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HomeUS CoinsMaking the Peace Dollar, Part Three: Victory or Disgrace

Making the Peace Dollar, Part Three: Victory or Disgrace

By Roger W. Burdette, special to CoinWeek …..
 

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

* * *

By December 20, photos of Mint Director Raymond T. Baker and artist Anthony de Francisci admiring the coin models, with accompanying descriptions of the new design, appeared in the Washington Evening Star and other newspapers.

Figure 1. “Director of the Mint, Raymond T. Baker (right) and Anthony de Francisci examining model of the new silver dollar, the first of which will be issued by January 1st.” (Photo and caption by National Photo Company, courtesy Library of Congress.)
Figure 1. “Director of the Mint, Raymond T. Baker (right) and Anthony de Francisci examining model of the new silver dollar, the first of which will be issued by January 1st.” (Photo and caption by National Photo Company, courtesy Library of Congress.)

Word of the Commission of Fine Art’s decision was not sent to the other competitors until January 11, 1922, but they knew the result through newspaper accounts. De Francisci received congratulatory notes from Victor D. Brenner (designer of the Lincoln Cent) and Hermon A. MacNeil (designer of the Standing Liberty Quarter). Brenner mentioned adding one of the coins to his collection:

Dear de Francisci,

I admired your work often and I take pleasure in congratulating you upon winning the dollar coin competition. I am looking forward to one of the first issue for my collection.

With best wishes of the Season, believe me,

Sincerely yours,

V. D. Brenner[1]

The press release distributed with the “grip ’n’ grin” photos of Baker and de Francisci incompletely described the reverse as having “…a large figure of an eagle perched on a broken sword, and clutching an olive branch bearing the word ‘peace.’”[2] No photos of the designs were released presumably because Treasury Department officials felt it was illegal for newspapers to publish a picture of a U.S. coin.[3] Also, the pictures of de Francisci and Baker were taken before the president had seen the models. Had the design photos been published and the president objected, Baker would have been in a lot of trouble.[4]

As Moore’s letter (in Part Two) suggests, the Peace Dollar project was going extremely well. Not only had a good design been selected but everything was on schedule; everyone from the president on down was pleased with the design and the efficient manner in which the Commission and the United States Mint had worked together. The plaster models and bronze casts arrived at the Philadelphia Mint on December 21:

Figure 2. Detail of original obverse cast of Peace dollar. Note rough surface and guideline below motto. (Photo by Bill Fivaz.)
Figure 2. Detail of original obverse cast of Peace dollar. Note rough surface and guideline below motto. (Photo by Bill Fivaz.)

I beg to advise you that we received at 2:30 P.M. today the plaster casts of both sides, and bronze castings of the obverse side of the models for the “Peace Dollar.” The messenger who delivered these models stated to Mr. Morgan that Mr. Fraser said that the casting was poor, and suggested that we get an electrotype from obverse as well as the reverse side and if better than the one made in New York, to use it.

Mr. Morgan is of the opinion that Mr. Fraser meant the casting was a little rough but he thinks it is not so much so as to give us trouble in the reduction.

The bronze casting of the reverse was a failure and we must now get our electrotype from the reverse plaster cast here. It would be impossible to get electrotypes of both sides and make our reductions in time to produce coins this year. Mr. Morgan is quite satisfied that he will be able to get a satisfactory reduction from the casting made in New York.

Unless something unforeseen happens, and by using the New York casting, we ought to have dies for coinage on December 29th.

Respectfully,

Freas Styer, Superintendent[5]

With Chief Engraver George T. Morgan’s assurances that the Mint could use the obverse cast (and that there would be delivery of a new cast the next day), production seemed assured. Yet this would be the last night of pleasant dreams for Moore, Fraser, Baker, de Francisci, and Morgan for several weeks. While they slept, an unknown editorial writer interpreted the press release in a way no one had previously considered.

The next day, the New York Herald’s early edition printed a scathing editorial titled “The Broken Sword”:

A new silver dollar, intended to be symbolic of the era of peace, is about to be minted by the Government. This is a good idea, but many Americans must read with regret that the designer, in his effort to picture the idea behind the Washington Arms Conference, represents the American eagle as standing on a broken sword.

If the artist had sheathed the blade or blunted it there could be no objection. Sheathing is symbolic of peace; 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.[6]

The Herald’s comments hit a responsive chord with its readers. The Great War was still too immediate for the public to have patience with its artists. Symbols, which in other times or contexts might be more deeply understood, retained the stark, absolute meanings of wartime propaganda. The sword, which de Francisci used as a symbol of war on the Peace Dollar and on his previous Versailles medal, could also be symbolic of national strength and power.

