PCGS Specials

HomeUS CoinsMaking the Peace Dollar, Part Two: Round of Approval

Making the Peace Dollar, Part Two: Round of Approval

Roger Burdette's Making the Peace Dollar, Part Two.

Adapted and updated from Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-1921


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

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

* * *

Congress did not act on legislation to create a dollar coin celebrating peace and the House Coinage Committee moved to other business. However, the Commission of Fine Arts had been listening and knew of the informal meetings. The old Morgan-design dollar had been produced for more than the legal minimum of 25 years, and the design was subject to replacement without specific legislative approval.[1]

A decade earlier in 1910, Congress had passed legislation creating the Commission of Fine Arts to advise on matters involving art and architecture in the District of Columbia and executive departments of the United States Government. The commission, operating with support from the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies, routinely reviewed plans for public buildings, fountains, statues, medals, coins, and other public objects, and provided suggestions to the designers and artists involved.

Figure 1. Group photo of the Commission of Fine Arts taken between 1912 and 1915. Left to right: Cass Gilbert, Pierce Anderson, Edwin H. Blashfield, Frederick Law Olmsted, Arno B. Caemmerer (clerk, standing), Col. William W. Harts (secretary), Daniel Chester French (chairman), Thomas Hastings, Charles Moore. No group photo was taken in 1921. (Courtesy Commission of Fine Arts.)
Figure 1. Group photo of the Commission of Fine Arts taken between 1912 and 1915. Left to right: Cass Gilbert, Pierce Anderson, Edwin H. Blashfield, Frederick Law Olmsted, Arno B. Caemmerer (clerk, standing), Col. William W. Harts (secretary), Daniel Chester French (chairman), Thomas Hastings, Charles Moore. No group photo was taken in 1921. (Courtesy Commission of Fine Arts.)

Although it did not officially “approve” designs, the Commission’s recommendation was seldom ignored; members often worked directly with architects and artists to modify and perfect their designs.

Figure 2. Verdun City medal by John Flanagan, 1920. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Peter A. July & Son Photographic Archive.)
Figure 2. Verdun City medal by John Flanagan, 1920. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Peter A. July & Son Photographic Archive.)

The support of Chairman Charles Moore was especially important for any artist aspiring to work on a government-funded project. Included in the Commission’s authority was the implicit ability to arrange competitions for the design of government medals, insignia, and coins, among other things. The Commission conducted these competitions in cooperation with the appropriate executive department subject to available funding and could choose the artists who would be invited to participate. Recommendations of the Commission were forwarded to the relevant Cabinet secretary for final approval.

Chairman Moore and sculptor-member James Earle Fraser met with United States Mint Director Raymond T. Baker on May 26 to discuss the Congressional Joint Resolution.[2] Baker stated that he wanted to have a Peace Dollar commemorating the end of the war and that the design should be distinctively American. A commission memo summarized the meeting:

May 26, 1921


Mr. Moore and Mr. Fraser called on Hon. Raymond T. Baker, Director of the Mint, this morning concerning the Peace Dollar as proposed in H. J. Res. 111, introduced by Mr. Vestal on May 9, 1921. The desire of the Director is to have a Peace Dollar commemorative of victory, of the World War, and peace. He desires a coin with a design that will be distinctively American. Mr. Baker said he will leave the matter of securing a satisfactory design entirely with the Commission of Fine Arts, and that he will write the Commission as to the requirements of law which would have to be observed in the making of the coin. Mr. Moore and Mr. Fraser thought it would be most appropriate to have a Peace Dollar as proposed and that they would bring the matter before the Commission.[3]

Moore was concerned this concept might violate existing coinage law and even a letter from the Mint director on June 3 did not immediately calm his concern. During its June 9 meeting, the Commission considered the procedure for designing the coin and felt that a competition similar to one they had sponsored for the Verdun Medal (1920, designed by John Flanagan) would be the best method. The names of several sculptors were suggested, including Flanagan, Adolph Weinman, Robert Aitken, Chester Beach, Anthony de Francisci, Henry Hering, Robert McKenzie, Hermon MacNeil, Paul Manship, Victor D. Brenner, and Harvey Wiley Corbett.[4]

