the position of Brigadier General in the Confederacy during the US Civil War), Benjamin McCulloch (U.S. Marshal for Eastern district of Texas & later Brigadier General in the Confederate army during the American Civil War), Ward Hill Lamon (U.S. Marshal & Bodyguard of President Abraham Lincoln), Heck Thomas, Bill Tilghman and Chris Madsen (the legendary “Three Guardsmen” of the Oklahoma Territory), Cal Whitson (one-eyed Dy. Marshal for Oklahoma Territory & “Rooster Cogburn” of the novel and film “True Grit”), John W. Marshall (U.S. Marshal for Eastern district of Virginia & First African-American to serve as Director of the U.S. Marshals Service from 1999 to 2001), Phoebe Couzins (first woman to be appointed in the USMS) etc.

Present system of U.S. Marshals Service (USMS):

In 1965, the Executive Office for the United States Marshals was set up as an Apex Organisation to monitor/supervise the U.S. Marshals countrywide.

In 1969, the USMS was designated as a Federal Agency which superseded the Executive Office for US Marshals.

The U.S. Marshals Service Headquarters is based in Arlington, Virginia and is headed by a Director. It provides command, control and cooperation for the various disciplines of the Service.

The U.S. court system is divided into 94 federal judicial districts, each with a district court. For each district there is a U.S. Marshal, a Chief Dy. U.S. Marshal, Asstt. Chief Dy. U.S. Marshal for larger Districts, several Dy. U.S. Marshals and Special Dy. U.S. Marshals.  There are presently about 100 U.S. Marshals and more than 4000 Dy. U.S. Marshals, Spl. Dy. U.S. Marshals, Inspectors and criminal investigators etc. In addition there are about 5000 Court Security Officers (CSOs) and a similar number of Detention Enforcement Officers (DEOs), all dedicated to carrying out missions for apprehending fugitives, housing and transporting prisoners, protecting witnesses and Federal judges, managing and selling assets.

The Director and each U.S. Marshal of a District are appointed by the President of the U.S.A. from a list of qualified law enforcement personnel for that district. The appointments of the Director and all Marshals and other ranks are done under authority of the U.S. President and confirmed by the Senate.

The U.S. Marshals are no longer required to serve process in private civil actions filed in the U.S. District courts, except for in suits by jailed persons, non-prisoner litigants etc.

Today the Marshals Service is tasked with the job of apprehending wanted fugitives, providing protection for the Federal judiciary, transporting federal prisoners, protecting endangered federal witnesses and managing assets seized from criminal enterprises.

The USMS executes all lawful writs, processes and orders issued under U.S. authority. Even today, the U.S. Marshals have the power to deputise willing citizens (in the Wild West this was the equivalent of forming a posse). The U.S. Marshals are also authorised to exercise the powers of a sheriff of the State.

The Witness Protection/Security Programme was established after the passage of the Organised Crime Control Act 1970. (Senior Dy. U.S. Marshals assigned to Witness Protection Programme are given the title of Inspector).

There is a Special Operations Group (SOG) which is a highly trained tactical unit which is a self-supporting response team capable of responding to emergencies anywhere in the U.S. or its territories.

Some notable services provided by the U.S. Marshals after the “Old/Wild West era”:

Marshals enforced Prohibition in the 1920s and were in the front lines of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, protecting volunteers.

In September 1962, about 127 marshals accompanied James Meredith, an African American who wanted to join at the segregated University of Mississippi “Ole Miss”, where despite a riot-like situation where several projectiles were hurled at the Marshals, they acquitted themselves admirably and continued to provide him protection during the first year of his studies at the University.

 U.S. Marshals also provided protection to Ruby Bridges when she was one of the first students to integrate the New Orleans Public Schools.   

In the South, U.S. Marshals continuously provided protection to black schoolchildren and were instrumental in integrating public schools in the South.

Marshals nowadays carry out missions for registering enemy aliens in wartime, sealing the American border against armed expeditions from foreign countries, swapping spies with the USSR during the Cold War etc.

In 1981, the U.S. Marshals Service started the Fugitive Investigative Strike Teams (FIST) operations to capture violent fugitives wanted by Federal and local law enforcement Agencies.

In 1983, the 15 Most Wanted Fugitive Programme was established to prioritize investigation and apprehension of high-profile offenders including murderers, major drug kingpins, organised crime leaders and financial embezzlers.