Although only Commission and Harding Administration officials had seen the reverse design, public perception through the editorial’s interpretation of the sword’s meaning had been cast.[7] Letters objecting to the broken sword began to flow to the Treasury, the Mint, and the commission. The following letter from Edward F. Reimer of Near East Relief, Inc. to the Commission is typical, although possibly more articulate than many:

December 22, 1921

Gentlemen:

My attention has been directed to the fact that a design for the issuing of new coinage has been accepted and that one of the elements of this design is a broken sword.

I do not know, of course, who may be responsible for the adoption of this design, but, as an American citizen, I write to register my protest against the adoption of any design embodying a broken sword as one of its constituent parts.

Throughout all history the symbolism of the broken sword is clear and unmistakable. It has always stood for the hauling down of the colors, for defeat, for surrender, and many times for shame and dishonor.

On the other hand, throughout all history the sheathed sword has symbolized peace after warfare, rest from conflict, and security. It is to be observed that in the symbolism of the sheathed sword, the sword in the scabbard is a whole sword and that, in a righteous cause, its keen edge is ready to defend life and honor.

I write to you to express the hope that no issue of our coinage will contain a symbol concerning which there is so much question as there is concerning the adoption of a design embodying a broken sword. By all means let the sword be there, but let it be a whole sheathed sword, never a broken sword!

Very Sincerely,

Edward F. Reimer, National Secretary Organizational Relations[8]

Figure 3. Detail of broken sword on approved reverse of Peace dollar. (Courtesy Philadelphia Mint tool and model inventory.)
Figure 3. Detail of broken sword on approved reverse of Peace dollar. (Courtesy Philadelphia Mint tool and model inventory.)

Many more letters, cards, and notes objected to the broken sword and virtually none supported the concept. In just 225 words, an anonymous editorial writer had wiped away months of planning and the unanimous judgment of some of the nation’s finest artists. It was obvious that the design with the broken sword was a political quagmire and had to be changed.

U.S. Mint Executive Clerk Mary O’Reilly sent an anxious telegram to Director Baker, who was at the San Francisco Mint:

Vigorous protests being received against use of broken sword on dollar design. Fraser and Moore suggest same be removed from model. Cast on reducing machine but change can be made in hub before dies are made and no time will be lost in preparing dies. Will you approve.

A follow-up telegram stated:

If Mr. Baker is not at Mint please open telegram sent him today in your care, locate and read same to him over telephone.

M.M.O’R.[9]

Fraser, Moore, and O’Reilly moved quickly to correct the problem as evidenced by the following memorandum dated December 23 to the commission:

With reference to the numerous protests which were received against having a broken sword appear on the design of the Peace Dollar the matter was taken up immediately with the Director of the Mint, Mr. Fraser and Mr. Francisci, the sculptor, and satisfactorily adjusted. Miss O’Reilly, Acting Director of the Mint, advised that the matter was brought to the attention by them to Mr. Gilbert, Under Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary Mellon, and that newspaper notices were being given to the press reading as follows:

“In view of the inquiries which are being received in regard to the new silver dollar, the Director of the Mint desires to state that the Philadelphia Mint is now proceeding with the coinage of the dollar and that the new coin will be available on or about December 30th. The sword which appeared on one of the models submitted does not appear on the coin.”[10]

The press release was issued on the afternoon of December 24 (Saturday). How the matter was “satisfactorily adjusted” is partially explained in a letter from Moore to Fraser: 12

“…As you doubtless recall a broken sword appeared on one of Mr. Francisci’s models, showing the ‘bellicose eagle.’ News of it reached the public and it seems to have caused considerable discussion. However, the broken sword does not appear on the Peace Dollar, and at the suggestion of the director of the Mint the more passive bird was taken instead of the other.”[11]

Commission advisors Daniel French[12] and Herbert Adams[13] agreed with the decision.

Although the recommended final design with the eagle grasping a broken sword was preferred by the artists and everyone who had seen the models, the public and now Treasury officials wanted nothing to do with a broken sword dollar. The situation was awkward; articles and photos promoting the new dollar appeared daily in newspapers around the country; de Francisci was publicized as the coin’s sole designer. The director of the Mint (and other officials) had seen the approved obverse and reverse models but nothing else. Only Commissioners and their advisors had seen the competing designs, including de Francisci’s alternate reverse. This alternate sketch model showed an eagle ripping a sword to pieces, but the design’s lettering was awkward and no one now wanted anything to do with a sword on the coin. The eagle looking toward the sunrise and holding an olive branch in its talons was generic and “not a portrait of any particular eagle.”[14] It was liked by the Commission, whose members thought the broken sword added to the symbolism. “An eagle quietly looking into the distance” was consistent with those on the $2-1/2, $5, and $10 gold coins, and although it was not an exciting design, it was certainly peaceful and acceptable.[15]

Late on December 22, Fraser, Moore, and O’Reilly discussed what could be done to correct the “broken sword” problem. There was no time to make a plaster model of another design and have coins struck bearing the 1921 date; the reverse hub was being cut from the electrotype. Director Baker was on his way to San Francisco at the time and it is probable that Mint staff telephoned him as O’Reilly requested.[16] Baker was sent a follow-up telegram at 2:24 a.m. December 23:

My Dear Mr. Baker:

If you deem it advisable under the present criticism the broken sword could be removed from the hubs before dies are made. That would leave the design as it was originally, simply a peace coin. It would also obviate all criticism from the broken sword idea. I should like this as well without the sword.

