The front of the medal, which is small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, is engraved with the city seal of Methuen.
The late Ira Sherman of Methuen received the medal from the city as a token of appreciation for his service in World War I.
But beyond that, city officials don't know much else about the unique medal that is about to be added to local historical collection.
What they do know is that Sherman's daughter, who lives in California, gave the medal to Sara Payne Hayden, an 87-year-old veteran. The two women knew each other through the American Legion, Methuen Women's Post 417.
Hayden suggested that Patricia May Sherman donate the medal to the local Historical Commission for public display. May Sherman, as she was known in Methuen, asked Hayden to safeguard the medal and get it into the city's collection.
Tomorrow Hayden will present the medal to Historical Commission Chairman Glenn Gaudreau during a ceremony at City Hall at 6 p.m. All of the city's veterans are invited to attend the ceremony and reception.
Hayden had no idea the city had created the special medals.
"I thought it was awesome," said Hayden, a veteran of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who served in World War II and remains active in local veterans issues. "I've never seen a World War I medal from our town. All this, as a veteran, carries special meaning for me."
Local historian Dan Gagnon said it was common for cities like Methuen to issue so-called medals of gratitude as far back as the Civil War and Spanish-American War.
"Governments tended to strike special medals of recognition up to World War I," said Gagnon, past chairman of the Historical Commission. "These were not like earning a purple heart. The community wanted to express in some way their gratitude."
Local officials have no idea how many medals of gratitude were made or how they were awarded. This is believed to be the first medal of its kind that has made it back to the city, several historians said.
"It's coming full circle," Gaudreau said. "It's part of the city history. It's great for this medal to come back."
Any addition to the city's historical collection is important, Gaudreau said.
"There are two perspectives on this," said Lynn Smiledge, Methuen's historical planner. "For the Historical Commission as the stewards of the collection, each addition increases the value of the whole collection as a resource for the community and for researchers. It tells a better story. And whoever is giving it can feel good that the item is safe and secure and will be appreciated by a larger audience. The mark these people made on the community will be remembered through their possessions."
The Historical Commission manages all of the city's historical artifacts, Smiledge said. The collection, currently stored in the basement of the Masonic Hall, includes documents, books, clothing, tools and other war artifacts.
City historians are looking for a permanent home for the entire collection.
For now, Sherman's medal will be kept with the rest of the collection. Smiledge hopes to put the medal on temporary display somewhere with other World War I artifacts.
"It's not an ideal location, and the public doesn't really have access to it," said Smiledge of the Masonic Hall. "There are a couple of (other) properties that look promising."
A commission has been looking at potential sites that could provide a publicly accessible space for these artifacts. Smiledge said the commission has several options it is considering and plans to make a recommendation to the mayor soon.
If You Go
What: Presentation of World War I medal to Historical Commission, hosted by the mayor and City Council
When: Tomorrow, 6 p.m.
Where: Methuen City Hall, Great Hall, 41 Pleasant St.
Who: All veterans and their families are invited to attend ceremony and reception.