A primary impediment to a peace commemorative coin was that the United States and Germany were still officially at war. The armistice of November 11, 1918, had stopped the fighting and most troops had already returned home, but the war technically continued. Congress took care of its responsibilities in ending the war by joint resolution on July 2: it declared that the war with Germany was over.[5] This removed one of the obstacles to a Peace Dollar and pushed along the commission’s plans. By the Commission’s July 26 meeting, the recommendation had been made to the Mint director that a closed competition be used. The obverse was to retain a portrait of Liberty and the commission would pay each sculptor $100 for their sketch models.[6] The Commission’s letter to Director Baker reads in part:

At a meeting in New York City today the members of the Commission discussed the question of the silver dollar. It was decided, subject to your approval, to retain the head of Liberty for the obverse, and try to obtain a very fine head. Will you please state –

1. What according to the existing law must go on the reverse?

2. Whether you can change the design on the reverse?

3. Any suggestions you have as to the design.

For the Verdun Medal we had a competition of eight of the best medallists of this country and the War Department paid each competitor $100.00. The winning competitor received $1,500.00 for his design and model. The same price is being paid to the man who designed the Missouri Centennial Coin [Robert I. Aitken]. Will you please inform the Commission if a similar arrangement would be satisfactory to you?[7]

On September 6, Baker returned from visiting the western mints and his town of Reno, Nevada. He wrote to Moore, advising: “The bill authorizing the issue of the ‘Peace Dollar’ failed of enactment [on August 1] and I would suggest that nothing definite be undertaken in the way of preparing a design at the present.”[8] There was still lingering concern that congressional action was necessary to authorize the peace dollar and Baker didn’t want to step on any political toes. The Mint was also under pressure to re-coin the Pittman Act silver as indicated in a letter from Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon to Baker:

I have noted with great satisfaction the increased coinage of standard silver dollars at the Mints, and wish to congratulate you, and through you the Superintendents of the coinage mints, on the energy and efficiency which have made it possible to bring up the aggregate coinage to $1,000,000 a day and to maintain it at that rate. This will soon take up the accumulation of silver bullion purchased under the Pittman Act, which has heretofore been carried as a dead asset in the general fund, and thereby permit the Treasury to reduce the amount of outstanding Pittman Act certificates, with a corresponding reduction in the public debt and the interest thereon. This is an achievement of which the Mint service has a right to be proud.[9]

Nothing more was done until Fraser spoke with Baker sometime around November 5. During the conversation, Fraser determined that the director now approved of a design competition and wanted the commission to handle things. The commission also sent a letter reviewing the competition plan and the costs associated with it.[10] The reawakened enthusiasm of the mint director was likely caused by the imminent declaration by President Warren G. Harding that war with Germany was officially at an end. The presidential proclamation was issued on November 14, and a path was now cleared for adoption of the Peace Dollar.[11] The commission’s plan was confirmed by Baker in a letter on November 17, where he says, “…I have to advise you that your proposal… is hereby approved.”[12] Baker also halted Philadelphia production of Morgan Dollars in anticipation of soon having a new design.[13]

Coincidentally, the Commission also endorsed the idea of a medal[14] to commemorate the Harding Administration’s goals for the Conference on the Limitation of Armament, then underway in Washington.[15] Both the goals of the conference (prevention of a “naval arms race” between the U.S., Japan, Britain, France, and Italy) and the concept of a lasting peace were popular with the public: this had been the “war to end all wars.” From our perspective in the 21st century, it may be difficult to imagine how deeply the war affected people in America and Europe. The mechanized, impartial death and destruction; the use of poison gas; the futile sacrifice of a generation of young men to trench warfare; the pestilence of influenza; the flickering silent images of carnage on the cinema screen; these were all new, and they profoundly altered the public perception of war – and peace. There was nothing heroic about the brawl.

Commemorating peace with a coin could be an appropriate expression of the nation’s sentiments. It would also give the United States boasting rights for supporting peace since none of the European allies had issued circulating “peace” coins.

Whatever the Administration’s political motivation, the commission left no doubt about the aggressive schedule for its design competition. Fraser informally notified the participants by personal letter on November 19.[16] Official invitations and specifications were dated November 23 and the artists had little time to prepare suitable designs – sketch models were due by December 12.[17] Mint Engraver George Morgan[18] plus eight New York-area artists were invited to participate: Robert I. Aitken, Chester Beach, Victor D. Brenner, Anthony de Francisci, John Flanagan, Henry Hering, Hermon A. MacNeil, and Adolph A. Weinman.[19] All except Beach had previously designed regular issue or commemorative U.S. coins and had experience working with the Mint.[20] Robert Aitken had seen a notice about the Peace Dollar in The Numismatist for October and, as a former U.S. soldier who fought in France, he wrote to Director Baker:

It seems to me, as the only sculptor medalist who had a hand in the making of Peace, I have a slight claim upon the design of the “Peace Dollar.”