Yours truly,

J. E. Fraser[17]

The director, having no way to see the altered reverse, depended on the good judgment of Moore and Fraser for the reverse of the new coin. O’Reilly prepared a memorandum for Under Secretary Gilbert:

The accepted model for the reverse of the Standard Dollar bears at the base of the Eagle a device representing a broken sword. As a result of a published description of the model, numerous protests against the use of this device are being received.

Mr. Fraser, the sculptor member of the Fine Arts Commission, has suggested in a telegram received this morning that the broken sword be removed from the model.

Mr. Charles Moore, the Chairman of the Fine Arts Commission, has also suggested that the broken sword be not used as a part of the design.

The dies have not yet been made at the Mint, and I have the honor to request instructions in regard to proceeding with the preparation of the same.[18]

Under Secretary Gilbert agreed with the suggestions and ordered the change made immediately. Modifying the reverse hub would be difficult, but it would not only solve the broken sword controversy but would also prevent the public relations problems that were bound to occur if a different sculptor’s reverse design were substituted. The Administration, the Mint, the Commission, and the sculptor could all avoid embarrassment plus the newspapers could continue their feature articles and photos. Modifying the hub was also quicker than remodeling the original design and cutting a new hub – this would have been impossible to do before the end of the year.

Early on the morning of December 23, the sculptor was asked by Fraser to go to the Philadelphia Mint and supervise the removal of the broken sword from the hub. Morgan was going to do the die-cutting work but it was important to have de Francisci there to approve the results. Superintendent Freas Styer later recalled:

Mr. Francisci personally visited the Mint and remained the greater part of the day while the Engraver was cutting the broken sword out of the dies… I feel it was important to have him here while the Engraver was removing the broken sword from the dies, and to obtain his approval after its removal.[19]

The meticulous work was done under magnification with very fine engraving tools–not something de Francisci or Fraser was skilled at doing. Only the steady, experienced hand of George Morgan could turn the situation from failure to success. Morgan had to do more than remove the broken sword – he had to strengthen the rays and then cover as much of the re-engraving as possible so that the change was not noticeable. Part of the work was done on the hub and part was done on the master die. To help hide the alteration, he extended the partial olive branch which extended from behind the broken end of the sword, back to the original part of the branch. He also removed the piece of stem protruding to the left of the eagle’s talon and sharpened the leg.[20]

By late afternoon Mary O’Reilly sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon:

Sir:

I have the honor to submit models of the proposed designs for the Standard Silver Dollar.

A slight alteration of the design for the reverse, as originally submitted, has been made in order to eliminate the broken sword, and the modified design is submitted for your approval.

The model as now submitted has the approval of the Fine Arts Commission, and is in compliance with the requirements of the law.

Respectfully,

R. T. Baker, Director of the Mint.[21]

Under Secretary Gilbert approved the new sword-free reverse and the Mint continued preparing master and working dies.[22] Baker wired his approval on December 24.[23]

According to an April 11, 1922 letter, de Francisci had spent six days at the Philadelphia Mint:

This letter will confirm verbal authority given to you to visit this Bureau under date of December 15, 1921, also to visit the United States Mint at Philadelphia on December 19, 21, 22, 23 and 28, 1921, for the purpose of assisting the engraver in the alteration of the design for the Peace Dollar…[24]

1921 Peace Dollar

1921 Peace Dollar
Figure 4. Top, 1921 Peace dollar: obverse cast sent to the mint and reverse as issued. Bottom, models for the 1921 Peace dollar likely made by de Francisci after the sword was removed. They do not match the 1921 design as issued, and might have been either for public relations purposes or in coordination with his January 5 letter to Morgan (see below). (Obverse bronze cast photo by Bill Fivaz, reverse satin proof courtesy PCGS 205870162; models courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art.)

The models illustrated above, which de Francisci later insisted were the originals, differ somewhat from the 1921 coins. The obverse tiara has two bands on the model and one on the coin; subtle hair detail evident on the model is missing on the coins with even the best Proofs lacking detail in the center of the design. This is consistent with the original cast delivered to the Mint and approved by Fraser. On the reverse, it appears de Francisci took a copy of his broken sword model and altered it in imitation of the changes Morgan had made at the Mint. However, he did not use a coin as a prototype and got the mountain peak and olive branch wrong. The rays were originally broad and flat at their base near the rim and became narrower toward the tip.