In 1985, the Major Case Fugitive Programme was established to supplement to 15 Most Wanted Fugitive Program. The Major Case Fugitive Program prioritizes the investigation and apprehension of high profile offenders and escapees from custody.

In 2005, Operation FALCON (Federal And Local Cops Organised Nationally) was commenced which was conducted in several phases thereafter, resulting in the arrests of thousands of fugitives.

In 2006, the Fugitive Safe Surrender Programme was introduced which encourages persons wanted for non-violent felony or misdemeanour crimes to surrender voluntarily to the law in a faith-based or other neutral setting. The USMS manages this programme as a community re-entry programme for wanted non-violent offenders. The surrendering person’s cases are tried in a safe and non-violent environment without any threat to the fugitives themselves.

In 2012, U.S. Marshals captured over 36000 federal fugitives and cleared over 39000 warrants.

Marshals killed in the line of Duty:

More than 250 U.S. Marshals, Dy. Marshals and Special Dy. Marshals have died in the line of duty.

The first U.S. Marshal to be killed was Robert Forsyth who was shot dead while serving court papers in Augusta, Georgia on the Allen Brothers on 11.01.1794.

These U.S. Marshals are remembered on an Honour Roll permanently displayed at the Headquarters.

The U.S.Marshals Seal:

                       Variants of the US Marshals seal
 The USMS Seal was designed in October 1966 by U.S. Marshal Robert Morey of Massachusetts.

The Seal contains a six-pointed star, surrounded by a field of deep blue which colour represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

Over the badge is an American bald eagle that clutches the two familiar symbols in its talons as found in the Great Seal of the USA – an olive branch in one and arrows in the other talon.

A small breast-plate is superimposed over the eagle which shows all three colours of the US Flag and the year “1789”, which was the first year of the Agency’s existence.

On the outer periphery is a red ring, which symbolises courage and bloodshed in carrying out duties by a Marshal.

Towards the top half of the Seal are 13 Stars which represent the 13 original States which had joined the US Federation in the late 18th century. At the bottom half is depicted the Agency’s motto “Justice, Integrity, Service”.

A gold coloured ring, again placed towards the outer periphery bears the inscription “DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE” on the upper portion and “UNITED STATES MARSHAL” on the lower section. The outer edge is brown which signifies the Earth.

Commemorating the U.S. Marshals contribution over the years:

1)The Frontier Marshal statue:

For the commemoration of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Marshal’s Service in 1989, a larger than life 10-foot tall bronze sculpture titled “Frontier Marshal” created by Dave Manuel of Joseph, Arizona who specialises in paintings and sculptures with western themes. The bronze statue depicts a dignified U.S. Marshal, holding a 10 gallon hat and court papers in one hand and the other rests on his gun belt. The long duster coat is pulled back to reveal his pistol in the holster on the gun belt.

 The statue was commissioned and given to the Marshal Service by John Bianchi. The sculpture stands as a reminder of the yeoman services and sacrifices of the U.S. Marshals over the more than two centuries of its existence.

In real life, the sobriquet of being the “last of the Frontier Marshals” goes to Robert E. Clark who served as U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of California from 1933 to 1948.

2)Movie inspired by U.S. Marshals:

In 1998, a film “U.S. Marshals” which was a sequel to the 1993 movie “The Fugitive” (based on the 1960s T.V. series of the same name) was released starring Tommy Lee Jones, Wesley Snipes and Robert Downey Jr. The storyline centres on a fugitive who attempts to elude government officials in an International conspiracy scandal with the Dy. Marshals in pursuit. 
3)Coins Commemorating the 225th Anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS):

In 2012, the U.S. Marshals Service 225th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act was enacted.

Under this Act three coins were required to be minted in Proof and Uncirculated varieties – a $5.00 quarter ounce gold coin (mintage upto 100000 pieces), a $1.00 silver dollar (mintage upto 500000 pieces) and a half-dollar clad coin (mintage upto 750000 pieces), commemorating the dedication and achievements of the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) over its 225 years of existence. The 225th Anniversary fell on 24.09.2014 on which date a few samples were released.

The $5.00 gold coin commemorates the more than 250 Marshals and Deputy Marshals killed during service in the line of duty.
An image of the present U.S. Marshal's badge carried on the Obverse face of the coin.
The Obverse face of the coin carries the current badge of the U.S. Marshals. Mentioned across the badge is the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST”. On the upper periphery of the coin are depicted the Anniversary years “1789” & “2014” representing the years the USMS has been in existence. On the lower periphery of this face is mentioned “225 Years of Sacrifice”.

