Dr. Alexander Michaels Rackus (Aleksandra Mykola Račkus), MD joined the Club in February or March 1919, becoming Charter Member No. 16. He served as Vice President 1920-21 and President in 1928. He was a frequent exhibitor and occasional speaker at Club meetings. Dr. Rackus kept up his membership in the Chicago Coin Club during the 1930s, returning several times from Europe and speaking at the June 4, 1941 meeting. But during World War II he was again away and let his membership drop, and though he returned to Chicago after the war he did not rejoin, but he did retain his A.N.A. membership the rest of his life.
Immigrating to the U.S. from what was then Russia with his father in 1910, Dr. Rackus (June 7, 1893 – Oct. 9, 1965) earned his medical degree in 1922. Dr. Rackus primarily specialized in all things Lithuanian, forming the world’s largest collection of Lithuanian numismatic and ethnographic material (over 80,000 objects). In 1936 he sold it to the Lithuanian government at a nominal price, then served as Curator of the Historical section of the Museum of Culture in Kaunas from 1936 to 1938. During this period he was physician to the U.S. diplomatic legation there. For his contributions to Lithuanian culture, he was awarded the prestigious Order of Vytautas the Great, 3rd Class, in 1935, and the Medal of the Sagittarius Stars in 1939. After the war, he formed an important second collection of Lithuanian cultural material, which passed to the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture upon his death.
He was the author of a number of short articles published in The Numismatist between 1921 and 1934, primarily on various primitive money subjects (though his attribution of gold money to the Incas was mistaken). He also wrote two books, both bilingual (English and Lithuanian). The first, Guthones (The Goths) Kinsmen of the Lithuanian People. A Treatise on the Gothic Ethnology History of the Gothic Dominion in Italy and Spain, Numismatics, Language, and Proper Names (Chicago, 1929, 432 p.) is highly original, but later criticized by Visigothic authority George Miles for weak scholarship; it is not considered authoritative today. His second book, Cyclopedia of Lithuanian numismatics. Vol. 1: Primitive money in prehistoric times (Chicago: Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, 1965), issued shortly before his death, records considerable diverse material that he had collected over the years, for the benefit of future scholars. In addition, he published extensively on Lithuanian cultural matters. On the 125th anniversary of his birth, he was honored with the lead article in Draugas, the Chicago-based Lithuanian-American newspaper.
(1935 photo courtesy of Frank Passic, Albion, Michigan.)
Page history: created on 14-Jan-2019; last updated on 15-Jan-2019.