The Fine Art Commission would, I am sure, endorse my nomination for this important coin, if it is issued.

What do you think my chances are?[21]

New York City was the center of American sculpture during the postwar period. Most of the sculptors and medallists now well-known to coin collectors lived in or near New York, and the companies that provided casting, photography, die cutting, and other services clustered in nearby urban and suburban areas. The fact that seven of the eight Peace Dollar competitors lived in the city was nothing more than confirmation that most of the sculpting talent was there.

A Design Competition for the Peace Dollar

The Peace Dollar competition specification stated:

“On one side a Liberty head is to be used similar to that on the present coin, but made as beautiful and full of character as possible. The other side is left to the imagination of the artist, exercised within the limits of the coinage law… It is the desire of the director of the mint that the dollar shall be decidedly American in spirit, and in some way represent Peace or Limitation of Armaments. It is to be called the Peace Dollar.”[22]


“The object of the competition being to secure a silver dollar of the highest artistic excellence, the director of the mint reserves the right to make separate selections for the two sides of the coin.”[23]

By 1919, the style and technique of de Francisci, the youngest contestant, had matured under the watchful guidance of his former teachers Fraser and Weinman. His medals commemorating the Peace Treaty of Versailles (Figure 3, below) show mature technique combined with realistic, evocative composition. The Versailles treaty, to which the United States was not a signatory, marked the end of one European war, and possibly the beginning of the next.

Figure 3. Medal designs commemorating the signing of the Peace Treaty of Versailles by de Francisci, 1919. The model to the left is shown on de Francisci’s easel in many newspaper photos promoting the Peace dollar. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art.)

Figure 3. Medal designs commemorating the signing of the Peace Treaty of Versailles by de Francisci, 1919. The model to the left is shown on de Francisci’s easel in many newspaper photos promoting the Peace dollar. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art.)
Figure 3. Medal designs commemorating the signing of the Peace Treaty of Versailles by de Francisci, 1919. The model to the left is shown on de Francisci’s easel in many newspaper photos promoting the Peace dollar. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art.)

To some extent, the designs – de Francisci’s and many others of the postwar period – were too smooth, too heroic, and too hopeful of human nature, just as wartime images portrayed the antagonists as idealized opposites.

His only previous coin models had been made for the Maine Centennial Half Dollar in 1920.[24] These were created from drawings prepared by artist Harry Cochrane from Monmouth, Maine, and provided by the Maine Centennial Commission.[25] Fraser had recommended him for sculpting the model because of his solid technique and ability to work quickly. Although the design is not very attractive, de Francisci’s ability to create a detailed model from the roughly defined drawings of Cochrane indicates the artistic initiative and maturity requisite for a sculptor of the highest caliber.

No changes were permitted, however, and the resulting coin was a dull, uninspired token. “I do not consider it very favorably,” the sculptor commented some years later.[26]

Figure 4. Maine Centennial half dollar (left to right). Original drawings signed by Harry Cochrane; de Francisci’s finished models (second set); below, the coin as struck by the Philadelphia Mint. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art.)
Figure 4. Maine Centennial half dollar (left to right). Original drawings signed by Harry Cochrane; de Francisci’s finished models (second set); below, the coin as struck by the Philadelphia Mint. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art.)

The competitors set to work, each making pencil sketches on paper, gradually refining the design with each revision, and working in elements required by the competition. Of the eight competitors, none appear to have left a written account of either his designs or the competition. Most had recently submitted designs for the Verdun medal and these ideas were likely in the artists’ minds as they worked. Some of their dollar sketches survive. Several of Adolph A. Weinman’s sketches are shown below; sketch number one resembles Weinman’s 1916 Winged Liberty Dime[27], and number five uses the biblical “swords into plowshares” concept; number 6 features a large, detailed eagle head instead of the conventional full-length eagle.

Figure 5. Selection of Peace dollar sketches by Weinman. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art.)
Figure 5. Selection of Peace dollar sketches by Weinman. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art.)