The Reverse face of the coin depicts an eagle with a shield on its chest inscribed “U.S. Marshal”. The denomination of the coin “$5” is mentioned towards the right hand bottom with the Agency’s motto “JUSTICE, INTEGRITY, SERVICE” featuring on the bottom left periphery of this face along with the motto “E.PLURIBUS UNUM” (Out of Many One).

The $1.00 silver coin depicts the USMS’s “Frontier history” and commemorates the U.S. Marshals legendary status in America’s cultural landscape.

The Obverse face shows Five Frontier Dy. U.S. Marshals/posse on horseback riding on a trail, with an image of a historic U.S. Marshals badge in the background. On the upper periphery are mentioned “Liberty” and the commemorative years “1788-2014”. On the lower periphery is mentioned the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” and the year of issue “2015”.

The Reverse face shows a Frontier Marshal holding a wanted poster which reads “Wanted in Ft. Smith” (Fort Smith, Arkansas is the future home of the U.S. Marshals Museum). The denomination of the coin “$1” is mentioned towards the right hand bottom with the Agency’s motto “JUSTICE, INTEGRITY, SERVICE” featuring on the upper periphery of this face along with the motto “E.PLURIBUS UNUM” (Out of Many One) on the upper left side.

The half-dollar clad coin portrays the dedicated services of the US Marshals over time through some of the most significant events/missions in US history and the role of the USMS in shaping the Nation.

The Obverse face shows a present day female Dy. U.S. Marshal in the foreground and an “Old West” U.S. Marshal in the background. On the upper periphery are mentioned “Liberty” and the commemorative years “1788-2014” and are in the centre. On the lower periphery/half is mentioned the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST” and the year of issue “2015”.

The Reverse face of this coin is one of the most interesting designs with aspects of the “Old West” integrating beautifully with recent events in the USMS history. A blindfolded Lady Justice holds the scales of Justice in one hand and holds a U.S. Marshal’s badge in the other (Representing that Justice will be done by the U.S. Marshals) A copy of the US Constitution starting with “We the People__” (Representing the Rule of Law and equality & freedom for all). The other symbols represent the Whiskey Rebellion (symbolised with a closed vat/jug), the role played by the Marshals in putting down the Pullman Strike (represented by the Railroad), Freedom from bondage for which the US Civil War was fought (represented by the unfettered/loose cuffs), Public school integration (represented by books – education). The denomination of the coin “Half Dollar” is mentioned towards the right hand periphery. The motto “E.PLURIBUS UNUM” (Out of Many One) on figures between the scales.

4)Big League Cards:

In the 1990s, the USMS brought out a series of “Sports Cards” commemorating notable Marshals and Dy. Marshals who served during various periods of the Service’s existence, designed by Big League Cards.

Some of the Cards brought out were:

John Abernathy, U.S. Marshal, Oklahoma Territory (1906-1910): famed for capturing hundreds of wolves without having to kill them. He had developed a technique by jamming his hands down the wolves throats to prevent them from attacking him.

John Brooks, U.S. Marshal, Distt. Of Massachusetts (1791-1796):

He joined the U.S. Revolutionary War and rose to be elected as Governor of Massachusetts in 1816.

Al Butler, Dy. U.S. Marshal, Distt. Of Columbia & Maryland (1958-1975):

He helped change America by desegregating schools in the American South.

Ada Carnutt, Dy. U.S. Marshal, Oklahoma Territory, (1863):

One of the first women to wear a Dy. Marshal’s badge, she arrested two forgers and personally escorted them to jail.

Lewis Cass, U.S. Marshal, District of Ohio (1807-1813):

He rose to the position of Brigadier General during the War of 1812, and held several positions as Governor, Senator from Michigan, Secretary of War, Minister to France and Secretary of State.

Charles Devens, U.S. Marshal, Distt. Of Massachusetts (1850-1853):

A Harvard graduate, he fought for the Union during the U.S. Civil War and was wounded twice in battle. In 1877, he rose to the position of Attorney General.

Frederick Douglass, U.S. Marshal, Distt. Of Columbia (1877-1881):

He was one of the best known opponents of slavery and a leader in the abolitionist cause. He was the first African-American to be appointed to the post of U.S. Marshal.

