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Robert S. Chamberlain Collection of Military medals and coins

Identifier: SCU-RB-2014-1

The Robert S. Chamberlain Collection of Military Medals and Coins contains military medals, Greek and Roman coins, Civil War documents, and military figurines collected by the Latin American historian Robert Chamberlain (1903-1981), mostly during the late 1960s and 1970s. The collection also documents Chamberlain’s research in Hispanic American history during the colonial period and railroads. Robert Stoner Chamberlain was born in Canton, Ohio, on October 13, 1903. He received a B.A. in History from Stanford University in 1925, a B.S. in Education from Ohio State University in 1927, and a Ph.D. in History from Harvard University in 1936. He was a staff member in the Division of Historical Research at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. from 1936-1947. During the war years, he served as a cultural relations officer at the United States embassy in Guatemala City. He was an Associate Professor of History at the University of Miami, 1947-1948, and was in government service from 1948 until his retirement in 1965. His primary academic interest was Hispanic America during the colonial period. After retirement, he pursued his interests in Civil War history, collecting medals and coins, and doing some research on American railroads and trains.

Chamberlain gave this collection of medals, coins, and his personal papers to the University of South Carolina in 1979, together with his extensive Civil War library, presently housed in the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, and his railroad library, which is housed in Thomas Cooper Library. Chamberlain was an acquaintance of Dr. Francis Lord of the USC history department, whose own Civil War collection was acquired by the university library in 1971 and gave Chamberlain the impetus to make the gift of his own collection to USC. Upon his son’s death in 1999, the Chamberlain estate came to the university library, which established the Chamberlain Endowment for Reference and Information Resources.

Series 1 contains 234 military and commemorative medals in boxes 1-4. The collection is organized geographically, and chronologically thereunder. It begins in the Americas, with restrikes of United States Congressional Gold Medals and Indian Peace Medals. These are followed by war medals, most commonly from the 19th century, representing countries and territories throughout North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Most are original, though a few are restrikes or replicas and are noted as such below wherever known. Also included within the medals series are civilian-issued awards for civil service and the commemoration of important events such as anniversaries and deaths.

Series 2 contains coins, the majority of which are from ancient Greece and Rome. From Greece, there are coins struck in Macedon and Egypt. Roman coins are from the Republic and the Empire and include coins struck at Alexandria while under Roman control. The date range of the Greek and Roman coins is approximately 336 BC – AD 305. Finally, there are several Hungarian and British coins from the 18th and 19th centuries, respectively.

Series 3 contains United States Civil War records of individual soldiers. These papers include a declaration for pension, discharge papers, and a service record. Also included is the diary of B. Peterson, 2nd Maine Battery, detailing his War experiences from January 5, 1864 – April 25, 1865.

Series 4 contains fifteen boxes of Chamberlain’s research materials. Part A: Medal Research contains seven boxes of documents related to the collecting and purchase of war medals. This part includes catalogs, lists, and records for the medals Chamberlain purchased.

Also included is occasional correspondence between Chamberlain and dealers related to the purchases and cancelled checks reflecting prices paid. Papers are arranged alphabetically. Following these materials is a box containing Chamberlain’s research, including his notes, correspondence with questions and answers, and copies of reference materials and articles. Papers are arranged alphabetically. Also in this box is information on the Orders and Medals Society of America.

Series 4, Part B: Writings and Related Research contains eight boxes documenting Chamberlain’s professional work as a prominent historian of Central America and a researcher of railroad history. Following a copy of his CV is his Ph.D. dissertation, materials related to his two books: Conquest and Colonization of Yucatan and Conquest and Colonization of Honduras, and his research and translations of letters sent by Spanish Conquistador Francisco de Montejo to King Charles I. Following these are folders of background research on the Yucatan and Honduras. Next are folders of Chamberlain’s notes on America’s most important railways and steam engines that he used to correct existing publications on the topic. Copies of articles, poetry, and book reviews written by Chamberlain are next in the series, and these are followed by press coverage and clippings of Chamberlain and his academic work. Finally, there is one box of general correspondence not directly related to any of the topics listed above.

Series 5 is a collection of figurines, including American Civil War soldiers, cannons, and other artillery made in the 20th century. Series 6 contains a small group of oversized materials. In this box are additional soldier figurines, several 20th century natural history prints, contemporary copies of Native American photographs, a file box containing Chamberlain’s own index card records for his medals, and two file boxes containing notes on trains.


  • -392 - 1984


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All rights reside with the estate of the creator. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.


22 boxes


Arranged into 6 series: I. Coins; II. Medals; III. Manuscripts; IV. Writings and Research;, V. Figurines; VI. Oversized


Gift, 1979

Repository Details

Part of the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections Repository

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene Street
Columbia SC 29208 USA
(803) 777-3847

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