Seated Liberty images were the most enduring in the history of the U.S. currency. This design appeared between 1836 and 1836 in half dime, dime, quarter and half dollar. 1891. The Seated Liberty figure also appeared on the Silver Dollar from 1836 to 1873.
The design was by Mint engraver Christian Gobrecht. He served as the third chief engraver from 1840 to 1844. His engraving work began before Mint was hired. Originally, he carved ornamental watches. He was a pioneer in his field and in 1810 invented a medal rolling machine that reproduces relief on a smooth surface. He improved the camera Lucida, the pump organ and even a talking doll.
Gobrecht’s first attempt to become the chief engraver of the Mint failed. He wrote a letter to President James Monroe requesting a position but was denied. Finally, in September 1835, the chief engraver, William Nias, was appointed “second engraver” after suffering a stroke. Nias died five years later, and Gobrecht was appointed chief engraver.
His Seated Liberty design for which he is remembered was based on a sketch by portrait painter Thomas Sully and ornithologist Titian Peel.
A flowing garment seated on a rock opposite the 1862-S Seated Liberty Dime shows the image of freedom. In one hand he is holding a Liberty pole with a Frisian cap on it. The cap has long been a powerful symbol of independence and a return to the neoclassicism movement. The cap also represents the pursuit of freedom.
The word “Liberty” is inscribed on a striped slope to the right of the image. This feature of the design is meant to represent America’s desire to fight for independence. Above it is an arc of thirteen stars to represent the thirteen original colonies.
In this case the opposite side of reading “half dime” shows the value. Both the half-dime and the dime pieces feature a wreath around the words of value. All pre-1860 coins have laurel leaf images, a neoclassicism-inspired image, like the Frisian cap. The design was changed in the early 1860s to include agricultural products, including wheat and corn.
Basically, Seated Liberty Dimes and Half Dime have no stars. This design element was added in 1839.
Until 1879, the value of the seated Liberty figure in the U.S. currency ranged from half a dime to half a dollar, when the Bland-Allison Act significantly reduced coins. Over time, tastes changed and there was growing support for a new design. Finally, the repeated head design replaces Seated Liberty.
Today, this design is one of the most powerful figures in the US currency. It blends a format of images that represents freedom, patriotism and independence.
Gobrecht died in July 1844, but his contribution to U.S. currency survived to the Seated Liberty Design.
Want to read more? Subscribe to the Blanchard newsletter and deliver weekly stories from the arch, our favorite stories from around the world, and the latest real estate news to your inbox weekly.