Commemorative Coins of the United States

Chapter 9: Gold Commemoratives
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William McKinley

William McKinley, the 25th president, was born in Niles, Ohio on January 29, 1843. Following his education he served in the Civil War. Later he studied law in Albany, New York, returning in 1867 to his home state to practice in Canton. McKinley served in the House of Representatives 1877-1883 and again 1885-1891 and in 1890 gained recognition for the sponsorship of the McKinley Tariff. Defeated in his bid for re-election, after his term expired in 1891 he ran for governor of Ohio, an office which he occupied from 1892 to 1896.

In the latter year he ran for president on the Republican ticket on a platform pro-pounding sound money (as opposed to "free silver") and protective tariffs. He defeated his Democratic opponent, William Jennings Bryan (who subsequently lost to McKinley again in 1900 and to William Howard Taft in 1908). The Spanish-American War of 1898 was the most notable event of his first administration. During the course of his 1900 re-election campaign, McKinley promised American citizens "a full dinner pail," the precursor to such later catchy political slogans as "a chicken in every pot" and "a car in every garage." While attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo on September 6, 1901, McKinley was wounded by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, and died on September 14th. McKinley is remembered by historians as a conciliatory person with few major controversies occurring during his administration. As an incidental item it may be worth noting that he was the first American president to be filmed for motion pictures. McKinley was buried in Canton, Ohio. Years later the McKinley Birthplace Memorial was built in Niles, Ohio, and in 1916 and 1917 commemorative gold dollars were produced to assist with the financing of it.

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, popularly known as the St. Louis World's Fair, was intended to open in 1903; but delays postponed the opening of the event until April 30, 1904, a year after the date on the coins made for it. The fair continued until closing day on December 1st of the same year, by which time about 20 million people had attended, many of whom enjoyed humming or singing the popular song, Meet Me In St. Louis. The Exposition was situated on a 1,272-acre tract in Forest Parkin St. Louis, one of the largest expanses of land ever allotted to an event of this type in the United States. Fifteen major buildings, including four art palaces (one of which exists today), formed the focus of the fairgrounds with numerous smaller buildings, exhibit areas, fountains, gardens, and other attractions providing interest. Among the exhibits were many automobiles and other vehicles, demonstrations of wireless telegraphy, displays of the uses of electricity, and dirigibles. Works of hundreds of different artists, mainly painters, were on display. Among the sculptors represented at the Exposition were John Flanagan, Adolph A. Weinman, Evelyn Beatrice Longman, James Earle Fraser, Hermon A. MacNeil, and Daniel Chester French, all of whom would subsequently have connections with coin designs, commemorative or otherwise.

William McKinley

William McKinley, the 25th president, was born in Niles, Ohio on January 29, 1843. Following his education he served in the Civil War. Later he studied law in Albany, New York, returning in 1867 to his home state to practice in Canton. McKinley served in the House of Representatives 1877-1883 and again 1885-1891 and in 1890 gained recognition for the sponsorship of the McKinley Tariff. Defeated in his bid for re-election, after his term expired in 1891 he ran for governor of Ohio, an office which he occupied from 1892 to 1896.

In the latter year he ran for president on the Republican ticket on a platform pro-pounding sound money (as opposed to "free silver") and protective tariffs. He defeated his Democratic opponent, William Jennings Bryan (who subsequently lost to McKinley again in 1900 and to William Howard Taft in 1908). The Spanish-American War of 1898 was the most notable event of his first administration. During the course of his 1900 re-election campaign, McKinley promised American citizens "a full dinner pail," the precursor to such later catchy political slogans as "a chicken in every pot" and "a car in every garage." While attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo on September 6, 1901, McKinley was wounded by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, and died on September 14th. McKinley is remembered by historians as a conciliatory person with few major controversies occurring during his administration. As an incidental item it may be worth noting that he was the first American president to be filmed for motion pictures. McKinley was buried in Canton, Ohio. Years later the McKinley Birthplace Memorial was built in Niles, Ohio, and in 1916 and 1917 commemorative gold dollars were produced to assist with the financing of it.

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, popularly known as the St. Louis World's Fair, was intended to open in 1903; but delays postponed the opening of the event until April 30, 1904, a year after the date on the coins made for it. The fair continued until closing day on December 1st of the same year, by which time about 20 million people had attended, many of whom enjoyed humming or singing the popular song, Meet Me In St. Louis. The Exposition was situated on a 1,272-acre tract in Forest Parkin St. Louis, one of the largest expanses of land ever allotted to an event of this type in the United States. Fifteen major buildings, including four art palaces (one of which exists today), formed the focus of the fairgrounds with numerous smaller buildings, exhibit areas, fountains, gardens, and other attractions providing interest. Among the exhibits were many automobiles and other vehicles, demonstrations of wireless telegraphy, displays of the uses of electricity, and dirigibles. Works of hundreds of different artists, mainly painters, were on display. Among the sculptors represented at the Exposition were John Flanagan, Adolph A. Weinman, Evelyn Beatrice Longman, James Earle Fraser, Hermon A. MacNeil, and Daniel Chester French, all of whom would subsequently have connections with coin designs, commemorative or otherwise.

Design of the Coins

Charles E. Barber, chief engraver of the Mint, produced dies with obverses depicting William McKinley and Thomas Jefferson. Some of the finish work was done by George T. Morgan of the Mint staff. For one variety of gold dollar Barber copied a portrait of Thomas Jefferson from the portrait on an Indian peace medal created in three sizes in the latter part of 1801 by John Reich, a recent immigrant who did certain contract work for the Mint (and who would join the Mint staff in 1807).(Michael Hodder has furnished the following information: Although Robert Scot was chief engraver at the Mint during Thomas Jefferson's administration, it is probable that Scot subcontracted the Jefferson medallic portrait to John Reich, a German engraver who came to America in August 1800. In 1802 Jefferson wrote to his daughter Martha: "I enclose you a medal executed by an artist lately from Europe and who appears to be equal to any in the world. It is taken from Houdon's bust, for he never saw me. Scot had been chief engraver since 1793 and so would not have been considered "lately from Europe." The portrait of Jefferson on his inaugural and Indian peace medals (Julian IP-3 and PR-2) bears a strong resemblance to Houdon's bust of the president.) Reich modeled the portrait from a bust of Jefferson by Jean Antoine Houdon. For the other variety McKinley's portrait was borrowed from Barber's own presidential medal, an image which Augustus Saint Gaudens, no fan of either Barber or the Mint engraving staff, characterized as "deadly." Years later, in 1916, Barber was to create another portrait of McKinley for use on a commemorative gold dollar; the second attempt was widely regarded as a failure. The reverse, common to both 1903 commemorative gold dollars, consisted of the inscription LOUISIANA PURCHASE EXPOSITION / ST. LOUIS, enclosing ONE / DOLLAR, a small olive branch, and the dates 1803-1903.

Chapter 9: Gold Commemoratives
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