Like the others, Anthony de Francisci made his sketches for the Peace Dollar competition.[28] Several trial designs draw on prior work for the Peace of Versailles (1919) and Verdun medals. The sculptor tried several different concepts – including the unusual idea of having an eagle flying toward the viewer as in Reverse 2.[29] Others resemble existing coins and two, Reverses 3 and 4, are prelude to the final designs. The upper left design (Obverse 1) is also visible in some newspaper articles about the new dollar as a plaster model although it had already been used on a Versailles medal obverse design in 1919. The newspaper photographers, unable to photograph the real Peace Dollar, were content to substitute anything that might have resembled a coin. Obvious by omission was a portrait of Liberty.

Figure 6. A sample of Peace-dollar design sketches by de Francisci. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art.)
Figure 6. A sample of Peace-dollar design sketches by de Francisci. (Courtesy Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art.)

After deciding on an obverse and two reverse designs, the artists made several rough plaster or clay relief models. With each iteration, the designs were refined and adjusted for balance and effect. The final steps were to make a plaster or clay sketch model of their best obverse and two best reverse designs and take photos for submission to the Commission.

All eight sculptors delivered their three sketch models and coin-sized photos of the models to commission member Fraser in New York City by the December 12 deadline as instructed.[30] Photos or models of only three submissions have been located; these are shown in Figure 7, below.

Figure 7. Silver dollar designs submitted to the Commission of Fine Arts in December 1921 by three of the competing artists. (Top row NARA-CP original photos by DeWitt C. Ward; middle row Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art; bottom row Stack’s Bowers Galleries Philadelphia Americana Sale. September 23, 2009. Lot 5333.)
Figure 7. Silver dollar designs submitted to the Commission of Fine Arts in December 1921 by three of the competing artists. (Top row NARA-CP original photos by DeWitt C. Ward; middle row Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art; bottom row Stack’s Bowers Galleries Philadelphia Americana Sale. September 23, 2009. Lot 5333.)

De Francisci chose to enter two different reverse designs: one with a peaceful, benign eagle holding an olive branch, and the other with an aggressive, bellicose eagle breaking a sword. The aggressive eagle borrows from Weinman while the resting eagle presents hope for a future without war. The obverse is similar to the final version but has the date in Roman numerals – MCMXXI.

MacNeil entered one of his obverse models originally prepared for the 1916 silver coin redesign competition. This showed a full-length figure of Liberty holding a sword in her right hand while offering an olive branch with the left; the date MCMXVI [1916] in Roman numerals is below; 13 stars surrounded the central design. MacNeil didn’t bother to change the date to 1921. His first reverse design featured a large, standing eagle with ruffled head feathers holding an olive branch in one claw, and a scroll with the motto “In God We Trust” in its beak.[34] This bird resembles the ones in several earlier sketches by MacNeil, but the drawings cannot be conclusively dated. The second reverse showed a full-length Liberty standing on a globe with clouds at the distant horizon. She casts off a cloak of chain mail, reminiscent of that on the 1917 Type-II Standing Liberty Quarter, while offering a sprig of olive (or laurel?) with her left hand. The obligatory eagle is found on the bodice of her gown.

Beach’s obverse showed a youthful Liberty in a winged cap gazing upward. Clumped around her in every available space are 48 six-pointed stars. A pine cone on a gnarled branch with two groups of pine needles is in front of her, with the date “1921” below. Liberty is above her head, and “In God We Trust” is below the bust truncation. Reverse 1 has a nude warrior on horseback facing left. He holds a treaty of peace with a flying eagle above and in front of a rising sun. The horse tramples a broken artillery wheel and other weaponry; pumpkins and corn grow at right. The legends “United States of America”, “One Dollar”, and “E Pluribus Unum” are in the field. This resembles the Mexican Caballito Peso of 1910-1914 but with much less grace and style. Beach’s second reverse depicts a lightly draped nude male rising from his knees. One foot holds down a broken or damaged sword and an American eagle flies overhead holding olive sprigs. Behind is the rising sun of a new era. Legends are identical to the first reverse.[35]

Promptly at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, December 13, the commission members assembled at the New York studio of James Earle Fraser to review the submissions. Daniel Chester French and Herbert Adams, former sculptor members of the Commission, assisted them. Fraser reported that 10 sets of models had been submitted: eight from the invited sculptors and one set each from George T. Morgan, Engraver at the United States Mint in Philadelphia[36], and a Mr. Folio of New York City. These last two were not considered a part of the competition although Morgan had previously been invited.

