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26 Aug 2021

Large Dollar Coins, the Peace Dollar, Part Three

Young Numismatists Exchange | ZanzibarCoins

Hello everyone! Here is part three of my Peace Dollars Series (and I don't know what is going on with my formatting here, we'll see how it ends up posting lol), hope y'all enjoy it!

So, we are at the end of the design contest, and Anthony de Francisci's design has just been unanimously selected. De Francisci went on to design many U.S. medals and some U.S. coins, but at the time of the contest, he actually relatively little experience in the realm of coin design. In fact, he was actually the least experienced among the competitors, and on top of that he was also the youngest among them, at the age of 34. The other competitors were "regulars" when it came to designing coins for the Mint, whether those coins were regular or commemorative. De Francisci, on the other hand, had only designed one thing for the Mint in the past, and even then they hadn't been his own designs. He merely converted a set of drawings into a finished design: that of the 1920 Maine commemorative half dollar. He had had very little discretion in that project, and later he said of it that he "[did] not consider it very favorably."

He had based the obverse design of Liberty off of his own wife, Teresa de Francisci, since he lacked the time to hire a model who had the features he envisioned. His wife had been born Teresa Cafarelli of Naples, Italy, and had immigrated to America with her family when she was five years old. She would recall later in interviews that when the steamer she and her family had been on passed by the Statue of Liberty, she had been fascinated by it, and had called her family over to see it, and had then struck a post imitating that of Liberty. Later, she wrote to her brother Rocco, saying, "Youremember how I was always posing as Liberty, and how brokenhearted I was when some other little girl was selected to play the role in the patriotic exercises in school? I thought of those days often while sitting as a model for Tony's design, and now seeing myself as Miss Liberty on the new coin, it seems like the realization of my fondest childhood dream." Numismatic HistorianWalterBreen wrote that the crown that Liberty wears on the obverse of the coin is not dissimilar tothosethat are on certain Roman coins, but that it was "more explicitly intended to recall that on the Statue of Liberty." De Francisci submitted twodifferentdesigns for the reverse alongwiththe obverse design. The first depicted a warlike eagle that was breaking a sword, and the second depicted an eagle at rest bearing an olive branch. The latter design would become the reverse of the Peace dollar (at least it would form the basis of that design), and what is interesting is that design was actually de Francisci's failed entry for the Verdun City medal, in most respects. The submitted obverse design for the coin is almost exactlyidenticalto that which was actually used on the struck coins, although certain details of the face are different, and the submitted design used Roman numerals for the date instead of Arabic numerals. De Francisci noted that the obverse design did not quite depict his wife alone. He mentioned that "the nose, the fullness of the mouth aremuch like my wife's, although the whole face has been elongated."SomethingI personally think is fascinating is that de Francisci opened the windows of his studios to let the wind blow on hiswife's hair as he worked, thus making the wind blown hair of Liberty on theobverse design somethingactually pulled from his model and not done freehand.

After a meeting with Charles Moore (the head chairman of the U.S. Fine Arts Committee), and Raymond T. Baker (the current Mint Director), de Francisci revised his designs slightly, due to requests by Baker and Moore. He included the broken sword from his alternate reverse design, placing it under the eagle on themountaintopon which the eagle wasresting. He revised the designs in four days, and then the designs were submitted to President Harding for approval. Harding ended up insisting on the removal of a small feature of Liberty's face, which he said seemed to him to suggest adimple, which he did not find suggestive of peace. De Francisci did so, removing the feature, and then Harding approved the designs.

Now, I know what many of you areprobably thinking right now. It's probably something along the lines of "But wait... I can't remember any broken sword under the eagle on the reverse of the Peace dollar!"Don't panic lol. You're right. There is no broken sword under theeagle on the reverse. Andthat isbecause pictures of Baker and de Francisci examining the final plaster modelappeared in the national newspapers (at that time the Treasury held that it was illegal for photographs of any United States Coins to be printed in a newspaper), along with written descriptions of the designs for the coin. This happened on the 19th ofDecember, 1921 (literally the very same day that President Harding approved the designs -- they were running all of this on a verytight schedule), and Secretary of the Treasury Mellon gave his formal approval to the design on the 20th. The first strike of the new coins was set for the 29th of December, 1921, in order to allow time for the Mint to produce working dies. However, in that short time span, the new design became a source of intensepublic attention, and it turned out that many did notlike the idea of the eagle perching on the broken sword. In fact, for example, the New York Herald ran a scathing editorial against the new design on the 21rst of December,stating that "If the artisthad sheathed the blade or blunted it there could be no objection. Sheathing is symbolic of peace, of course; the blunted sword implies mercy. But a broken sword carries with it only unpleasant associations.A sword is broken when its owner has disgraced himself. It is broken when a battle is lost and breaking is the alternative to surrendering. A sword is broken when the man who wears it can no longer render allegiance to his sovereign. But America has not broken its sword. It has not been cashiered or beaten; it has not lost allegiance to itself. The blade is bright and keen and wholly dependable. It is regrettable that the artist should have made such an error in symbolism. The sword is emblematic of Justice as well as of Strength. Let not the world be deceived by this new dollar. The American effort to limit armament and to prevent war or at least reduce its horror does not mean that our sword is broken." And according to Numismatic Historian Roger Burdette, after the traumas of the Great War, Americans were "highlysensitive about their national symbols, andunwilling to allow artists any leeway in their interpretation[s]." Soon many letter began to flood the Mint, the Treasury, and the Fine Arts Commission, all from members of the public who objected to the sword in the design. De Francisciattempted to defend himself, and his design, saying that "with thesword there is the olive branch of peace and the combination of the two renders it impossible to conceive of the sword as a symbolization of defeat". But the public still hated the sword in the design, so the Mint instantly looked to dosomethingabout this.

