Morgan’s Miss Liberty

 

 

Today’s post is most decidedly for the numismatically inclined. I wanted to do some stock photos of collector coins, not necessarily for documentary or sale purposes but rather for artistic purposes as you might see on the cover or on a page within a numismatic magazine. I would have to say that anyone in America who is interested in collecting coins would have interest in the Morgan Silver Dollar (1878-1904 + 1921). The coin, which in early years of its production was shown as unpopular, has become one of the most popular and collected series of all time. Derogatory complaints were rampant from calling it nothing but a cartwheel ( I assume referring to the heavy 1797 UK 2 Pence Copper known as a Cartwheel) to the Buzzard Dollar referring to what was viewed as a scrawny eagle on the reverse. Who knows about these things as this particular coin comes in finishes that are absolutely glorious as satiny business strike, mirrored proof like, deep mirror proof like (DMPL) and actual proof examples depending on the state of the dies. And, what can you say about the worn circulated coins, well perhaps they were tossed onto a poker table in a saloon out west when gold and silver were king? All I can say is that it was a great thrill as a child when my father gave me a real silver dollar. Magical!
The example I took the close up of Miss Liberty’s profile is a DMPL coin and as such offers lovely contrast between the mirrored fields and the frosty cameo of Lady Liberty. The face belongs to Anna Willess Williams part of whose story I’ve pasted below from an article series on Anna Williams, George T. Morgan’s model, which Dave Bowers of Stack’s Bowers, the noted Rare Coin Auction House,  is offering on that company’s blog. The excerpt being dated May of 1896 is a piece of history in of itself.

 

The Numismatist, May 1896, printed this item:

“To Marry A Goddess, the Young Lady Whose Profile Appears on Uncle Sam’s Silver Dollars:

“The announcement that the Goddess of Liberty is about to be married has aroused new interest in the woman whose face is known to more people than that of any other woman of the American continent. Every man, woman or child who has a silver dollar carries the handsome profile of the Philadelphia schoolteacher, Miss Anna W. Williams. Her classic features have been stamped upon millions of silver disks.

“It is twenty years since the pretty blonde girl became world-famous. It was then stated that Miss Williams’ profile was the original of the Goddess of Liberty on that much abused, much admired and equally much disliked Bland silver dollar. The friends of the young woman placed every obstacle in the way of possible identification, but failed in their object. The story of how Miss Williams came to be the Goddess of Liberty may be retold, now that it is said she is soon to become a bride.

“In the early part of 1876 the Treasury Department secured, through communication with the Royal Mint of England, the services of a clever young designer and engraver named George Morgan. Upon his arrival in this country Mr. Morgan was installed at the Philadelphia Mint and was assigned the task of making a design for the new silver dollar. After many months of labor the young engraver completed the design for the reverse side of the coin upon which he represented the American eagle. His attention was then turned to the other side, and his original inclination was to place on it a fanciful head representing the Goddess of Liberty. But the ambitious designer was too much of a realist to be satisfied with a mere product of fancy. Finally he determined the head should be the representation of some American girl and forthwith searched for his beauteous maid.

“It was a long search, although pleasant. He told his friends of his desires, and one of them spoke of the really classic beauty of Miss Anna Williams. The English designer was introduced to the girl. Mr. Morgan was at once impressed by her beautiful face and studied it carefully. Then he told her what he desired, and she promptly refused to permit herself to be the subject of the design. Her friends, however, induced her to pose before an artist. After five sittings the design was completed.

“Mr. Morgan was so enthusiastic that he declared Miss Williams’ profile was the most nearly perfect he had seen in England or America. His design for the Bland silver dollar was accepted by Congress, and so the silver coins have been pouring from the mints all these years adorned with the stately face of a Quaker City maiden.

“Miss Williams is a decidedly modest young woman. She resides on Spring Garden Street, not far from the school in which for years she has been employed as an instructor in philosophy and methods in the kindergarten department. She is slightly below the average height, is rather plump, and is fair. She carries her figure with a stateliness rarely seen and the pose of the head is exactly as seen on the silver dollar. The features of Miss Williams are reproduced as faithfully as in a good photograph.—New York Mail and Express.”

To read the complete article, see:
Anna Willess Williams, The “Silver Dollar Girl” (www.stacksbowers.com/NewsMedia/Blogs/TabId/780/ArtMID/
2678/ArticleID/64920/Anna-Willess-Williams-The-%E2%80%9CSilver-Dollar-Girl%E2%80%9D.aspx)

 

This image is not a DMPL coin but a Mint State business strike example. The fields are satiny with the revolving highlight referred to as cartwheel luster. Luster is due to the pressure created in the minting process which causes the metal to flow outward with very fine parallel lines. These catch the light in such beautiful ways and the delicacy of these fine lines is lost when the coin is handled and is one of the defining characteristics of an uncirculated coin.

The image from an artistic point of view was intended to contrast the gold tones and design of the old brass box I placed the coin on with the pretty shimmery silver of the silver dollar.

 

 

 

This is the reverse side of a Morgan Dollar with its eagle design. The coin caught some reflected blue from the daylight I put the coin in which made a colorful contrast. The background is dark with a burgundy hue to show off the coin a bit.

 

 

I played with this profile with various scaling and color treatments for fun. This is the same as the top image scale wise but I enjoyed the bi-color filter I used on it with a light tone to the cameo and some deep blues along the legend and stars to fade it off a bit.

To be immortalized on a such a silver dollar….cannot think of a cooler thing that could happen to a person.