We do not know how the 24 anonymous models were displayed for judging – by sculptor, by coin side, in a large group, or in several small groups. We also do not know if the commission members had any specific criteria they used to evaluate the entries other than the competition specifications, or how the unsuccessful designs were separated from the finalists.

After much deliberation by the commission members and negotiation between Moore, Fraser, and Adams (who preferred a seated eagle design)[37], the award was unanimously made to 34-year-old Anthony de Francisci, sculptor, of New York City.[38] The obverse portrait of Liberty was modeled on classical themes and after his 22-year-old wife Teresa[39], and the reverse included an eagle standing on a mountaintop viewing a new dawn of peace. The commission made the award to de Francisci with the understanding that he would prepare finished models under the direction of Fraser and that the models would then be approved by the director of the Mint.[40]

The recommended designs were sent to Mint Director Baker along with a cover letter on December 14.[41] De Francisci, Fraser, and Baker met in Washington on the 15th to review the designs in person. This also allowed Baker to reinforce the tight deadline the Mint had to complete its work. Baker approved the designs on condition that additional changes be made. It was at this point that the use of the broken sword from the alternate model was incorporated into the final reverse design. After recommending the removal of the periods before and after the date, de Francisci was invited to Washington on December 19 to present his designs to Treasury officials[42] (see the second pair of models, below).

Throughout the process, de Francisci had only a few days to make revisions and submit completed models. Fraser returned the three sketch models to de Francisci. To help him get the Liberty head the way the commission wanted it, Fraser gave him a small bust of “Victory” designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens for part of the Sherman Monument in New York “…as an example of what we consider a beautiful type.” This was similar to the portrait originally proposed by Saint-Gaudens in 1907 for the cent and later modified for use on the $10 Eagle.[43]

No major changes were proposed by the commission or Fraser, but there were minor adjustments made to each design. The illustration below shows the original designs submitted in the competition (top) and revised designs taken to Washington, D.C. on December 17 for approval.

Figure 8. Peace-dollar design submitted to Commission of Fine Arts (top), and revised design (except for triangular text stops next to the date) approved by secretary of the treasury (bottom). (National Archives and Records Administration.)
Figure 8. Peace-dollar design submitted to Commission of Fine Arts (top), and revised design (except for triangular text stops next to the date) approved by secretary of the treasury (bottom). (National Archives and Records Administration.)

On the final obverse design, the portrait has been made slightly smaller. Liberty’s mouth and chin have been altered to make them less massive, and the date has been changed to European-style numerals. Finally, the artist’s monogram was added above the date. The reverse was altered by making the eagle broader at the shoulder and bringing its neck and head more erect. Borrowing from the rejected reverse, the eagle now grasps a sword with the tip broken off as well as holding a larger sprig of olive. The intent was to signify the destruction of the implement of war (the sword) and the initiation of peace (the olive branch). To further reinforce the symbolism, the word Peace was added at the mountain base, although there was no authority to add the word to the coin.[44] The commission thought of the broken sword as a clear symbol of the end of hostilities and arms limitations and must have recommended its use in the revised design. It had been used on several art medal designs in this context without dissent. No one who approved the design realized that a broken sword also carried a different meaning for soldiers.

De Francisci worked on the final models through Saturday and completed them on Sunday, December 18. He made two sets of models and left one set with Fraser in New York. The second set and the sketch models he took with him to Washington for final approval the next day.

On Sunday, Anthony and Teresa de Francisci took the late sleeper train to Washington, D.C., arriving Monday morning, December 19, 1921. After a short taxi ride up Pennsylvania Avenue, they met Chairman Moore at the Treasury Building on 15th Street.[45] The weather was fair and comfortable, a light snow of the previous week having melted. In addition to the finished models, they had the sketch models to show Treasury officials the difference between preliminary and finished design models. Accompanied by Chairman Moore of the Commission of Fine Arts, de Francisci showed the plaster models to Director of the Mint Baker, to Under Secretary of the Treasury Seymour P. Gilbert, Jr., then to Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon.[46] Photos were taken of Baker and de Francisci by the Washington firms of Harris & Ewing, National Photo, and Underwood & Underwood for distribution to newspapers.[47] Baker was careful to allow only the backs of the models to be photographed.

Moore described the meeting in a letter to Fraser on December 20:

Dear Mr. Fraser:

Everybody beginning with the Director of the Mint and going up to the under Secretary and Secretary of the Treasury is pleased with the Peace Dollar, in fact they are quite enthusiastic over it.

