Medaillen “Altgummi Sammlung”

Medals for Scrap Rubber Collection

Token of gratitude was issued in 1916 to commemorate efforts of German subjects who took an active part in collecting scrap rubber at home front for the needs of the aviation industry. Two years after the Great War broke out, rubber supply to that sector of war economy fell apart at the seams, thus forcing German High Command to reduce rubber delivery to field motor-car and signals units. Rubber cloth shortage felt by manufacturers of observation and barrage balloons by the middle of 1917 made them use every possible means to switch over to ersatz materials, e.g. caoutchouc-soaked fabric and scrap rubber. The latter collected by patriotic Germans was immortalized in the medal in question.    

Design of the token was elaborated by the Berlin-based animal sculptor Georg August Gaul (22.10.1869-18.10.1921).

An obverse without border has wide plain rim bearing an inscription in capital letters “Scrap Rubber Collection” (“Altgummi Sammlung”) and a date at the bottom, “1916”. Each word and date are separated with incused large dots. Wide Greek cross against pebbled background is situated at the centre of the obverse. Two ants and two bees rushing to the edges between beams of the cross are put alternately.

A reverse, without border, has the fragment of the “Chorus of Ants” (“Chor der Ameisen”) taken from the Faust, the Second Part of the Tragedy (Faust. Der Tragödie zweiter Teil) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, running in four horizontal lines in capital letters: “Nimbly come in and out in such clefts as these” (“Das Allermindeste müsst Ihr entdecken auf das geschwindeste in allen Ecken”) as well as the name “Goethe” executed in slightly smaller script.

Below is the “Chorus of Ants” translated by the scholar of St.John’s College, Oxford, Leopold John Bernays and published in 1839.

“As the gigantic ones
Have pushed it forward,
Ye pattering footed ones,
Swiftly arise ye!
Nimbly come in and out!
In such clefts as these,
Is every bit and crumb
Worthy possession.
The very best of all
Ye must discover, 
Hasting most rapidly
Through every cranny.
Not idle must ye be,
Ye banded throngers;
In-gather ye the gold,
Heed not the mountain”.

Here’s the full German text of the “Chorus of Ants”:

“Wie ihn die Riesigen
Empor geschoben,
Ihr Zappelfüßigen
Geschwind nach oben!
Behendest aus und ein!
In solchen Ritzen
Ist jedes Bröselein
Werth zu besitzen.
Das Allermindeste
Müßt ihr entdecken
Auf das geschwindeste
In allen Ecken.
Allemsig müßt ihr seyn,
Ihr Wimmelschaaren;
Nur mit dem Gold herein!
Den Berg laßt fahren”

Symbolism of the medal design is determined by usage of ants by Goethe himself, who adopted their image from the works of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus describing ants as insects that collected gold dust. Image of a bee chosen by a medalist is non-stochastic as well, as that insect symbolized diligence and fervor from the earliest times. Moreover, Aryan tradition regarded bee as a symbol of a human soul.

Round medal measuring 30 mm in diameter and weighing 8,5 g was manufactured of lacquered blackened iron.

In certain cases that non-portable medal was modified to be worn suspended from a ribbon. The creative solution was undertaken by drilling a hole in place of an upper dot between words “Altgummi” and “Sammlung”. A small ring was used as an eyelet for attaching a thin horizontal clasp with a pin. Privately modified medal was worn on a ribbon of the national German flag, i.e. tricolor of three horizontal stripes, black, white and red.

To make an article complete, table medal of similar design issued in 1916 is worth being described here. An obverse, without a border, shows an oak blown by a strong wind from the East, with an upper part of its crown being covered with a thunderstorm cloud. The lower part of a trunk is flanked by two dates, “1914” on the left and “1915” on the right. The date “1916” is placed below the tree. Name of the designer in capital letters, “Gaul” is situated at the very bottom. A reverse, also without a border, has the same fragment of the “Chorus of Ants” running in four horizontal lines in capital letters. The name “Goethe” is executed in smaller script and is placed slightly below the main line. The stanza is alternately surrounded with five ants and five bees, placed very close to the edge.

Round medal measuring 69 mm in diameter was manufactured of cast iron.

Medal for Scrap Rubber Collection 1