The following is from a private manuscript in my possession, written by Col. John Russell in 1850, whose father was one of the “Sons,” and an active participator during those stirring scenes (with Paul Revere, [Thomas] Melville, [Samuel] Sprague, etc.), a school master living during the war on Temple street, Boston.William Russell (1748-1784) was indeed on the first published list of Tea Party members in 1835. During the war he served in Col. Thomas Crafts’s state artillery regiment and on Capt. John Manley’s ship Jason, becoming a prisoner of war twice and dying of a disease contracted in captivity. He was also Kimball’s great-grandfather.
Col. Russell says, “The Sons of Liberty consisted of an association of spirited men, who were determined to resist the oppressive edicts of the British Ministry, and to sustain and support each other in their efforts to rescue the town and country from the thraldom of tyrannic power. On public occasions each member wore suspended from his neck a medal, on one side of which was the figure of a stalwart arm, grasping in its hand a pole surmounted with a Cap of Liberty, and surrounded by the words, ‘Sons of Liberty.’ On the reverse was the emblem of the Liberty Tree. One of these medals I once had in my possession, with the initials of my father’s name, W. R., engraved thereon, but it was many years ago irrecoverably lost.”
Francis S. Drake repeated Kimball’s statement (without credit) in Tea Leaves (1884). Elbridge Goss quoted it with credit in his 1891 biography of Revere. In the juvenile biography Paul Revere: The Torch Bearer of the Revolution (1913), Belle Moses declared that Revere himself had made those medals. The Sons of Liberty medal also makes an appearance in Esther Forbes’s novel Johnny Tremain, where it serves as a secret signal among members of the society.
G. Gedney Godwin has produced its own version of the medal, shown above. The firm’s webpage credits Revere with the original design and “Bell Moses” for preserving the description.
Yet the medal John Russell described in 1850 was never found again. Nor has any other family produced or written about such a medal, despite how every other member of the Boston Sons of Liberty was supposed to own one. And there’s no contemporaneous mention of such medals, despite how those men were supposed to wear theirs on “public occasions.”
So I’m not really convinced that the Sons of Liberty actually had these medals. Or any medals at all.