The coin shows the rays as simple lines cut deeper into the die near the rim. Mint engraver Morgan touched up the lettering and in doing so, created the “slant-top As” used inconsistently on the reverse of the 1921 coins. It is possible these were made in reference to the sculptor’s letter to Morgan of January 5 or 6, 1922, to Caemmerer at the CFA (see below).

Morgan’s work was of such high quality that it took more than 85 years to detect the alteration on the 1921 coins.[25]

1921 Peace Dollar Production

Mint employee Harry B. Blythe used the Janvier reducing lathe to produce high-relief hubs[26], then die sinkers made master dies and finally working dies for the coining department. The fine raised lines visible on uncirculated coins are evidence of the haste with which the reductions were made. There was no time to make extensive trial strikes or to test presses for the best pressure and die spacing combination. Any press set-up trials were probably evaluated on the spot and then tossed into the discard bin. Using a new high-relief design without proper testing was risky, and it is a credit to Mint staff that the first production coins turned out as well as they did. The director wanted as many coins as possible produced before the end of the year.

Accordingly, Philadelphia Mint Superintendent Styer[27] sent a telegram to Director Baker in San Francisco on December 28 to announce the commencement of Peace Dollar coinage:

First Peace dollar struck at eight thirty this morning. Coining successfully.

— Styer[28]

This is supported by a letter from Under Secretary Seymour P. Gilbert, Jr. to Chairman Moore dated December 29 saying, “The first coins were struck yesterday at the Philadelphia Mint, according to schedule…”[29] Anthony de Francisci was also in attendance as the first high-relief coins of his design were banged out by the presses.[30] The first specimen was reserved for President Harding.[31]

After returning home from the Mint, de Francisci sent a telegram to Mary O’Reilly:

Acting Director Mint,

Inspected first issue today, mint. Unable purchase few specimens. Paid upon promised fifty coin packet due mail January 5th. Fraser and I appreciate sooner delivery. Is it possible? Rec’d telegram thanks.

Anthony de Francisci[32]

These were to be sent by Morgan, to whom de Francisci had previously given $50.

The New York Herald, on learning there would be no broken sword on the new dollars, published a chortling editorial taking full credit:

American coin of something generally accepted as the symbol of defeat, disgrace or abjuration may have called the attention of the responsible authorities to a grave error. If such was the case THE NEW YORK HERALD is glad to have prevented the issue of a coin which would have misled foreigners as to the attitude of this peace loving but not pacifistic nation.

Congratulations are due to those in Washington who were quick to acknowledge that it would be a mistake to represent the sword of the United States as broken.[33]

Figure 5. These presses are the type used to strike silver dollars in the late 19th and early 20th century at the U. S. Mint. The boxes contain freshly-struck Morgan-type silver dollars from the mid-1880’s. The boxes on the floor to the right of center contain misstruck coins. By 1905 the mint had converted its presses to electric operation. (Photo courtesy Library of Congress.)
Figure 5. These presses are the type used to strike silver dollars in the late 19th and early 20th century at the U. S. Mint. The boxes contain freshly-struck Morgan-type silver dollars from the mid-1880’s. The boxes on the floor to the right of center contain misstruck coins. By 1905 the mint had converted its presses to electric operation. (Photo courtesy Library of Congress.)

The Mint annual report states that 1,006,473 dollars 35 were struck in December 1921, and allowing the four days from the 28th through noon on the 31st for work[34], the coining department averaged more than 250,000 coins per day during the last week of December.[35] This is an amazing output when one considers complaints about die breakage. The New York Times reported that 856,473 were struck in 1921.[36]

Baker must have given a big sigh of relief upon reading Styer’s telegram; he didn’t realize his problems were just beginning.

Simultaneous with the production of 1921 circulation coins, engraver Morgan had Sandblast and Satin Proofs made. The Proof dies were from the same hubs as production dies but made with greater care in impressing the design and the coins struck on a medal press. Also, while the coining department was busy, Morgan created new 1922-dated high-relief hubs similar to the 1921s in anticipation of continuing the high-relief design into 1922. He took a 1921-dated hub and changed the date to 1922. Changes were also made to rays and hair, the lettering was narrowed and made more rounded, the outline of the portrait was strengthened, and all the As were made slant-topped on the reverse. The reverse hub was slightly damaged above the eagle’s right talon during alteration. This version was used to create master dies from which were struck the 1922 high-relief Proofs.[37] Overall, these 1922 Proofs – Morgan’s touched-up version – may be the best rendition of the Peace Dollar to leave the Mint: they had sharp lettering, detailed modeling of the hair and good delineation of the eagle. These were likely first made during the last week of December but almost certainly before January 8, 1922.[38]

By mid-week, after hearing from the coining department about problems with die failure and striking quality on the 1921 dollar coins, Morgan began looking for ways to improve die life and strengthen design details. The old 1878-type dollar dies had routinely struck 200,000 coins per die pair, now the coining department was getting less than 25,000 coins per die.[39] Since the high-relief design also did not strike properly with one blow from the press, an obvious solution was to reduce the relief.[40]