However, Baker had left town in order to visit the San Francisco Mint, and in the 1920's this was atranscontinental journey of three days. Mary Margaret O'Reilly, Acting Mint Director during hisabsence, sent him an urgent telegram onDecember 23rd, seeking his approval regarding theremoval of the sword from thereverse design, something that had beenrecommended byboth Moore and James Earle Fraser in a meeting the previous afternoon. But with the tight timeline for the striking of the dollar, they could not wait for Baker's response, so they ended up redesigning thereverse under the authority of TreasuryUndersecretary Seymour Parker Gilbert (never want to have to type that long one again lol). O'Reilly had approached him theissue (Secretary of the Treasury Mellon was also absent at that time), and by the time that Barker wired hisapproval on the 24th ofDecember, regardless of the fact that he was unable to see the revised designs,Gilbert had already approved the redesign, and the redesign was already underway. The removal of the coin from the coinage hub (which had already been produced,unluckily for theMint) was done by Chief Engraver George T.Morgan. It was a painstaking process, using extremely fine engraving tools under intensemagnification. This was done under thesupervision of de Francisci, to make sure the work met with his approval. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite assimple as scratching the sword away from the design and calling it good and done. Instead, Morgan had to also hide the excision, which he did by extending the olive branch (which hadpreviously been half-hidden by the sword) and removing a small length of the stem that showed to the left of the eagle'stalons. He also strengthened the rays and sharpened the appearance ofthe eagle's leg. What is absolutely insane is that he did his work so well that no one knew about this, or noticed this when looking at the coins, for over 85 years! That shows true talent...

When a press release was issued on December 24th, stating that the broken sword from the originally released design would notbe appearing on the issued coin, the New York Herald took fullcredit for this designrevision the day after. After seeing the pressrelease in addition to de Francisci's original defense, Farran Zerbe (who was basically the reason for the coin in the first place lol) suggested that the sculptor had mistakenlythought his alternate design had been approved, in defense of de Francisci.

After the revision had been completed, the coin was still on track for striking. The first coin was minted on the 28th instead of the 29th, and thus the Peace dollar was officially born.

Part four to come! Stay tuned! I hope y'all enjoyed!! 1,864 words this time! Lol. And Iremembered my bibliography too!! :)


Bibliography:

The Numismatist, Archived, October 1920 (can be accessed through Google books if you can't find it in the archives)

Supplement to the Revised Statues of the United States, 1891, William Allen Richardson (lots of legal stuff lol)

The Comprehensive U.S. Silver Dollar Encyclopedia, John Highfill

Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, Walter Breen

Renaissance of American Coinage, Roger Burdette

Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars, LeRoy Van Allen and George Mallis

US Mint Catalog, Peace Dollar, https://catalog.usmint.gov/peace-2021-silver-dollar-21XH.html

Wikipedia - Peace Dollar


Comments

Mokie

Level 6

Very enjoyable blog, I absolutely love the Peace Dollar and would have been terribly disappointed if I had not scored a 2021 Peace Dollar from the Mint.

Longstrider

Level 6

My favorite coin series. Great job. Top notch. I am happy to see your bibliography as well. Thanks.

Kepi

Level 6

Nice research! Enjoyed it! The Peace Dollar is a top favorite of mine! ; )

Mike

Level 7

You should pay yourself in your back. Very enjoyable reading. And story. Great blog. Thanks for all your work it's appreciated well done. And thanks for a real blog!! Work and reserch.

Long Beard

Level 5

Great research and writing on the subject. The Peace dollar is on my top five list of best designed U.S. coinage.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Thanks so much for a very comprehensive presentation. I enjoyed it.

Golfer

Level 5

Great history lesson. Enjoyed reading. Sword ! Thanks

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