Wyatt Earp, Dy. U.S. Marshal, District of Arizona (1882):

In 1881, Wyatt and 3 other associates challenged the Clanton and McLaury brothers at the O.K. Corral. This action has been recreated in an Action Movie “Gunfight at O.K. Corral”. Wyatt is regarded as a popular American hero.

Robert Forsyth, U.S. Marshal, District of Georgia (1789-1794):

He fought for the U.S. in the Revolutionary war. He became the first U.S. Marshal of Georgia in 1789. In 1794, he became the first U.S. Marshal to be killed in the line of duty.

Katherine Battle Gordy, Dy. U.S. Marshal, Southern Distt. Of Alabama (1936-1952):

 She served as a Dy. U.S. Marshal for 16 years and acted temporarily as the first woman U.S. Marshal in 1949.

Ward Hill Lamon, U.S. Marshal, Distt. Of Columbia (1861-1866):

He was Abraham Lincoln’s law partner and was appointed as U.S. Marshal for the capital and was tasked with protecting Lincoln. On 13.04.1865, he was sent to Richmond VA and Lincoln was assassinated on the following night in Washington D.C.

Chris Madsen, Dy. U.S. Marshal, Oklahoma Territories (1891-1911):

Chris Madsen, Bill Tilghman and Heck Thomas were nicknamed the “Three Guardsmen of Oklahoma”, because of their dedication to establishing law & order in the Indian and Oklahoma territories.

George Maledon, Dy. U.S. Marshal, Western District of Arkansas (1874-1894):

He was nicknamed the “Prince of Hangmen” because he served as “Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker’s chief executioner responsible for the hangings of 60 of the 79 men sentenced to death by Parker.

William “Bat” Matterson, Dy. U.S. Marshal Kansas, Southern District of New York (1879-1881, 1905-1909):

He was Sheriff and Dy. U.S. Marshal of Kansas before he shifted to Arizona. He was an Indian fighter and known for his dandy dress and for being an excellent shot.

James J.P. Mcshane, Chief, U.S. Marshals Service (1962-1968):

He carried out Federal Court orders to desegregate the American South and protected those who marched with Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

David Neagle, Dy. U.S. Marshal, Northern District of California (1889):

He shot & killed David Terry who attacked a Supreme Court Justice. Neagle was arrested for murder and released after a landmark case that set precedents for and defined the power of the Executive branch of the US Government.

Evitt Dumas Nix, U.S. Marshal, Oklahoma Territory (1893-1896):

He supervised the work of more than 150 Deputies, including the famous “Three Guardsmen” and his men made several arrests to maintain law & order in the supervised territories.

Pablo de La Guerray Noriega, U.S. Marshal, Southern Districh of California (1850-1854):

He was the first Hispanic appointed as a U.S. Marshal and the first U.S. Marshal for the Southern district of California.

Bass Reeves, Dy. U.S. Marshal, Indian & Oklahoma Territories (1875-1907):

He was born as a slave and worked a Dy. U.S. Marshal for the “Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker.

A very brave man, he single-handedly arrested and brought to trial 19 horse thieves.

Dorothy Rose, Dy. U.S. Marshal, Northern District of Illinois (1929):

She was the youngest Dy. Marshal appointed at the age of 21 during the Great Depression.

Norman E. Sherriff, Dy. U.S. Marshal, Distt. Of Columbia (1966-1971):

He escorted a prisoner to the funeral of the prisoner’s father, where Sherriff was killed in a bloody gunfight on the church steps while he tried to prevent the prisoner from escaping with the help of his sympathisers.

Henry “Heck” Thomas, Dy. U.S. Marshal, Oklahoma Territory (1886-1911):

He was the toughest of the “Three Guardsmen” of Oklahoma. He arrested the toughest criminals. On 24.08.1896, his posse ambushed the notorious bank robber and murderer Bill Doolin and Thomas shot him dead in the ensuing gunfight.

William “Bill” Tilghman, Dy. U.S. Marshal, Oklahoma Territory (1886-1911):

He and his colleagues Heck Thomas and Chris Madsen were nicknamed the “Three Guardsmen” of Oklahoma and were instrumental in bringing law and order to the Indian and Oklahoma Territories.

William S. Tough, U.S. Marshal, Distt. of Kansas (1873-1876):