Century-Old Challenge Coin: The American Legion’s 1927 Paris Convention

The American Legion was founded in 1919 as a veterans service organization for soldiers who served in World War One, and they chose the 10th anniversary of America’s entrance into the war to make a mass pilgrimage back to France. Calling themselves the Second American Expeditionary Force, some 20,000 Legionnaires traveled to Paris in September 1927 for the Legion’s 8th annual conference. Far more than just formal organization business, it was a chance for veterans to see the battlefields again, meet with their French counterparts, and generally have a really good time. The event was coordinated years in advance, and one small element of it was the minting of commemorative medallions – aka challenge coins. This example was sent to me by a viewer, who got it from the widow of an American WWI veteran who attended the event.

The American Legion has two very cool pieces or history relating to the 1927 Convention in their digital archive. One is a compilation of 16mm film taken of the event, including festivities on Coney Island prior to embarkation and footage of the transit over. You can see that here:

They have also digitized the original program for the event, which includes a lot of information about the battlefield tourism available and general advice for Americans overseas. You can download it (26MB PDF) here:



  1. There are some pictures of the event in the French archive.
    Florida parade?
    New York parade
    The whole set of pictures

    When I think of all these young people who put their lives in danger to come and fight in my country, I feel a lot of gratitude and also a lot of sadness for those who have not returned.

  2. Wow, very cool.

    Great shot of the Marne at the end. Looks like some of the buildings show damage while the bridge is brand new. Guess commerce takes precedence.

    • Yes. The Legion was open from the start to ALL veterans regardless of ethnicity. Although it was not unusual for towns to have two ‘posts’ – one with whites and one for blacks. This was not due to a policy rather because veterans of BOTH sides appeared to prefer it – look up the the webpage discussing the history of Post 77 in Easton Maryland as an example. While Ian didn’t mention it, also bear in mind much of the rationale for organising the original legion veterans was as a counterbalance to communist revolutionaries such as the International Workers of the World (IWW). The aims of the IWW had many similarities to the Marxist scum currently rioting in Portland, Minneapolis etc, ie the overthrow of western democracy and its replacement with a communist dictatorship.

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