IRON CROSS – 1870 – 2nd CLASS – SPANGE
The Iron Cross forms a rich part of German military history. First introduced in 1813 by King Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, it marked a dramatic change from the past. Before, decorations and honors had been bestowed on officers. The institution of the two Iron Cross classes broke with this tradition by recognizing ALL soldiers, regardless of rank. With the advent of the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian War, King Wilhelm I (soon to be crowned KAISER Wilhelm I in 1871) again authorized the Iron Cross’s award to all German soldiers. Kaiser Wilhelm I’s grandson, Wilhelm II, then authorized a set of Twenty-Five-Year Oak Leaves in 1895 to commemorate the Franco-Prussian War’s jubilee AND the award of the 1870 Iron Cross 2nd Class.
When 1914 brought the beginning of WW I, Wilhelm II again authorized the Iron Cross’s award, but with a difference. He introduced a Spange (Bar) to be awarded to soldiers who previously had received the 1870 Iron Cross 2nd Class. [PLEASE NOTE: Approximately 50,000 Iron Crosses 2nd Class were awarded during and following the Franco-Prussian War. Remember, by 1914 the soldiers who had been awarded the prior war’s Iron Cross 2nd Class were in their sixties. Obviously, a good number of them were no longer alive, and I have NO information as to how many actually received the Spange. Two important 1870 Iron Cross 2nd Class recipients do come to mind, however, Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen and Generalfeldmarschall Paul von Hindenburg].
The Spange measures 1 1/4” x 1 1/2.” A small, enamel, 1914 Iron Cross, with pebbled arms extending outward from the Iron Cross, sits in its center.
The Spange’s reverse sports a slider through which an Iron Cross’s ribbon can be inserted. The Wagner and Söhne manufacturer’s hallmark is engraved on the Spange’s reverse, along with a Hohenzollern Eagle, a half moon, and its .800 silver content. The slider also reveals a depression in its center where it was pressed down to hold it against the ribbon.
Please note one final bit of information. The Spange was intended for use on an 1870 Iron Cross 2nd Class with the Twenty-Five-Year Oak Leaves, which completes its proper presentation. Naturally, one can display the Spange alone, however, its appearance is absolutely exquisite when combined with the other two pieces!