baumannLouis A. Baumann, Jr., 17, of Wilkinsburg, a suburb of Pittsburgh, was the first person to be awarded the Carnegie Medal.

His case came to the attention of the newly-established Hero Fund in a letter written by the boy’s father on September 15, 1904. Also signing the letter were six of the younger Baumann’s friends, who were at the scene and had witnessed the rescue. The case was then investigated, and at the May 15, 1905, meeting of the Commission’s Executive Committee, the awarding of a bronze medal to Louis was approved. Eight more medals were awarded that day, including one to Ernestine F. Atwood, 17, the first female awardee. Since the design of the medal and its manufacturer were issues still undecided, it was March of 1907 before Louis and Ernestine received their medals.

Sunday, July 17, 1904, was a warm, sunny day, and as on other days that summer, boys from Wilkinsburg, a community that borders Pittsburgh on its eastern side, decided to go swimming in nearby Sulphur Pond. The pond was in a deep ravine on a farm and had been created by the dumping of slack from a mine that was abandoned 15 to 20 years earlier. When the mine was producing, the pond’s water was used to operate some of its machinery.

Shortly after noon, Charles Stevick, 16, and his brother went to the Baumann home and asked Louis and his brother to go swimming with them. They agreed, and on the way to the pond they met up with six other boys, who joined them. On reaching the pond, the boys took a dip. Charles dived in, but when he surfaced, he cried for help and then submerged.

Louis immediately swam to Charles, but Charles grabbed his leg. Louis broke free and returned to the bank to regain his breath. He swam back out and dived for Charles, then took him to the surface, but the struggling boy again grabbed Louis and both submerged. Again Louis broke free and returned to the bank. A third time he swam to Charles, that time managing to get Charles close enough to the bank for the other boys, who had formed a chain, to drag both from the water. Charles was unconscious and thought to be dead, but after several minutes he recovered. Louis was winded and exhausted from his efforts.

The Commission and the Baumann family remained in contact with each other from time to time after the medal was presented. A letter from Louis’s brother Robert arrived in 1911, explaining that Louis was suffering from rheumatism and that his health was worsening. A doctor confirmed the illness and further stated that Louis was suffering from a chronic heart condition. Later that year, another doctor sent the Commission an invoice for $3 for a physical examination of Louis, and the Commission assumed the cost. Louis died of heart disease at the age of 35 on March 14, 1925, leaving a year-old son.