Production difficulties with the new silver dollars were documented in a handwritten note located in the commission’s files. An unknown but obviously “inside” observer says:

After experience in striking silver dollar, Mint reports relief too great and distribution of areas brings highest relief on each side in center of coin and to attempt to drive the metal into this part of design necessarily brings fin to outer edges and breaks die. Dies can be made to stand only about one hundred tons to square inch. The design is so distributed in circle that in making coin the metal is drawn away from the top and bottom and driven laterally to sides of coin resulting in decided difference in thickness which mars appearance of finished coin and interferes with stacking. Changes which appear necessary could be made in dies without changing design and could be made by engravers of Mint after consulting artists if such consultation is deemed necessary. Director of Mint has held up all coinage. He suggests that new model be made by artist with lower relief. There can be no change in design. The lower relief will permit better definition in lettering – letter U in word trust should conform to lettering on reverse – same letter should not be made two ways.[41]

Uneven thickness and a fin along the rim were the two primary problems that plagued the 1916 coin designs, especially the half dollar and dime.[42] These same difficulties now contributed to the demise of the high-relief Peace Dollar design and the search for a replacement.

As requested by the sculptor during the first striking of the coins, engraver Morgan shipped 50 of the regular-issue coins to de Francisci on January 3, as well as sending a separate letter:

Dear Mr. Francisci,

Today by American Express I sent to you 50 of the Peace Dollars.

I know you will be disappointed, but the pressure necessary to bring up the work was so destructive to the dies that we got tired of putting new dies in –.

In changing the date to 1922 I took the opportunity of making a slight change in the curvature of the ground. I anticipate at least 20 tons less pressure will be required to bring up the design –. This should double the life of the die. I will send to you an early strike of the 1922.

Yours very truly,

George T. Morgan[43]

The 50 silver dollars arrived on January 5. According to Teresa de Francisci in an interview sometime after her husband died in 1964, “Anthony was so certain he would lose that he told his artist friends, ‘I’ll give you a silver dollar if I win.’ Then, when he did win, we ordered 50 pieces from the Mint – and he gave them all away to keep his promise. He never even kept one for himself.”[44]

Morgan’s letter clearly says he has already altered the 1922 dollar’s “curvature of the ground” and that he will send a sample from the first batch, but the coins had not been struck as of the letter’s date. Morgan was referring to the 1922 high-relief hubs, although experience had already shown that high-relief dies were unsuitable for coinage and it would make no sense to repeat December’s problems (he could not have been referring to the “normal” 1922 low-relief design familiar to modern collectors, because that design had not been created).

De Francisci may never have received the promised 1922-dated dollar. He replied to Morgan on January 5:

My dear Mr. Morgan:

I have received your letter and the coins. Thank you very much for both.

I had to agree with you in being disappointed over the results of the first strikes.

However, considering the speed we both had in this work the result seems rather satisfactory.

Now, Mr. Morgan, I have to disagree with you emphatically in regard to changes in the curvature of the ground. If the relief of the coins is too high and the required pressure to bring it about, too destructive to the dies. I feel sure that it can easily be overcome in a more artistic way – that is to produce another hub, with a lower relief and after changing the year to 1922 leave the rest untouched.

I am taking this matter up with the Fine Arts Commission and hope you will receive instructions to this effect very soon.

Yours very truly,[45]

De Francisci wrote to Commission Secretary Hans Paul Caemmerer the next day.[46] His letter does not indicate any reaction to seeing a 1922-dated coin, and a reaction would have been expected given the changes. He also writes about the 1922 issue in the future tense.

My dear Mr. Caemmerer,

I have received a few of the Peace Dollars from the Philadelphia Mint and although the rush in which this coin had to be produced was too great to give a very perfect result, either artistically or mechanically, I feel now that something must be done since we will have more time for the 1922 issue. Primarily, I would suggest and with emphasis, that if possible, to forbid the Mint engravers from touching in anyway the dies or hubs of said coins.

A letter from Mr. Morgan which I enclose herewith states his intentions to do more changes, small in mechanical gain but very damaging to artistic values. That is regrettable because unnecessary. The Mint’s chief complaint is the height of the relief of the liberty head. Mr. Fraser and I have agreed that in order to overcome that mechanical hindrance to reduce the general relief of the coins by machine – a very simple process – a new hub would have to be made but the result, surely pleasing, would justify my work and the ideals and prestige of the American Fine Arts commission.

Hoping you will do everything in your power regarding this matter – I thank you.

