|Value||1 U.S. dollar|
|Years of minting||1878–1904; 1921|
|Designer||George T. Morgan|
|Design||Eagle clasping arrows and olive branch|
|Designer||George T. Morgan|
The Morgan Dollar is a United States dollar coin minted intermittently from 1878 to 1921. The coin is named for its designer, George T. Morgan. The dollar was authorized by the Bland-Allison Act. Following the passage of the Fourth Coinage Act, which ended the free coinage of gold and silver and the mintage of silver dollars, mining interests lobbied to restore the free coinage. Instead, when the Bland–Allison Act was passed, the Treasury was required to purchase between two and four million dollars worth of silver to be coined into dollars. The design was based on work previously done by George T. Morgan on earlier pattern coins. The obverse depicts a profile portrait representing Liberty, while the reverse depicts an eagle with wings outstretched.
In 1873, Congress enacted the Fourth Coinage Act. The act effectively ended the bimetallic standard in the United States by demonetizing silver. The act also ended the production of silver dollars, favoring instead trade dollars, which were not considered legal tender in the United States. Prior to this point, silver could be brought to the mints in order to be coined into legal tender. With such a system in place, bullion producers could have silver coined into dollars when the intrinsic value of a silver dollar was lower than the face value, thus making a profit. The act initially met little resistance until the price of silver declined rapidly due to increased mining efforts in the Western United States. Protests also came from bankers, manufacturers and farmers. Groups were formed that demanded the free coinage of silver in order to inflate the U.S. dollar. This was intended partly as a means of relief for the nation's farmers following the Panic of 1873.
Beginning in 1876, several bills were introduced in the United States House of Representatives with the intent to once again begin coinage of the silver dollar and restore its legal tender status. One such bill introduced into the House by representative Richard P. Bland was passed in the fall of 1876. Senator William B. Allison added important ammendments to the bill in the Senate. One such ammendment took away the provision to once again allow the free coinage of silver present in the House version of the bill This same ammendment allowed for the issuance of silver certificates for the first time in United States history. The bill, which later became known as the Bland–Allison Act, was vetoed by president Rutherford B. Hayes. The veto was overriden by Congress on February 28, 1878. The act restored the legal tender status of silver coins and required that the Treasury purchase between two and four million dollars worth of silver per month to be coined into silver dollars at the former gold/silver ratio of 16:1.
In 1876, Director of the Mint Dr. Henry Richard Linderman began efforts to redesign the nation's silver coins. Linderman contacted C.W. Fremantle, Deputy Master of the Royal Mint in London, requesting him to "find a first class die-sinker who would be willing to take the position of Assistant Engraver at the Mint at Philadelphia." In response to Linderman's request, Fremantle wrote "My inquiries as to an Assistant Engraver lead me very strongly to recommend for the post Mr. George Morgan, age 30, who has made himself a considerable name, but for whom there is not much opening at present in this country." An agreement was reached between Linderman and Morgan, wherein Morgan would work at the Philadelphia Mint for a six–month trial appointment. Morgan arrived in Philadelphia on October 9, 1876. His earliest pattern coins designed during his tenure at the Philadelphia Mint were intended for the half dollar. In 1876, Morgan enrolled as a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in order to prepare for creating a new Liberty head design. Morgan also obtained studies from nature of the bald eagle for preperation of the reverse design. For the representation of Liberty, Morgan sought an American woman rather than the traditional Greek–style figures. Morgan's friend, artist Thomas Eakins, suggested he use as a model Anna Willess Williams of Philadelphia. In total, Morgan had five sittings with Williams, whose profile he declared was the most perfect he had seen. On October 18, 1877, Linderman requested Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint James Pollock to "instruct Mr. Morgan to prepare without delay, dies for a silver dollar, the designs, inscriptions, and arrangement thereof to be the same as the enclosed impression for the Half Dollar and numbered '2' substituting the words 'one dollar' in place of 'half dollar,' and that you will cause six impressions to be struck in standard silver of 412½ grains weight, and transmit the same to this office." Linderman also ordered Pollock to "instruct Mr. Barber to prepare a reverse die for a dollar with a representation of an eagle as well as the inscriptions required by law. He will select whichever of his Heads of Liberty he prefers for the obverse of the same." Barber was Chief Engraver of the Mint at that time. Linderman evidently preferred the designs of Morgan over those of the Chief Engraver, stating "I have now to state for your information, that it is my intention, in the event of the silver bill now pending in Congress, becoming law, to request the approval by the Secretary of the Treasury, of the dies prepared by Mr. Morgan." in a letter addressed to Pollock, dated February 21, 1878.
