History

Godfrey LundbergThe engraving of the Lord’s Prayer Pin is the remarkable story of a unique artistic talent fused with intense personal discipline, heroic fortitude, and tenacious will power. The following account chronicles Godfrey Lundberg, his engraving of the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a gold pin, and his subsequent world-famous success after numerous obstacles and heart-breaking setbacks.

Godfrey Lundberg

Godfrey Emanuel Lundberg (1879-1933) was a distinguished engraver in Spokane and Seattle during the early part of the twentieth century. He is most noted for his hand engraving of the Lord’s Prayer on the tiny head of a gold pin that was displayed at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and won a gold medal in engraving. He engraved the world-famous pin in Spokane, Washington from 1913 to 1915.

Early Life

Godfrey Lundberg was born in Westervik, Sweden on May 4, 1879. He was the second child of Isak and Edla Maria Lundberg.1 In 1891 when Lundberg was 12 years old his parents and their five children moved to the United States and settled in Spokane, Washington where his father was hired by a Swedish Lutheran Church to be its music director.2

Lundberg entered the Spokane public schools and excelled in art and music. As a 14 year old, one of his pen and ink drawings was good enough to be chosen for exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.3 This was a precursor of illustrious things to come. Twenty-two years later, in 1915 at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, his remarkable engraving of the Lord’s Prayer on a tiny gold pin head amazed thousands of visitors from all over the world.

Music was a large part of the Lundberg family and all the children were musical. Godfrey Lundberg played the cornet locally in Spokane. He was also a cornet player in the military during the Spanish American War from 1898 to 1899. He was in the First Washington Infantry Band that saw duty in the Philippines.4

Spokane, Washington, early 1900'sFollowing his service in the military, Lundberg returned to Spokane. Few details are available about his life during the first decade of the twentieth century. It is, however, known that two times during that period he studied in Europe under Herberich, a German government engraver, and also, in Germany, engraved banknotes for the German Government.5 By 1911 he was an established engraver in Spokane working for the E. J. Hyde Jewelry Company. Lundberg and his wife Anna (1886-1942) lived at 212 Riverside Ave.6 In 1912 their only child, son Godfrey Edris Lundberg (1912-1948), was born. Godfrey Lundberg had his own engraving business in Spokane from 1914-1918.7 In addition to normal engraving jobs such as stationary, wedding invitations, business cards, steel die embossing and die cutting, Lundberg did fine engraving and designing for a number of wealthy eastern clients.

His Masterpiece—The Lord’s Prayer Pin

Certificate regarding Paul Wentz' 2mm pin.It was professional pride8 that inspired Godfrey Lundberg to attempt engraving the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a tiny pin only .047 inch in diameter. In 1907, Paul P. Wentz engraved the Lord’s Prayer on a brass pin head with a diameter of 2mm or .079 inch and an area of 0.00487 sq. inch. Wentz’s pin is in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia located at 1300 Locust St.9 Lundberg became aware of this pin and was convinced that he could do a much more difficult piece of work, namely engrave the Lord’s Prayer on a pin head with a much smaller area. He chose a gold pin with a head diameter of .047 inch and an area of 0.00173 sq. inch, about one third the area of the Wentz pin head. He preferred gold, as it is very stable and does not corrode, rust, or become negatively affected by age.

Before commencing the work, Lundberg realized that he needed to be in top physical shape to undergo the rigors of such a long, nerve-racking endeavor.

Lundberg article in Spokane Spokesman ReviewA Spokane Spokesman-Review article of Feb. 21, 1915 stated:

“First, he went into training. The steadiness of nerve that would be required could come only as the result of a conditioning process stricter than that of the highly trained athlete. Tobacco, coffee and like indulgences were out of the question. Fresh air and exercise were necessary. Complete rest for the eyes had to be assured. When he felt himself ‘fit’ Lundberg started the next stage, which was the manufacture of a special engraving tool, which had to be of a degree of fineness beyond that attempted by the makers of the most minute instruments. It took six months to perfect the graver. The point had to be of steel and the steel had to be specially tempered so that it would hold an unprecedentedly fine point that would cut and that would not be brittle. The process by which he tempered his steel is one of Lundberg’s secrets. When he finished he had a point so fine that it was hardly visible to the naked eye, and yet had sufficient tensile strength to last through the whole long-drawn, nerve-straining process.”10

To keep his arm, hand, fingers, microscope, graver, and pin steady enough for this most delicate job of engraving, Lundberg assembled an original piece of equipment that clamped everything rigid except the tips of his fingers. Alvin H. Hankins, a jeweler and lens grinder that knew Lundberg and eventually was his employer in Seattle, was present during most of the engraving. In the early 1930s he wrote to Ripley’s Believe It or Not in response to one of their cartoons (Dec. 16, 1929) that wrongly credited a Mr. Charles Baker with engraving the pin.

