Chapter 7: Gobrecht Dollars, Historical Background Table of Contents

Duties of the Chief Engraver
The two artists had barely begun their labors on the new design when Kneass suffered 'stroke. One reason Patterson asked the Treasury of emergency permission to hire Christian Gobrecht was to avoid interruption' of the coinage for want: Of dies. Equally important to the director was the design project then underway. Gobrecht was soon at the Mint learning what additional skills were necessary for the performance of his duties;

The engraver's duties had drastically changed over the decades. Only in. 1793 were significant design elements hand engraved. Thereafter, device punches were used extensively. Beginning in 1796, eagle hubs (With incuse motto E PLURIBUS UNUM) were raised from matrices or master dies. Until the 1830s, berries, some leaves, letters; and stars had to be punched by hand into working dies often by assistants. Thereafter, hubs complete except for dates, sank working dies, often requiring strengthening by the engraver's hand. Certain employees of the coining department were assigned as needed to produce the bulk of the working dies. The primary duty: of the engraver was to .create new designs;

There is some uncertainty as to when certain steps in this overall system went into operation, and it may be that Engraver (1793-1823) Robert Scot simply gave up several of his duties to Eckfeldt as time went on. Scot was.79 years of age when he died in office and could not have been too active in the preparation of working dies for Some years before that. It was not until the 1850s, and after a considerable amount of infighting, that Engraver James B. Longacre was able to recover the functions of his office from then Chief Coiner Franklin Peale.

 

Miss Liberty, by William Kneass

Miss Liberty, by William Kneass

The Liberty Seated Figure

On September 5, 1835, Patterson sent Thomas Sully a case of British coins and medals to guide him in the preparation of a seated figure of Liberty. We have no list of what was contained in the package, but it is highly likely that there were several representations of Britannia, a well-known figure on coins and medals of that nation.

Britannia, although first used on British coinage under King Charles II in the 1670s, was actually an ancient device. Some of the early Greek coins had superb renderings of seated figures, and these were adapted by Roman engravers under the Empire. Several emperors used one seated figure in particular to represent Britain. Antiquarians in Britain were well aware of the Roman usage and persuaded Charles II that the figure was ideal for British coinage. It has seldom been absent since that time.

There is a story that the king, in choosing to recreate Britannia on the coinage, was also honoring one of his mistresses. The Duchess of Richmond is said to have posed for the London Mint engravers at the king's express command. The story is quite in character for Charles II.

 

Chapter 7: Gobrecht Dollars, Historical Background Table of Contents