Croker, John (1670-1741) (DNB00)

CROKER, JOHN, or (un-Anglicised) CROCKER, JOHANN (1670–1741), a well-known engraver of English coins and medals, of German origin, was born at Dresden 21 Oct. 1670. His father, who was wood-carver and cabinet-maker to the electoral court of Saxony, died when Croker was very young, leaving him and several younger children to the care of their mother (Rosina Frauenlaub), who was careful about their education. John Croker's godfather, a near relation, took him as an apprentice to his business of goldsmith and jeweller at Dresden. During his leisure hours Croker worked at medal-engraving and tried to improve his knowledge of drawing and modelling. On the expiration of his apprenticeship he visited most of the large towns of Germany in the practice of his profession as jeweller. He afterwards went to Holland, whence he came to England towards the end of 1691. In England he engaged himself to a jeweller, but at last began to work exclusively as a medallist. In 1697 he was appointed an assistant to Captain Harris, the chief engraver of the mint, who practically handed over the execution of his work to Croker. In this year Croker produced his first known English medal, relating to the peace of Ryswick. On the death of the chief engraver, which took place before 12 Oct. 1704, there were five candidates for the vacant post. The officers of the mint reported to the lord high treasurer that of these candidates ‘Mr. Rose … seemed qualified;’ that ‘Colonel Parsons and Mr. Fowler did not themselves grave, and therefore were not fit for the service of the mint,’ and that Croker was ‘a very able artist.’ The appointment was given to Croker on 7 April 1705. He engraved all the dies for the gold and silver coins current during the reigns of Anne and George I [the pattern (?) for the guinea of 1727 (George I) was perhaps by a pupil of Croker's (Kenyon, Gold Coins of England, p. 189)], as well as the dies for the gold coins of George II till the middle of 1739, and for the silver coins with ‘the young head,’ from 1727 to 1741 inclusive. In copper he made the halfpennies and farthings of George I, and those of the first coinage of George II (i.e. before 1740). Croker also made several of the pattern halfpennies of Queen Anne as well as the well-known pattern farthings of her reign, including the specimen of 1714 with ‘Britannia’ reverse, probably current (W. Wroth, in the Academy, 28 March 1885, p. 229). Three of the reverse types of the pattern farthings (Montagu, Copper Coins, p. 50, Nos. 12, 13, 16) seem to be distinctly historical—referring to the peace of Utrecht (1713); and it would appear that Croker was thus attempting to carry out the novel recommendation of Dean Swift, that the English farthings (and half-pence) ‘should bear devices and inscriptions alluding to the most remarkable parts of her majesty's reign’—a suggestion which (Swift says) the lord treasurer had at last fallen in with (Swift, Letter to Mrs. Dingley, 4 Jan. 1712–13; Guardian, No. 96; cf. Ruding, Annals of the Coinage, ii. 64–5). Croker had a fine eyesight and was generally in excellent health; during the last two years of his life he became infirm, but he still occasionally occupied himself with his work at the mint, employing the remainder of his time (it is said) ‘in reading instructive and devotional books.’ He died 21 March 1741, aged 71. He married in 1705 an Englishwoman named Franklin (d 1735), by whom he had one child, a daughter, who died young.

From 1702 till 1732 Croker was constantly engaged in medal engraving. His medals, which are nearly all commemorative of events and not of persons, are always struck, not cast, and are, like his coins, very neatly turned out. The work of his reverses recalls that of his predecessors, the Roettiers, but is in lower relief; his designs are very pictorial and full of minute detail. A manuscript volume purchased by the British Museum at the sale of the library of Mr. Stanesby Alchorne, once an officer of the mint, contains many of Croker's original designs for medals as well as autographs of Sir Isaac Newton as master of the mint. Croker's earliest medals are—like all his coins and patterns for coins—unsigned. His ‘Queen Anne's Bounty’ medal of 1704 is signed I. C., and from that date this is his almost invariable signature. A few specimens (of 1704 and 1706) are signed Croker. In official documents he is called both ‘Croker’ and ‘Crocker.’ Croker was the public medallist of his time; but he had a private pecuniary interest in the sale of his works, as appears from a report of the officers of the mint to the lord high treasurer, stating that the officers were of ‘opinion that good graving was the best security of the coin, and was best acquired by graving medals;’ the gravers of the mint should therefore ‘have leave to make and sell such medals of fine gold and silver as did not relate to state affairs, and such medals as were made to reward persons by her majesty for good services, also such as had historical designs and inscriptions for great actions’ (Cal. Treasury Papers, report ‘dated 20 June 1706. Read 18 Aug. 1706. Agreed’). Croker's principal medals are as follows: the obverse type almost invariably consists of the head of the reigning sovereign:

Reign of William III

  1. ‘State of Britain after Peace of Ryswick,’ 1697.

