Silver Dollars: The History Of Morgan & Peace Dollars
Following the successful conclusion of the Revolution, the new, young American Republic found developing a sound coinage system difficult with the economic conditions fostered under the Articles of Confederation. Un-tethered from the British Pound, the new country relied on the wide availability of Spanish coinage to supplement their needs while new mints were quickly constructed to meet the growing needs of the expanding nation. Under the strategic financial guidance of Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, the new United States Mint in Philadelphia began establishing the foundations of the economic system we operate under to this day. These first numismatic efforts resulted in the 1794 minting of the so-called “Flowing Hair” silver dollar, which was followed in succession by the “Draped Bust” and “Seated Liberty” Dollars.
A Century of Economic Development
Economic conditions were vastly different four score and seventeen years later. The Panic of 1873 resulted from changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution, including wildly speculative railroad construction, and post-Civil War rampant inflation. In an effort to stem the destructive effect inflation posed to the public’s buying power, Congress passed, and President Grant signed, the Fourth Coinage Act, which removed silver from the coinage equation for a period of five years. That changed with the passage of the Bland-Allison Act, or The Bland Grand Plan of 1878, which mandated that the United States government begin minting between $2 and $4 billion in silver bullion each month to placate cheap money advocates in the country. The result was two of the most iconic American coins in history: The Morgan Silver Dollar and its replacement coin The Peacemaker.
The Morgan Silver Dollar
The creative brainchild of George Morgan, a Royal Mint engraver enticed to practice his skill for the American government, the Morgan Silver Dollar beat out all competitors with a design that proved a great compromise between the values of late 19th-century United States history as represented with a fresh, new design.
The head of Lady Liberty adorns the obverse side of this icon coin, based on the likeness of the daughter of Mason’s friend, Anna Willess Williams. The coin’s face also featured the U.S. motto E Pluribus Unum, in addition to the year of pressing and thirteen five pointed stars designed to symbolize the original colonies.
The coin’s reverse offers the depiction of an eagle in flight bearing an olive branch and arrows to symbolize the national power in both peace and war. Lettering identifies the United States and the coin’s value, one silver dollar, along with another favorite national motto, “In God we Trust.”
The Morgan Coin preserved in circulation for another forty years before a new coinage measure, the Pittman Act of 1918 mandated more silver coinage and a call for a new design, which resulted in the last silver dollar offering by the United States mint, the Peace Dollar.
The Peace Dollar
Minted to increase the supply of silver into the economy, and designed to commemorate the recent conclusion of World War 1, the Peace Dollar, which was the creative product of relatively unknown engraver, Anthony De Francisci.
Featuring the face of Lady Liberty in profile, with hair billowing beneath a radiant crown, this is shown as the radiating power of the sun ushering in a new era. The coin’s face also featured the U.S. motto In God We Trust in addition to the year of pressing.
The coin’s reverse offers the depiction of an eagle at rest with an olive branch perched in front of a sunburst. Lettering identifies the United States and the coin’s value, one silver dollar, along with another favorite national motto, E Pluribus Unum.
The Great Depression and the End of Silver Coinage
Under the economic pressure of the Great Depression, then President Roosevelt took the nation off the Gold Standard, and an area of currency based on bimetallism was over. In was not until 1974 that President Ford authorized the ability of American citizens to buy bullion, and the Morgan Silver Dollar and the Peacemaker Dollar quickly became the favored of coin collectors and investors.