I met the delightful little midgets at the office of the Director of the Mint. They were beaming all over with fun and it was very good to see them. Unfortunately I was called away after a few words of greeting and congratulations.

I reinforced what you had to say about following the coin through the Mint. Mr. Baker was very glad to have the support of the Commission in this particular, and he is really depending upon you and Mr. Francisci to get a perfect coin. He will back you up to the very last in the struggle to obtain the highest possible degree of excellence at the Mint, and he will be seriously disappointed if this result is not attained. I know the difficulties as to time, and of course the impossible cannot be accomplished excepting on such extraordinary occasions as this. I am particularly happy over the head which is exactly what I have been longing for and expecting some day to see realized. I feel that through your good offices the Commission has been able to make another real contribution to the coinage of the country.

Cordially yours,

Charles Moore, Chairman[48]

Finally, everyone except Moore went to the White House to show the models to President Harding.[49] The little group was escorted into the president’s office between scheduled pre-luncheon appointments. The president made a few flattering remarks, quickly approved the design, and everyone left. Secretary Mellon officially approved the designs on December 20 and the new Peace Dollar seemed on its way to completion.[50] As agreed, de Francisci telephoned Fraser to give him the results. Fraser had recommended that bronze casts be made from the plasters immediately after approval of the designs. He felt this would prevent damage or alteration of the design at the Mint. Fraser had the casts made for $15 each.[51]

* * *


[1] See NARA RG 66-G-11-A, 66-G-11-B, meeting minutes July 26, 1921, item 9. Executive Order 3524, “Designing of Medals, Insignia, Coins, Statues, Fountains, Monuments, Parks and Public Buildings.” At the request of Commission Chairman Charles Moore, President Warren G. Harding issued Executive Order 3524 on July 28, 1921 reinforcing the federal Commission of Fine Arts’ responsibilities and specifically including the District of Columbia in the Commission’s charter. Judson Brenner in his ANA committee report suggests that the Executive Order was important to the peace commemorative, and was a result of the ANA’s lobbying of Congress. Both these claims are incorrect. An edited draft of the Executive Order in Moore’s handwriting is located in the commission archives (NARA-DC, RG66, Entry 5, box 5, 1921 correspondence folder) indicating that Moore wrote the order for the president’s signature. Executive Order 3524 was of only peripheral relevance to the Peace dollar competition and had no effect on the process, design, or outcome.

[2] From this point forward, it appears that the ANA committee had no influence in the creation of the Peace Dollar, and were not kept informed of what the commission and mint were doing. See Bowers, 2701 quotation from The Numismatist for January 1922, and the comments by Judson Brenner quoted in Bowers, 2705.

[3] NARA-DC, RG 66. Memorandum prepared by Commission Secretary Caemmerer.

[4] NARA RG 66-G-11-A, 66-G-11-B. Meeting minutes June 9, 1921, item 4. Mr. Corbett is best known as an architect. He designed the Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA, and portions of Rockefeller Center in New York, among many other buildings.

[5] The official “end” could come only after a presidential declaration.

[6] NARA RG 66-G-11-A, 66-G-11-B. Meeting minutes July 26, 1921, Item 5. Fraser had earlier objected to this parsimonious sum, but the commission did not act on his suggestions. To get an idea of how small the amount was (even in 1921) – each sculptor had to make three models, pay a New York photographer to take photos (approximately $20), and have everything packaged and delivered to Fraser. Given the time it took to create and model the designs, the artists worked for about 25-cents per hour.

[7] NARA RG 66-G-11-A, 66-G-11-B. Meeting minutes July 26, 1921, accompanying letter.

[8] NARA-DC, RG66. September 6, 1921, letter to Moore from Baker. Baker is referring to the August 1 unanimous consent resolution that failed.

[9] RG104 E-612, Box 45. Letter dated October 18, 1921, to Baker from Secretary Mellon as quoted in the 1922 Assay Commission Report. 6.

[10] NARA-DC, RG66. meeting minutes November 11-12, 1921. Item 11. The meeting likely took place on Saturday, November 5 based on the wording of the commission’s minutes.

[11] A Treaty Between the United States and Germany, Signed in August 25, 1921, to Restore Friendly Relations Existing Between the Two Nations Prior to the Outbreak of War. The Treaties of Peace 1919-1923, vol. II, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, New York, 1924. The proclamation reiterated Congress’ joint resolution of July 2.

