• Creator
  • Illinois Heritage Association
  • Created Date
  • 02/18/03
  • Description
  • The Indian Head pennies show the profile of an Indian maiden wearing a feather crown. Congress passed a law April 2, 1792 establishing a Mint to issue coins, including gold eagles ($10), half eagles ($5), quarter eagles ($2 ½); silver dollar, half dollar, quarter dollar, disme (dime), and half-disme (five cent piece); copper cent, and half cent. One side was to show an emblem of Liberty with an inscription of "Liberty" and the year of the coin... more
    The Indian Head pennies show the profile of an Indian maiden wearing a feather crown. Congress passed a law April 2, 1792 establishing a Mint to issue coins, including gold eagles ($10), half eagles ($5), quarter eagles ($2 ½); silver dollar, half dollar, quarter dollar, disme (dime), and half-disme (five cent piece); copper cent, and half cent. One side was to show an emblem of Liberty with an inscription of "Liberty" and the year of the coinage. On the reverse of gold and silver coins, was to be a figure or representation of an eagle, with "United States of America." On the reverse of copper coins was to be an inscription expressing the denomination one cent or half-cent. Prior to the establishment of the United States Mint, some coins were privately minted. Foreign coins were also in circulation, and people also traded with livestock, produce, and wampum (mollusk shells). Paper money was issued in 1775 to help finance the Revolutionary War, but many did not accept it. In 1776 Continential Currency Coinage was issued with designs based on the paper currency. It read "CONTINENTIAL CURRENCY," the date, "FUGIO" (I, time, fly), and "MIND YOUR BUSINESS." At the upper left the sun's rays struck a sundial. On the reverse there was a chain in a circle. Each link was inscribed with the name of a colony. In the center of the coin was "AMERICAN CONGRESS: WE ARE ONE." There are some questions about whether these coins circulated. People hoarded their coins and raised the price of goods, which made the paper almost worthless. By 1780 the nation was bankrupt and soldiers were deserting for lack of pay and provisions. Each colony had its own currency system. Their coins were worth different amounts of Spanish, French, Portuguese, and English coins. Clearly there was a need to establish a standard system, but it took several years to accomplish it. In 1782, Congress approved the idea of establishing a Mint. Long discussions followed about the currency system and the amounts the coins would represent. When the Mint was established, gold and silver coins were legal tender and their worth was determined by their weight. It was up to merchants to determine the worth of the coins by weighing them. Copper was not legal tender and the coins could be refused. People could bring their own bullion (solid silver or gold) to the Mint and have it coined. Legal tender is currency issued by the government as official money. The first circulating coins were cents, struck in March 1793. It took a very long time for large numbers of coins to be struck due to a number of factors. In the beginning, the Chief Coiner and High Assayer had to post bond (put up some money of their own) in order to handle gold and silver, and they were unable to raise the money. There was a shortage of some of the metals needed. The Mint quickly outgrew its building and equipment. There were several outbreaks of yellow fever, which caused the Mint to be shut down, and some of the employees died from the fever. There were many discussions about the designs of the coins, their weight, and the combinations of metals in them. Sometimes the Mint 19s engravers designed the coins, other times there were competitions for designs and artists were selected. This sometimes caused problems because the artists were not always familiar with the special needs of making coins. The coins had to be designed so that they could be struck without damaging the images. The designs had to be simple and look well when reduced to the size of the coin. The coins had to be able to be stacked. At first the worth of the coins was based on a combination of a gold standard and a silver standard (the gold being worth more). So many tons of silver equaled one ton of gold. This fluctuated with changes in the world market. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century every country except China switched to the gold standard. The United States adopted the gold standard in 1900. Source: Taxay, Don. New York: Arco Publishing Company, 1966. How we learn about communities; Communities and Geography; History of Money. 15 Economics; 16 History. less
  • Format
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