In Julie Mooney’s book The World of Ripley’s Believe It or Not we read:

“Shortly after the cartoon was published, Ripley’s received a letter from Alvin H. Hankins of Seattle, Washington, who claimed that Baker was a fraud. Hankins insisted that Charles Edward Baker didn’t make the pin—the late Godfrey E. Lundberg did, before Hankins’ eyes. Hankins, a lens grinder, had been present during the entire time Lundberg worked on the pin. He told of the grueling conditions Lundberg imposed upon himself to complete the work. Lundberg worked from a barber’s chair, strapping his hands to an iron bar to keep them from shaking. He also bound his wrists tightly with leather straps, because the rhythm of his pulse caused the engraving tool to skip. Lundberg could only work on the pin in the evenings, when the rumbling trolley cars that passed by his shop had stopped running for the day. He destroyed more than two hundred pins in his attempt to create one perfect engraving.”11

According to another source Lundberg “had to time the strokes of his stylus to the beat of his pulse, because the slight movement of his blood would have destroyed the work.”12

Godfrey LundbergGodfrey Lundberg only worked on the pin for a short period of time in the late hours of the night or early hours of the morning. There was too much vibration from activity in the area at other times. The article tells of a tragic setback that tested his will and determination.

“In spite of all precautions there were several setbacks, one of them particularly disheartening. Two or three pins Lundberg had started, only to have some unexpected minute jar deflect the needle and spoil the letters that had been drawn. But finally eight of the 12 lines had been completed and the end was in sight. Starting early one morning on the ninth line Lundberg saw through the microscope the graving tool swerve and cut through the completed part. He had felt no jar, but he knew there must have been one. He ran out of the shop, could see no vehicle on the deserted streets, but heard the rumble of a heavy truck. It was two blocks away, but its effect had been as destructive as if it had been in the same room. The work had to be begun all over. ‘I came near giving up the job’, says Lundberg when he tells about this tragic event. But he started out, a few strokes a night, reaching his home early every morning with each individual nerve on edge and with eyes aching from the strain. He has calculated that 1863 strokes of the graver went into the task.”13

There is evidence that Lundberg most likely worked on the pin at more than one location in downtown Spokane during the years 1913-1915. The original Spokane Spokesman-Review article mentioned above gives the address of Lundberg’s shop as 504 Sprague Avenue, which would have located it in the Drexel Hotel on the northwest corner of Sprague and Stevens. In a subsequent reprint of the original article the address was changed to 394 Sprague Ave. The first address is most likely correct because the R.L. Polk Spokane City Directory for 1915, under the heading Engravers, shows Godfrey Lundberg’s business address as W 504 Sprague Ave. This would definitely put his shop in the Drexel Hotel. Also the 394 Sprague Ave. address has not been established as existing at the time Lundberg engraved the pin. If that address did however exist at that time, it would have had to have been in the old Lindell Building on the corner of Washington and Sprague. That building was torn down in 1963. The Drexel Hotel was demolished in 2004 and a parking lot has now replaced it. In 1914 the Polk Directory shows Lundberg’s business address as 26-27 Symons Blk. at the corner of Sprague and Howard. The Polk Directory does not mention Lundberg’s business address in 1913.

The Lord's Prayer Pin by Godfrey Lundberg closeupAfter finishing his magnum opus, Godfrey Lundberg, as a finale, engraved on the point of a fine gold needle the letters “IHS” for “Iesus Hominum Salvator” or “Jesus, Savior of Men”. The nervous strain of engraving his masterpiece caused Lundberg to loose weight and culminated in a nervous breakdown after he had finished the incredible engraving feat. He declared, “I wouldn’t undertake a feat like that again for any amount of money.” It should be noted here that Godfrey Lundberg had previously engraved another needle point with the letters “US” for United States. That needle was displayed with the pin at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and on the two-year tour of forty-three states directly following the exposition. Lundberg gave the “IHS” needle to a friend in the engraving/jewelry business, most likely Alvin H. Hankins.14

After completing the pin, Lundberg and his brother Carl designed air-tight glass holders for the pin and needle, stands for the two microscopes required to see the engravings, and a carrying case for the engravings, stands, and microscopes. Being exhausted with nervous prostration and in desperate need of total rest, Lundberg entrusted the task of revealing the pin to the public to his brothers Carl and Mauritz.