Yours very truly,

Anthony de Francisci.[47]

De Francisci makes three important points in his letter: 1) the 1921 coins were adequate but not as good as they could have been due to haste; 2) he and Fraser had discussed the problems and felt defects of the 1921 coins could be corrected for the 1922s because there was time to make adjustments, and; 3) Morgan intended to make changes for 1922 and he should not be allowed to do that. De Francisci apparently did not realize that Morgan had already made a unilateral change in the design. The sculptor assumed that there would be time to reduce the relief on the dies for 1922, had spoken with Fraser about the coins, and was probably not aware that the Mint had begun work on the 1922 design. It is unlikely that either de Francisci or Fraser was aware of Secretary Mellon’s order to strike replacement Pittman dollars as rapidly as possible.

The general public first saw the new 1921 Peace Dollars on January 4, with 75,000 being released at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. Each customer was limited to one coin so that its supply could be distributed to the greatest number of people. There was also concern that speculators would try to get their hands on large quantities of the new coin and then resell them at a profit. Newspapers mentioned long lines of people eager to get one of the new coins. A reporter even asked a New York Federal Reserve Bank employee about rumors that the coins would not stack properly, whereupon the employee got 10 of the new coins and stacked them just like the old dollars.[48]

Director Baker, still on his western mint tour, had a few of the new coins shipped to him in San Francisco. On visiting his hometown of Reno, Nevada, the local newspaper waxed proud:

Baker Brings New Dollars to His Reno Friends

Reno is the second city in the West to feast its eyes on the new 1921 Peace dollar, and fittingly so because the coin’s creator, Raymond T. Baker, Director of the Mint, is a Reno man. Mr. Baker arrived from San Francisco this morning with three of the new dollars in his vest pocket. He brought them to as many of his closest friends here.

The Liberty head of a design differing somewhat from the old head, is on the coin and on the reverse side is the American eagle surveying his surroundings from a mountain peak with an olive branch clutched in his talons. The word “peace” is engraved beneath the eagle.

Approximately 900,000 peace dollars of the 1921 date were coined in the Philadelphia mint, according to Mr. Baker. There was no coinage of this issue in the San Francisco or Denver mints. Having started his western trip before the coins were turned out, the director sent East for some of them after his arrival in San Francisco. A few of them he gave to his friends there, keeping three as souvenirs for Reno. The new dollars now are in circulation in the East, Mr. Baker said.[49]

Perhaps the most meaningful commentary on the Peace Dollar was from Fraser in an interview published in the New York Tribune on January 5, 1922:

The new design follows the ideals urged by Saint-Gaudens and others concerning richness and suggestiveness for our coins. President Roosevelt gave much attention to this subject when the new twenty-dollar coin was struck in his Administration. I recall that after the design for that piece was accepted, the reduction of it and in the coinage the bas-relief was unsatisfactory and had to be changed so as to get away from the ordinary standards and raise it in its suggestiveness and richness. The design of the peace dollar conforms to this ideal.[50]

To Fraser, the new dollar was the conclusion of work begun in 1905 by his mentor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and President Teddy Roosevelt to raise the artistic level of America’s coinage.

* * *

Notes

[1] AdF, AAA, Box 2 of 6, folder 1. A handwritten note from Brenner is dated December 21, 1921, and one from MacNeil is dated December 24, 1921.

[2] NARA-DC, RG 66. December 20, 1921 press clippings from the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor (Boston), Washington Evening Star. The articles are nearly identical, suggesting that they all were based on the same press release.

[3] De Francisci made such a request on December 27 on behalf of Miss Rilla E. Jackman of Syracuse, New York, who wanted to use photos of the Peace Dollar and Maine Centennial coins in a lantern slide presentation she was preparing. The Philadelphia North American also wanted to print photos of the new coins and was told by acting director O’Reilly, “Against law to photograph coins.” Telegram dated December 28, 1921.

[4] AdF, AAA, large folio – Scrapbook (no number), miscellaneous newspaper clippings, mostly about the Peace Dollar. Many of the newspaper articles from December and January describe the reverse as having an eagle standing on a broken sword. Many feature articles refer to it as the “broken sword dollar.”

[5] NARA RG104 Entry A1 328N, box 4. Letter dated December 21, 1921, to Baker from Styer.

[6] NARA-DC, RG 66. December 21, 1921 press clipping from the New York Herald.

[7] An obvious problem was the Treasury Department’s failure to release both design pictures and press announcement after the president had approved the design. None of the newspaper clippings from late December to early January, 1922 include photos of the models or the coins. However, the omission was intentional; Treasury officials felt it was illegal to print a reproduction of a U.S. coin except in numismatic publications. On November 4, 1916, the Mint director wrote to Adolph A. Weinman, who had requested permission for a newspaper to print reproductions of his new dime and half dollar designs.

The Director says:

“Replying, I have to state that such reproduction would be in violation of law. I am enclosing herewith a copy of Section 171 of the Penal Code, for your information.”