Due to a delay in manufacturing dies to strike the new coins, production did not commence until March 11, more than a week after the passage of the Bland–Allison act. The first acceptable strike, after adjustments to the press, was coined at 3:17 p.m. in the Philadelphia Mint. This piece was given to President Hayes. The second and third were given to Secretary of the Treasury John Sherman and Henry Linderman respectively.
Linderman desired to involve the western mints of San Francisco and Carson City in production in order to help reach the monthly quota necessary under the Bland–Allison act. Pressure was so great that the Philadelphia Mint halted production on all other coins and began operating overtime. This was delayed, however, as it was believed that the Western mints did not have the proper equipment to prepare the dies for use. During the second week of production, Linderman pointed out a "slight imperfection" in the dies for the dollar. The reason for the changes was to reduce the relief of the designs and to change the number of tail feathers on the eagle from eight to seven. This was because all prior coinage depicted the bald eagle as having an odd number of tail feathers. The high relief caused the dies to have a shorter life. Dies were eventually sent to the Western mint, arriving in both San Francisco and Carson City on April 16, 1878. The New Orleans Mint began minting the new silver dollars in 1879. The Denver Mint struck the coins for only one year, 1921.
Sherman Silver Purchase Act and aftermath
Mintage of the Morgan dollar remained relatively steady until the passage of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. The act, authored by Ohio senator John Sherman, forced the treasury to increase the amount of silver purchased to 4,500,000 ounces each month. The act also stated that the Mints must coin 2,000,000 silver dollars each month only until 1891. Since the Treasury already had a surplus of the silver dollars, mintages dropped sharply beginning in 1892. In June of 1893, president Grover Cleveland called a special session of Congress. Cleveland, who was opposed to silver as currency, did this in order to repeal the provisions of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. The act was repealed on November 1, 1893. On June 13, 1898, an act was passed that required the coining of all the remaining bullion purchased under the Sherman Act into silver dollars. Silver dollar production rose, until reserves were depleted in 1904.
In 1918, Nevada senator Key Pittman introduced legislation that was largely meant as relief for the British government during World War I. The bill, passed on April 22, 1918, states that "sales of silver bullion under authority of this act may be made for the purpose of conserving the existing stock of gold in the United States, of providing silver for subsidiary coinage and for commercial use, and of assisting foreign governments at war with the enemies of the United States." The reason for the United Kingdom's need was a propaganda campaign of the German government. The Germans convinced citizens of India that the silver certificates issued by the British government could not be redeemed, which caused a run on the British supply of silver. The Pittman Act authorized the melting of "not more than 350,000,000" silver dollars. The melting of the silver dollars began immediately after the passage of the act. A total of 270,232,722 silver dollars were melted. Of this amount, 259,121,554 were sold to the United Kingdom at the cost of one dollar per ounce. Another provision of the Pittman act authorized the coinage of a replacement for every silver dollar melted. Mintage resumed for only one year, 1921. 1921 also marked the first issuance of the Peace dollar, as a coin to commemorate peace. This replacement of the Morgan dollar was issued under the terms of the Pittman act without congressional authorization, despite the fact that the act makes no mention of the design.
Treasury release and General Services Administration sales
Between November, 1962 and March, 1964, millions of Morgan and Peace dollars were sold to the general public. Interest began in 1962, when a date of Morgan dollar that was previously considered very rare was discovered in a bag of silver dollars taken from a vault of the Philadelphia Mint. The rush to obtain uncirculated silver dollars was so great that lines formed outside of the Treasury Building in Washington D.C., with some of those in line pushing wheelbarrows. Upon discovering bags of Carson City–minted dollars, Treasury officials decided to hold them back as mintage totals from that mint were generally lower than others. The Joint Committee on Coinage was tasked with determining how best to dispose of the dollars, recommending a mail bid sale. Congress supplied the General Services Administration with ten million dollars to market the dollar coins. Advertising consisted of posters and brochures distributed to post offices, banks and various financial institutions, as well as television documentaries. The coins were sorted and put into small plastic display cases. The Administration conducted a total of seven between 1972 and 1980. In total, the sales generated $107 million.
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- Rutherford B. Hayes. senate.gov. Retrieved 12-18-2010
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