Benjamin Cardozo medal designed by Gerta Ries Wiener, struck by Medallic Art Company in quantities of 400 bronze, 118 pure silver and 30 10kt gold. Obverse: Portrait, Benjamin Cardozo (signature), Gerta Wiener. Reverse: U.S. Supreme Court building, THE FINAL CAUSE OF LAW IS THE WELFARE OF SOCIETY, JUSTICE BENJAMIN NATHAN CARDOZO 1870-1938. 45 x 44 mm.

Born in 1870 as a twin, Benjamin Cardozo grew up in his family’s Madison Avenue home in New York City. His early education was carried out at home … and his tutor was Horatio Alger, who was already a world-famous author of “rags to riches” books. Cardozo enrolled in Columbia University before his 16th birthday, becoming its youngest student. He graduated with the highest scholastic record in its history.

In 1913, following the urging of civic reform leaders, Cardozo won a seat on the New York Supreme Court. After serving for only a few months, the governor named him to the more prestigious Court of Appeals, where he served with great distinction until President Hoover appointed him to the United States Supreme Court in 1932 — where he served until his death in 1938.

Cardozo’s opinions are easily recognized by their “clarity, conciseness suffused with moral luminosity, and a command of historical material that is unrivaled in the entire common-law tradition,” according to Judge Sidney Asch.

Benjamin Cardozo is particularly noted for his original thinking as expounded in his books, where he emphasized that a judge had to look beyond the legal authorities to meet responsibility to those seeking justice. He was a bulwark in defense of New Deal legislation, ruling in favor of the constitutionality of important programs such as social security and old-age pensions.

Between February 1, 1790 when the United States Supreme Court first met in New York City, and October 7, 1935 when the justices convened in their present building in Washington, D.C., the court held sessions in a dozen different places including Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, the basement of the Capitol, and even at Long’s Tavern in Washington. The Supreme Court Building was built thanks to the efforts of President — and later Chief Justice — William Howard Taft. In 1929, Congress appropriated 9.74 million dollars for the Supreme Court Building. The classic Greek-Corinthian structure was completed under budget, and $94,000 was returned to the US Treasury.

Charles E. Hughes Supreme Court photograph, Signed by all nine Justices.
Cardozo is on the far right in upper row. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

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