Reign of Anne

  1. ‘Accession,’ 1702.
  2. ‘Coronation’ (official medal), 1702.
  3. ‘Anne and Prince George of Denmark,’ 1702; bust of Prince George.
  4. ‘Expedition to Vigo Bay,’ 1702; view of Vigo harbour (three pairs of dies).
  5. ‘Capitulation of Towns on the Meuse,’ 1702; Liège bombarded.
  6. ‘Cities captured by Marlborough,’ 1703.
  7. ‘Queen Anne's Bounty,’ 1704.
  8. ‘Battle of Blenheim,’ 1704.
  9. ‘Capture of Gibraltar,’ 1704.
  10. ‘Barcelona relieved,’ 1706.
  11. ‘Battle of Ramillies,’ 1706.
  12. ‘Union of England and Scotland,’ 1707.
  13. ‘Battle of Oudenarde,’ 1708.
  14. . ‘Capture of Sardinia and Minorca,’ 1708.
  15. ‘Citadel of Lille taken,’ 1708.
  16. ‘City of Tournay taken,’ 1709.
  17. ‘Battle of Malplaquet,’ 1709.
  18. ‘Douay taken,’ 1710.
  19. ‘Battle of Almenara,’ 1710.
  20. ‘The French lines passed, and Bouchain taken,’ 1711.
  21. ‘Peace of Utrecht,’ 1713 (Med. Ill. ii. 399–401).
  22. . Medallic portrait of Queen Anne, circ. A.D. 1704, no reverse (Med. Ill. ii. 417, No. 291).

Reign of George I

  1. ‘Arrival in England,’ 1714.
  2. ‘Entry into London,’ 1714.
  3. ‘Coronation,’ 1714 (official medal: several pairs of dies used).
  4. ‘Battle of Sheriffmuir,’ 1715.
  5. ‘Preston taken,’ 1715.
  6. ‘Act of Grace,’ 1717.
  7. ‘Treaty of Passarowitz,’ 1718.
  8. ‘Naval Action off Cape Passaro,’ 1718.
  9. ‘Caroline, Princess of Wales,’ 1718.
  10. ‘Order of the Bath revived,’ 1725.
  11. ‘Sir Isaac Newton,’ 1726.

Reign of George II

  1. ‘Coronation of George II,’ 1727 (official medal).
  2. ‘Queen Caroline, Coronation’ (official), 1727.
  3. ‘Second Treaty of Vienna,’ 1731.
  4. ‘Medal of the Royal Family,’ 1732, obverse; (rev. by J. S. Tanner).

A few of the reverses attached to Croker's obverses were made by Samuel Bull, one of the engravers at the English mint during the reigns of Anne and George I (see Med. Illust. ii. 296, 297, 317, 363, 374, 722). His constant signature is S. B.

[Memoir of Johann Crocker, by J. G. Pfister, in Numismatic Chronicle (old ser.), xv. (1853) 67–73 (cf. Proceedings of the Numismatic Society in same vol. p. 17), where there is an account of the Designs of John Croker (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 18757, f. 4) referred to in our text; Hawkins's Medallic Illustrations of Brit. Hist., ed. Franks and Grueber, i. xx–xxi; ii. 723, &c.; Bolzenthal's Skizzen zur Kunst-gesch. der mod. Medaillen-Arbeit, p. 264; Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ed. Wornum, ii. 642; notices (not important) in dictionaries of Nagler and Redgrave; Cal. Treasury Papers, ‘1702–1707,’ p. 297, and ib. ‘20 June, 1706;’ Hawkins's Silver Coins of England; Kenyon's Gold Coins; Montagu's Copper Coins; Henfrey's Guide to English Coins, ed. Keary, pp. 98, 257; Ruding's Annals of the Coinage, ii. 64, 65; Croker's Coins and Medals in the Medal Room, British Museum, and the Select Specimens exhibited in the Public Galleries, for which see Grueber's Guide to the English Medals exhibited, Index of Artists, s.v. ‘Crocker.’

W. W.