[12] NARA-DC, RG66. Letter dated November 17, 1921, to Moore from Baker.

[13] RG104 E-612, box 45. 13. “1922 Assay Commission Report,” Shows the last batch of assay dollars (old type) from Philadelphia dated November 16.

[14] NARA RG 66-G-11-A, 66-G-11-B. Meeting minutes November 11–12, 1921, item 12. No further mention is made of this proposal. It is likely that the Commission realized that the Peace Dollar would be a stronger symbol than a medal.

[15] The Conference on the Limitation of Armament, Washington, D.C. (November 12, 1921, to February 6, 1922), was a major foreign policy effort of the new Harding Administration. Politics being what they are, it is possible that the administration pushed the Peace dollar as part of U.S. support for the conference. Note that the competition invitation was dated November 23 and that specifications state: “…and in some way represent Peace or Limitations of Armaments.” Also, the coin was to be known as the “Peace Dollar.” Design, production and highly publicized distribution of the new dollars occurred while the conference was in session. This could help explain the short schedule for competition and production. See also: Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States: 1922, vol. 1, pp. 247–266. There is also an exchange of letters between Treasury Secretary Mellon (January 5, 1922) and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (January 7, 1922) in which Mellon says: “This new design will be known as the Peace Dollar and is so named in honor of the Conference on Limitation of Armaments.” See Massachusetts Historical Society entry in the bibliography. A bill was introduced in Congress in February, 1922, for a commemorative medal but the measure died in committee.

[16] NARA-DC, RG66. November 19, 1921, draft of form letter from Fraser to competition participants.

[17] de Francisci, Anthony. Papers, 1904-1965. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Box 2 of 6, folder 1; p. 2 of the specifications. Typed specifications for the design competition with accompanying invitation letter dated November 23, 1921, signed by Lt. Col. C[larence] O. Sherrill, secretary and executive officer of the Commission of Fine Arts. Col. Sherrill was a frequent guest at the White House, and briefed President Harding on South American policy and other issues on several occasions. He may have been the primary information conduit between the White House and the Commission.

[18] RG104 E-235 Vol 441. Letter dated November 28, 1921, to Morgan from Baker stating the the Commission also wanted him to participate.

[19] AdF, AAA, op. cit. Item no. 8.

[20] Most of these artists, including de Francisci, had recently participated in the Verdun Medal design competition.

[21] NARA RG104 Entry A1 328N, box 4. Letter dated October 10, 1921, to Baker from Aitken.

[22] AdF, AAA, op. cit. Box 2 of 6, folder 1; page 1, item 3 of the specifications.

[23] AdF, AAA, ibid. Item 4.

[24] AdF, AAA, op. cit. Box 4 of 6, folder 9 contains the original, signed drawings glued to a piece of card stock, and photos of the final models. The models differ from those in CFA-NARA-DC in that the moose and pine tree are incuse on the de Francisci models.

[25] Harry Cochrane (1860–1946) was a building designer, mural painter, public building decorator, and member of the State Legislature well-known in Maine. He was appointed to the Maine Centennial Commission in 1920 by Governor Milliken and produced a movie titled The Romance of Maine. His signature is on the back of the Maine Centennial Half Dollar sketches in the archives: “Harry Cochrane – State House, Augusta, Maine.” He also designed the official version of the State Seal adopted in 1920 but not fixed in design until 1919. His proximity to events, membership on the committee, political connections, artistic qualifications and connection with the sketches establish Mr. Cochrane as designer of the Maine Centennial Half Dollar.

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

[27] Weinman, Adolph A. Papers, Archives of American Art. Microfilm roll 283, frames #1165–1166. Numbering is arbitrary.

[28] AdF, AAA, op. cit. Box 2 of 6, folder 1. There are 18 pencil sketches of which the ones illustrated are representative. All were made on torn pieces of paper approximately 4×5 inches in size. Some are double sided. All are brittle and in deteriorating condition. The numbering used herein is arbitrary.

[29] Unfortunately, the sketch appears to look as much like a cartoon “pig’s head” as it does a flying eagle.

[30] AdF, AAA, op. cit. Box 2 of 6, folder 1, item 7.

[31] NARA-CP, op. cit. Entry A1 328N, box 4. The three dollar-size photos are attached to a 7×10-inch card stock with the obverse image in the center. The card has been broken apparently by someone attempting to fold it. The photos are undamaged. These appear to be the only images of the original design in existence. Compare with the images in Taxay, which were provided by de Francisci.