On August 3, 1920, CFA Chairman Moore sent a letter to Fraser advising Fraser to ensure that anyone working on coin designs fully comply with the same Section 171 of the U. S. Code. Per advice of the Treasury Department, Moore understood that newspapers were prohibited from publishing coin designs. With specific reference to the Maine Centennial Half Dollar, Moore says:

“…it is suggested that you call the attention of Mr. Francisci to this matter. He should return all designs, models and prints to you. No newspaper is allowed to publish a design of a coin.”

[8] NARA-DC, RG 66. Letter dated December 22, 1921, to Fine Arts Commission from Edward F. Reimer, Secretary. This organization boasted a stellar list of trustees including former President Taft, Henry Morgenthau, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Elihu Root.

[9] NARA RG104 Entry 235, vol. 439. Telegrams dated December 23, 1921, to Baker from O’Reilly.

[10] NARA-DC, Record Group 66. December 23, 1921 memorandum to the commission members from Hans Paul Caemmerer, Secretary to the Commission.

[11] NARA-DC, RG 66. January 4, 1922 letter to Fraser from Moore.

[12] NARA-DC, RG 66.. January 7, 1922 letter to Moore from French.

[13] NARA-DC, RG 66. January 8, 1922 letter to Moore from Adams.

[14] AdF, AAA, op. cit. Box 2 of 6, folder 1. Manuscript letter of July 29, 1960, to Lynn Glaser from de Francisci.

[15] NARA-DC, RG 66. January 8, 1922 letter to Moore from Adams.

[16] Joseph P. Tumulty. Papers, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division. Box 16, folder 4. Telegram dated December 24, 1921, to Tumulty from Baker. This is a routine Christmas Greeting telegram sent by Baker from Oakland, California at 5:54 p.m. Since the cross-country train trip took approximately three days, Baker had to have left Washington late on the 21st – a day before the controversy flared and was solved.

[17] NARA RG104 Entry A1 328N, box 4. Telegram dated 2:24 AM, December 23, 1921, to Baker from Fraser. Punctuation added by this author.

[18] NARA RG104 Entry A1 328N, box 4. Memorandum dated December 23, 1921, to Gilbert from O’Reilly.

[19] NARA RG104 Entry A1 328N, box 4. Letter (excerpt) dated January 30, 1922, to Baker from Styer.

[20] The design as used is not the same as that on what de Francisci claimed were the original models. Evidently, the artist decided to avoid controversy and made a substitute model. Careful examination indicates several differences between the models and the 1921 coins, most noticeably in the way the olive branches are connected. The artist may also have forgotten that the Mint had altered the hubs not the models.

[21] NARA RG104 Entry A1 328N, box 4. Letter dated December 23, 1921, to Mellon from Baker. Gilbert approved the change for Mellon, and O’Reilly signed Baker’s name to the letter. The whereabouts of these “models”–more likely lead trial strikes–are unknown.

[22] Various numismatic articles have stated that George Morgan made the reverse model. Although that is incorrect, the engraver deserves credit for saving the entire project from failure. Had Morgan been unable to remove the broken sword and extend the olive branch, production could not have begun and there would have been no time to prepare a replacement model.

[23] NARA RG104 E-235, vol. 441. Telegram dated December 24, 1921, to Baker from O’Reilly.

[24] NARA RG104 E-235, vol 446. Letter dated April 11, 1922, to de Francisci from Frank Scoby, Director. Approved S.P. Gilbert, Jr., Under Secretary of Treasury.

[25] The alterations were first identified by this author.

[26] Philadelphia Mint, Box-Ledgers Production 7, “Reducing Machine settings”.

[27] Freas Styer was appointed Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint on July 16, 1921; Michael J. Kelly became San Francisco Mint Superintendent on July 1; Robert J. Grant became Denver Mint Superintendent on July 1 (source: 1922 Assay Commission Report). Grant would later become Director of the Mint in 1923.

[28] NARA RG104. Entry 607, box 8, book 5, file #424. Telegram to Baker from Styer.

[29] NARA-DC, RG 66. December 29, 1921 letter to Charles Moore (CFA) from Gilbert. The Mint may have begun work on the 26th but did not make the first circulation coins until the 28th.

[30] NARA RG104 Entry A1 328N, box 4. Letter dated January 30, 1922, to Baker from Styer. Styer quotes Morgan as saying: “Mr. Francisci was also here on December 28 th the day we commenced coining the new design coin.”

[31] NARA RG104 Entry 235, vol. 446. Letter dated January 6, 1922, to Charles Harringer, Gravestock, TX, from O’Reilly. Mr. Harringer had written requesting the first coin struck, but O’Reilly advised it had been given to the president.

[32] NARA RG104 Entry A1 328N, box 4. Telegram dated 11:07 p.m., December 28, 1921, to O’Reilly from de Francisci.

[33] NARA RG104 Entry A1 328N, box 4. Newspaper clipping dated December 25, 1921.