Spokane dignitaries were the first to see the marvelous engravings and official letters of appreciation and authentication were received from the Spokane County Commissioners15, Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney16 and the Spokane County Superior Court.17

Panama-Pacific Exposition and Tour of the Country

Display of Lundberg's engraved pin at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco 1915Brothers Carl and Mauritz exhibited Lundberg’s engravings at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco where they were displayed in the Palace of Liberal Arts for three months and viewed by thousands of people. The pin was awarded a gold medal in engraving.18

Following the exposition in 1915 brother Mauritz Lundberg (with brother Carl occasionally joining) toured the country for two years displaying the engravings in forty-three states and parts of Canada. In 1916, while on tour, the now world-famous pin was photographed through a microscope by Professor F. L. Whitney at Texas State University.19

Newspaper clippings from the tour indicate how well the engravings were received all across the country. The Omaha newspaper declared the pin to be “the greatest engraving feat every performed.”20 According to the Jackson Citizen Press (Jackson, Michigan) Lundberg’s masterpiece was “acclaimed by The Scientific American and Popular Mechanics as the most remarkable bit of engraving in the world.”21

The Detroit Free Press reported:

“Engraving experts from all parts of the world, when they saw the work on display at the Panama-Pacific Exposition last year declared them to be the most wonderful examples of the engraver’s art the world has ever seen.”22

In a Mobile, Alabama newspaper we read:

“Engravers of Mobile admitted they were skeptical of the engraving work until they had been shown. They agree now that no accomplishment in engraving has ever approached Lundbergs.”23

Lundberg in Omaha Newspaper 6-18-1916At Sharon, Pennsylvania in September of 1917 the engraver Paul P. Wentz, who engraved the larger pin that inspired Lundberg to engrave the prayer on a much smaller pin, saw Lundberg’s pin. The local Sharon newspaper reported:

“Beating even the wonderful record of Paul Wentz, the local jeweler, who engraved the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin, is the work of Godfrey Lundberg of Spokane, Wash…. When shown the Lundberg specimen, Paul said he certainly took off his hat to the man who did it.”24

The Salem, Massachusetts newspaper reported:

“It was the most marvelous thing ever seen and it passes human comprehension that such a feat could be possible. …The Low engravers (Daniel Low Company) had heard or read about it, but never had believed it until they were yesterday afternoon convinced by their own eyes.”25

According to the Haverville Evening Gazette:

“At the Panama-Pacific Exposition the work was considered the most remarkable example of the engraving art ever seen.”26

According to many newspaper articles from the tour, Godfrey Lundberg was offered $10,000 to $20,000 for the engraving collection (see Letters and Articles for details).

Having won critical acclaim for his masterpiece engraving, Lundberg now enjoyed an international reputation. He was approached by the United States Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Engraving and Printing and strongly requested to move to Washington, D.C. and work on plates for United States currency. But Lundberg liked the Pacific Northwest and refused the offer, which stipulated that he move back east.27 A man who rented a room in the Lundberg home for two years, later revealed that he was a Department of the Treasury informant that had kept Lundberg under surveillance to make sure he did not counterfeit U.S. currency.28 There is no record of any illegal engraving done by Godfrey Lundberg.

It should me mentioned here that, in addition to the pin and needle, Lundberg made a set of dies that were used to make brass stampings of the Lord’s Prayer. These dies were of various sizes, all of which were substantially larger in diameter than the original gold pin.

The stampings were affixed to small crosses and various types of pins and sold as souvenir curios. Collectors, curiosity shops and enthusiasts purchased them. One thousand stampings of various diameters were made. On hearing that individuals as well as some curio shops were claiming a stamping as the original Lord’s Prayer Pin, Lundberg soon discontinued making stampings. The die set and several pins and crosses remain in the Lord’s Prayer Pin collection.

Moves to Seattle

Godfrey LundbergIn 1919 Lundberg, his wife Anna, and son Edris moved to Seattle, Washington where he was employed by his longtime friend Alvin H. Hankins. This was the same Mr. Hankins that had witnessed Lundberg engraving the famous pin and later would write to Ripley’s. He was now in the jewelry manufacturing business in Seattle and was eager to have Lundberg work for him. Mr. Hankin’s business was located at 614 Holland Building in downtown Seattle. Later he moved the business to 1417 4th Avenue and for a few years also had a retail outlet in the Olympic Hotel Lobby called the Olympic Gem Shop.29

Lundberg did not work for himself after coming to Seattle. He did however make many United States Government medals 30 and also one-of-a-kind custom pieces of jewelry for wealthy clients. We can assume that these were contracts that Mr. Hankins had procured and engaged Godfrey to work on. Never a talented businessman, but being an acknowledged world-class engraver, Lundberg’s association with Mr. Hankins was mutually beneficial. As mentioned earlier, it is most likely that Lundberg gave the gold needle with “IHS” engraved on the point to Hankins.