[32] MacNeil, Hermon A. Papers, Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art, reel 2726, frame 10. The designs are known only from the photos submitted for the competition. The negative of the first reverse buckled due to excessive heat during drying and the resulting contact print is out of focus in the center.

[33] Stack’s Bowers Galleries Philadelphia Americana Sale, September 23, 2009, Lot 5333. All three designs are on one board.

[34] This resembles the bird in undated sketches sold to Eric P. Newman along with drawings for the reverse of the Standing Liberty Quarter.

[35] Descriptions adapted from Stack’s Bowers Galleries Philadelphia Americana Sale, September 23, 2009, Lot 5333.

[36] NARA RG104, E-235, vol. 441. Letter dated November 28, 1921, to Morgan from Baker. The director specifically instructed Morgan to submit models.

[37] CFA, NARA-DC, RG 66, 13-EZA, box 144, Peace dollar file. Letter dated December 17, 1921, to Moore from Fraser.

[38] AdF, AAA, op. cit. There is a somewhat cryptic note in box 5 of 6 of the de Francisci papers where someone states, “…should not be concerned: the dollar design was selected on its merits.” The note is not in de Francisci’s handwriting. This may refer to the sculptor’s insecurity about competing against the best medallists in the country, or about the small number of submissions.

[39] NARA RG 66-G-11-A, 66-G-11-B. Meeting minutes December 13, 1921, item 1.

[40] The unsuccessful competitors were not officially notified until at least January 11, 1922. The delay caused some consternation among the sculptors, particularly Aitken and Flanagan. See letter of January 6, 1922, from Louis Ayres to Moore, and Moore’s reply of the 9th; also a note from Flanagan to the commission asking when he would be paid. All in CFA-Peace, NARA-DC.

[41] NARA RG 66-G-11-A, 66-G-11-B. Meeting minutes December 13, 1921, copy of letter dated December 14, 1921, to Baker from commission.

[42] U.S. Mint, NARA-CP, op. cit. E-235, vol. 442. Letters dated December 15 and 17, 1921, to de Francisci and Fraser from Baker. These were official confirmation of telephoned instructions.

[43] See Burdette, Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 for details on Saint-Gaudens’ cent designs.

[44] In 1906, Saint-Gaudens had suggested adding the words Law or Justice to the double eagle. This was rejected because it would have required Congressional approval.

[45] The round-trip tickets cost $23.23 each. The Treasury paid only for Anthony’s ticket. Rail was the primary means of intercity travel in 1921 (Source: US Mint, NARA-CP, op. cit. Entry A1 328N, box 4, payment vouchers).

[46] Gilbert’s father had served on the 1921 Assay Commission (see 1922 Assay Commission Report for more information).

[47] Harris & Ewing Inc. was the semi-official Washington, D.C. photographer for the government for many years. The firm’s 70,000 negatives, which now reside in the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, chronicle important people and events from 1905 to 1945. Only about half of the negatives have been cataloged due to limited resources.

[48] NARA-DC, RG 66. December 20, 1921, letter to Fraser from Moore.

[49] Harding, Warren G.; papers, Ohio Historical Society. Reel 237 (box 830).

[50] NARA-CP, op. cit. Entry A1 328N, box 4. Letter dated December 19, 1921, to Mellon from Baker, with annotation “Approved. Dec. 20, 1921 A. W. Mellon [signature].”

[51] Ibid. Letter dated December 26, 1921, to Baker from Fraser. He lists $30 in travel expenses and “…an added expense of $30.00 for two bronze casts of the models of the Peace dollar.”

* * *

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.

Related Articles


  1. Roger, I’m about 3/4 of the way through “Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-1921” and…wow!! Fascinating history and insight that’s given me so much more appreciation for my coins, especially all the Peace Dollars.

    I was fortunate to borrow the book through the interlibrary loan service, but it’s so interesting and informative that I want to someday obtain my own copies of it and the first volume. Cheers!

    • Roger, one question: can you suggest readings that describe the “Hackel Debacle”? Or is there not much more to it than what appeared in: “The E-Sylum: Volume 4, Number 22, May 27, 2001, Article 10 — HACKEL’S MINT RECORD DESTRUCTION”? Thanks.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Heritage Auctions Consign

L and C New Arrivals

David Lawrence Rare Coins Auctions