Commemorative Coins of the United States

Chapter 9: Gold Commemoratives
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1903 Louisiana Purchase Exposition Gold Dollars

Two Commemorative Gold Dollar Designs

Bearing the date 1903, two varieties of gold dollars were produced in connection with the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis the following year. On June 28, 1902, legislation was approved that provided for the coinage "at the mints of the United States 250,000 gold dollars of legal weight and fineness, to be known as the Louisiana Exposition gold dollar, struck in commemoration of said exposition. The exact words, devices, and designs upon said gold dollar shall be determined and prescribed by the secretary of the Treasury, and all provisions of law relative to the coinage and legal-tender quality of all of their gold coins shall be applicable to the coin issued under and in accordance with the provisions of this Act."

On March 3, 1901, the government had provided for the sum of $5 million as a general appropriation for the Exposition, and money from this authorization was to be applied for the souvenir coins. Although the Act did not specifically mention more than one design, it did not prohibit it either. Numismatist Farran Zerbe, advisor to the project, suggested that sales would be expanded if two styles of gold dollars were created. Commemorated on the gold dollars were several things including the anniversary of the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from the French, Thomas Jefferson (president at the time the purchase was made), William McKinley (under whose administration the Exposition was authorized; he was assassinated in 1901, and his memory was fresh in the minds of Americans in 1903), and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.

The Louisiana Purchase

The purchase transaction involving the Louisiana Territory, comprising what would later become the heartland of the United States, was consummated on April 30,1803 (with the transfer taking place on December 20, 1803) between Napoleon Bonaparte of France and the United States.

The American government, wary of France's continuing territorial aspirations and fearful that the port of New Orleans would be restricted, appropriated the sum of $2 million with which to buy the lower part of the Louisiana Territory, authorizing its representative, James Monroe, to go to as high as $10 million if necessary. Monroe learned that Napoleon wanted to sell a much larger area of land for 100million francs. The amount was eventually negotiated to 60 million francs plus an additional 20 million francs to settle certain private claims against France, a transaction equivalent to about $15 million, of which about $11.25 million was for land.

The American government became the owner of a vast expanse that doubled the size of the United States, adding land later known as the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and parts of Colorado , Wyoming, and Minnesota. The Constitution of the United States was silent on the issue of adding territory to the United States, and questions arose as to the authority of Jefferson and Congress to do so. It was determined that the transaction came under the "implied powers" of the president's office. The Senate ratified Jefferson's decision with little discussion of the constitutional impact. After the ratification Jefferson sent the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the upper reaches of the territory.

The Louisiana Purchase was commemorated on the 1903 gold dollars presently under discussion, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition furnished the subject for later (1904-1905) issues of the same denomination.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, president of the United States at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, was the leading figure on the American side of the transaction. Born on April 13, 1743 (April 2nd on the old calendar) in Shadwell, Virginia, Jefferson at-tended William and Mary College 1760-1762, was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1769, and later became a member of the Virginia Committee of Correspondence and the Continental Congress. Jefferson served in several government posts, and in 1789 was appointed as secretary of state by President George Washington, a position he resigned on December 31, 1793.

In 1796 Jefferson was the Democrat Republican candidate for president, but was defeated by John Adams. As the runner-up he served as Adams' vice-president according to the system in effect at that time. In 1800 he and Aaron Burr each received an equal number of electoral college votes for president. The House of Representatives selected Jefferson as the winner. He served two terms as president and was in office until the inauguration of his successor, James Madison, in 1809. Jefferson's accomplishments while president included the Louisiana Purchase and the sponsorship of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which subsequently explored the territory.

Jefferson was a man of letters and science. His home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia, reflected his ability in and appreciation of art and architecture. He was the founder of the University of Virginia and planned the campus grounds and buildings. One of his greatest accomplishments, the drafting of the Declaration Jefferson was a man of letters and science. His home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia, reflected his ability in and appreciation of art and architecture. He was the founder of the University of Virginia and planned the campus grounds and buildings. One of his greatest accomplishments, the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, assured his place in history.

During Jefferson's term as president and ever since that time, his portrait has appeared on many coins, tokens, and medals.

Chapter 9: Gold Commemoratives
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