[34] According to the Act of June 19, 1912 (37 stat. 137:40 USC 324.325), the federal work week was 48 hours consisting of six eight-hour days. The Philadelphia Mint had worked 24-hour days during most of the year, but not during December until this final week.

[35] The revised Morgan design used earlier in 1921 resulted in an average production of 166,000 coins per day at the Philadelphia Mint – 84,000 fewer coins per day than the early Peace dollars! One wonders if the Mint may have “forgotten” to change the calendar when work resumed on January 2, 1922.

[36] “Peace Dollar Out Tuesday”, New York Times. January 1, 1922. 17. This figure excludes the second delivery of December 31, which included 150,000 coins.

[37] Morgan is widely believed to have occasionally produced “special coins for special people” such as the Zerbe and Chapman “Proof” Dollars of 1921 (old design), the 1921 Satin Proof $20 once owned by descendants of Mint Director Baker (Sotheby’s auction, June 27, 2000; Lot 432) and possibly many others.

[38] Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. 460. Breen claims a messenger delivered one 1921 coin to President Harding on Tuesday, January 3, 1922, and others the same day to Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon and Director of the Mint Raymond T. Baker. These are said to have been either sandblast or satin finish Proofs. The source of this information was not provided by Mr. Breen. Baker’s coin must have been sent to his office, where Mary O’Reilly would have received it since Baker was in California at the time. The Harding papers in the Ohio Historical Society do not include a Proof 1921 Peace Dollar among Harding’s personal property; there is no mention of the coin in his estate inventory. The same for Mr. Mellon’s estate. Nothing in the archives confirms Breen’s statement; however, 1921 and 1922 Sandblast Proofs are mentioned in official correspondence. See text. Mary O’Reilly confirms sending the first circulation strike coin to President Harding on December 28, 1921.

[39] The Philadelphia Mint had produced up to 500,000 1921 Morgan-type silver dollars per month. With over 44 million coins produced from this revised design in 1921, the Mint may have expected to produce 1.5 to 2 million coins during the last week of December.

[40] One of the frequently mentioned reasons for reducing the height of the Peace design was that bankers complained the coins did not stack properly. Considering that Morgan had decided before January 3 to reduce the relief and that none of the 1921 dollars were released until later that week, comments by bankers could not have been the primary cause for the design change. Extending die life was the most likely reason.

[41] NARA-DC, RG 66. Undated manuscript, but probably between January 6 and 10. Handwriting is a very close match for Charles Moore. These may be his notes from a telephone conversation with either Superintendent Styer or Mary O’Reilly. The wording is similar to a quotation attributed to Morgan in a letter sent by Styer to Baker on January 6. Strike-outs are in the original. For a sample of Moore’s handwriting see AAA, Charles Moore papers, roll 1888, frames 1221–1225.

[42] See my book RAC 1916-1921, Chapter 3, and compare with Charles Barber’s comments written in November 1916.

[43] NARA-DC, RG 66. January 3, 1922 letter from Morgan to de Francisci. In Taxay, this letter was incorrectly transcribed, omitting the word “will” from the last sentence. This altered the meaning of the document. The error was copied through two generations of writers.

[44] As quoted in a 1972 New York Times article by Ed Reiter. Mrs. de Francisci donated two 1921 Peace Dollars to the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum in 1966 (accession number 1966.51.80). The items had been used on a display of medals and have threaded brass rods soldered to them for attachment to a background board.

[45] NARA RG104 Entry A1 328N, box 4. Letter dated January 5, 1922, to Morgan from de Francisci.

[46] There were two people named Caemmerer associated with the Commission: Arno B. Caemmerer (Clerk), and Hans Paul Caemmerer (Secretary). Their terms of service overlapped during parts of November and December 1921. After January 1922, H.P. Caemmerer was commission secretary.

[47] NARA-DC, RG 66. January 6, 1922, letter to Caemmerer from de Francisci.

[48] NARA-DC, RG 66.New York Tribune January 5, 1922.

[49] “Baker Brings New Dollars to His Reno Friends”, Reno Evening Gazette. January 10, 1922. 8.

[50] NARA-DC, RG 66. Newspaper clipping from the New York Tribune on January 5, 1922. Interview given on January 4.

* * *

Roger W. Burdette
Roger W. Burdette
Responsible for much original numismatic research in recent years, Roger Burdette was named the ANA Numismatist of the Year in 2023. Besides CoinWeek, he has written for Coin World and The Numismatist, among others. He is the author of Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-1921 (2005); Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 (2006); Renaissance of American Coinage 1909-1915 (2007); A Guide Book of Peace Dollars (Whitman, 2009); and Fads, Fakes & Foibles (2021). He also co-wrote the NLG award-winning Truth Seeker: The Life of Eric P. Newman (2015) with Len Augsburger and Joel Orosz. Burdette served as a member of the Citizen’s Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) from 2008 to 2012.

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