Judy

~ by Judy on November 17, 2019.

12 Responses to “Morgan’s Miss Liberty”

  1. Alas, Judy, as you know, this isn’t my thing. It wings over my head. But beautiful photos all the same. 🙂

    • I’d say whether on a coin or a painting or a photograph, a great profile is a beauty to behold. I am often amazed at the art that goes into coinage and the importance of the engraver and artistic as well a historical vision. A coin is a canvas we can spend!! 🙂

  2. To explain a reference that might otherwise puzzle your readers: “Bland silver dollar.” No, it is not referring to the design, which, as Judy’s photographs show, is quite striking. (Yup, a Mint pun.) “Bland” refers to Richard P. Bland, who in 1878 was a U.S. Representative from Missouri. The U.S. had discontinued minting silver dollars in 1873, causing the price of silver to drop, and this was thought to have helped bring on a business depression. Bland wanted the U.S. to buy silver on the open market, thereby raising its price, and mint it into dollar coins, which by being put into circulation would stimulate the economy. Along with Senator William Allison of Iowa, they pushed through the Bland-Allison Act of 1878, which required the U.S. Treasury to do just that. And that is why Morgan was called upon to design a new dollar coin!

    And, yes, Judy, I love the photos.

    • Didn’t pressure from silver miners also come into play once the Comstock lode was discovered? Silver interests needed a coin.

      Oh thanks for the striking humor and bland clarification too!! 🙂

      • Yes. Prior to 1873, miners in theory could bring their silver and gold to the Mint to have it turned into coins of equivalent value, at a trivial cost. Which meant in practice the U.S. supported an official price for both gold and silver ore.

        That ceased in 1873. The Comstock Lode and other silver mines in the West were producing so much silver that its price fell dramatically. The idea behind the Bland-Allison Act was that by requiring the Mint to buy silver, it would increase demand for silver, causing its price to rise, and making silver mines more profitable.

        It didn’t really work. The amount of silver the Mint bought to coin silver dollars wasn’t enough to raise prices, when so much silver was being mined. (And so little gold was being mined, too.)

        Popular pressure by silver interests, and Populist farmers who felt increasing the money supply would help their businesses, led to the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, which increased the amount of silver the Mint had to buy, over the amount called for by the Bland-Allison Act. Instead of helping the silver interests, it almost caused the U.S. Gov’t to run out of gold (for reason too complicated to be explained here). So it was repealed only a few years later.

        The political defeat of the silver interests in 1896 led to the Gold Standard Act of 1900, which defined the dollar solely in terms of gold, not gold and silver. Silver would still be used in coins for many decades. But the silver content was worth far less than the coins’ face values.

      • Yeah the silver value had to be less than face to make it profitable to mint. When it becomes upside down then coinage is reduced in fineness or eliminated. Today we face that with our smaller denominations which cost more to make than face value. Coin politics is so interesting and complex. Interesting how long we went as a country without our own coinage and using pieces of eight as accepted means of exchange for so long. And even that Cartwheel 2 pence was accepted in the Northeast for a time. Romantic as it is through today’s eyes using ‘pirate money’ for our own.

        I appreciate the knowledge you have about all these Coinage and Metals Acts, there is a lot of detail in the whole process. The Pittman Act was the one that mandated replacement of the Morgans melted for Britain to buy having the Peace Dollar come about….and another hipper lady liberty on the obverse 🙂 I stand corrected though if I didn’t get that quite right.

  3. What a great word, Judy – numismatically! A fascinating post. Best, Babsje

    • I am really glad that you found it interesting. Not everyone enjoys coin collecting but it is a great focus point for a history lesson. Amazing the politics of coinage.

  4. Every time I read one of your posts about coins, I wish I had my Dad’s collection back again — especially the silver dollars. On the other hand, they weren’t doing me any good, despite the pleasure I took in them as aesthetic objects. I was interested in what you said about the luster. I didn’t know about that, but some of the uncirculated coins he had showed it very well; they were gorgeous.

    What I did learn when I was ready to disperse them is that both silver content and collector interest are involved in price setting. A few of them garnered very good prices, indeed — and helped to buy my first DSLR camera!

    • Pricing on such numismatic items can be a difficult thing. You have published values as NGC Price Guide, Greysheets and the Red Book but those do not necessarily represent value in the marketplace. And then there is an MS64 and a really exceptional MS64 so what its the price difference because of eye appeal. In numsimatics the silver content is important to be accurate but the pricing is far and away different than bullion pricing as value is put on rarity, condition, grade etc. A true meld of history, science and art with these things. Probably the only value that will hold up is spot or melt, the rest relys on the economy and collector desire to maintain value.

      Glad you could turn your father’s items into something you really wanted. His must have been a nice collection if there was still mint luster. Modern coins have that too you know. Twirl a penny or quarter mint fresh and you will see the mint highlight cartwheel around the surface. So pretty!!

      • He was what they call an avid collector — both stamps and coins. When I was a wee thing, I remember going with him to the bank when he’d pick up another bag of coins — often dimes. It was a different era, for sure. The bank VP, who was in his coin club, would hand over a bag of rolled dimes — it had to be a hundred dollars’ worth. Dad would take them home, sort through them, pick out what he wanted, add back some “normal” dimes so that value of the bag was the same, and take it back to the bank for a trade-in. Amazing.
        The only coins I kept were commemorative: our town’s centennial, the Iowa centennial, and so on. The profit we made on his penny collection — absent very, very few of the really rare ones — supported Mom for nearly a year.

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