Not long after moving to Seattle, Lundberg and his wife Anna purchased a home in the Roanoke Park neighborhood of Seattle. Their address was 2835 12th Avenue North31 Years later 12th Avenue North was changed to Boyer Avenue East so that house now has the address 2835 Boyer Avenue East.

Godfrey Lundberg's gravestoneGodfrey Lundberg died in 1933 at the Naval Hospital in Bremerton, Washington. He was 54 years old. Anna, his widow, continued to live in their home. She died in 1942 at the age of 56.

Godfrey Lundberg is buried at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery in Seattle. The world-renowned engraver preferred to be humbly buried in the military veteran’s section. His wife Anna and son Edris are also buried at Evergreen-Washelli.

Lundberg’s world-famous engravings have remained in a bank vault since the tour was completed in late 1917. There have been no major public showings and only a few private showings since then.

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References

  1. Royal Vice Consulate of Sweden in Seattle, official translation from Swedish on 4/27/55 of vital statistics for Parish of Uppsala, Province of Uppsala, Kingdom Of Sweden
    • Father: Isak Lundberg, born 9/4/1845 in Tuna, Uppsala, Kingdom of Sweden
    • Mother: Edla Maria, born 12/8/1853 in Norrtelje, Kingdom of Sweden
    • Children:
      • Elin Maria, born 2/13/1877 in Westervik, Kingdom of Sweden
      • Gottfrid Emanuel, born 5/4/1879 in Westervik, Kingdom of Sweden
      • Signhild, born 12/7/1880 in Westervik, Kingdom of Sweden
      • Paul Fabian, born 12/20/1882 in Westervik and died 3/14/1887 in Sweden
      • Carl Edvard Isak, born 6/4/1885 in Oskarshamn, Kingdom of Sweden
      • Mauritz Fabian, born 2/26/1887 in Uppsala, Kingdom of Sweden
  2. Lundberg family oral history
  3. Spokane Spokesman-Review February 21, 1915
  4. Official History of the Operations of the First Washington Infantry, U.S.V. by William L.
    Luhn p. 63
  5. Spokane Spokesman-Review February 21, 1915
  6. R. L. Polk Spokane City Directory 1911
  7. R. L. Polk Spokane City Directories 1914-1918
  8. Lundberg family oral history
  9. Engraving Pin Heads by Paul Wentz; American Horologist & Jeweler; Feb. 1950
  10. Spokane Spokesman-Review Feb. 21, 1915
  11. The World of Ripley’s Believe It or Not by Julie Mooney; 1999, Black Dog & Leventhal
    Publishers p. 85
  12. Journal-American (Bellevue, WA) June 12, 1984
  13. Spokane Spokesman-Review Feb. 21, 1915
  14. Lundberg family oral history
  15. Letter dated March 9, 1915 Spokane County Office of County Commissioners
  16. Letter dated March 18, 1915 Spokane County Office of John B. White, Prosecuting Attorney
  17. Letter dated March 15, 1915 Superior Court of the State of Washington for the County of
    Spokane, Judge Henry L. Kennan
  18. Journal-American (Bellevue, WA) June 12, 1984: Lundberg family oral history
  19. The Baltimore American; clipping from Pin Tour scrapbook; a clipping from the St. Joseph, Missouri paper in 1916 claims the photograph of the pin was taken by scholars at the University of Texas
  20. Omaha newspaper clipping dated Sunday, June 18, 1916 – from Pin Tour scrapbook
  21. Jackson Citizen Press article, July 1916 – from Pin Tour scrapbook
  22. Detroit Free Press article, July or August 1916 – from Pin Tour scrapbook
  23. Newspaper clipping from a Mobil, Alabama paper – from Pin Tour scrapbook
  24. Newspaper clipping from Sharon, Penn., Sept. 1917 – from Pin Tour scrapbook
  25. Newspaper clipping from a Salem, Mass. paper, Friday, Sept. 21, 1917 – from Pin Tour scrapbook
  26. Haverville Evening Gazette Sept. 1917 – from Pin Tour scrapbook
  27. Lundberg family oral history
  28. Lundberg family oral history
  29. R. L. Polk Seattle City Directories 1920s and 1930s
  30. Lundberg family oral history
  31. R. L. Polk Seattle City Directories 1920s and 1930s: Lundberg family oral history