Jim Haas authored a book on sculptor Hermon MacNeil, designer of the Standing Liberty quarter. He submitted these notes on MacNeil's unchosen design for the Peace dollar. Thank you!
MacNeil's Submission Cornell University Photos
I saw the U.S. Coins Signature Summer Fun Auction notice featuring the Peace Dollar. While MacNeil submitted a design that I included in the catalogue of his works in my book, because it was not chosen, I wrote nothing about it. Since I was unfamiliar with events surrounding the coin, I did a bit of research and learned a lot.
According to articles published in late December 1921, eight sculptors had been invited to submit models for the Peace Dollar. Slated to go into circulation in January 1922, the artists were Hermon Atkins MacNeil, Chester Beach, Victor David Brenner, Anthony de Francisci, John Flanagan, Henry Hering, and Adolph Alexander Weinman. They had but a few weeks to draw or to model their designs. Anthony De Francisci, who was awarded the commission, submitted his within two weeks. As winner of the contest, De Francisci was awarded $1,500; the other seven participants were awarded $100 for their entries.
The two sets of photos show separate iterations MacNeil's standing liberty on the obverse and eagle on the reverse. Based solely on its detail I believe the standing liberty with unsheathed sword was his initial offering. Adhering to established guidelines, the new coin had to have a representation of Miss Liberty that reflected post-war thinking and be different from the Morgan portrait. The unsheathed sword symbolic of bravery and leadership, the olive branch denoting peace and the liberty cap symbolic of freedom were all legitimate post-war metaphors. The second design, perhaps supplied upon request, has the figure wearing the same liberty cap. Swathed in acanthus, an ancient symbol of mourning, she holds a scepter, emblematic of authority and sovereignty. While the dove is more often associated with peace, both MacNeil's Eagle and that of De Francisci perched on olive branches beneath which is the word Peace, look like the same American Eagle that had long adorned American currency.
Newspaper articles seem to indicate the new coin was not well received, and its launch not as well-planned as it might have been. De Francisci's original design had been reworked, but original descriptions were still being used in reportage. Bankers complained that the coin would not stack, while others thought the coin to be unartistic. All things considered most were happy that any sort of a coin that would command a dollar's worth in exchange was beautiful. The Harding Peace dollar, unlike any previous dollar contained exactly one dollar's worth of silver.
Obverse and Reverse Sketches
Photos courtesy of Cornell University
The second set of images are the only ones I was able to locate. I am certain that Roger Burdette's book contains significantly more information.
It was a good design, a rework of the 1909 Architectural League of New York medal, and a preview of the 1926 NYC Tricentennial medal. As you know, Mac used figures striding forth in other medal submissions.
I've mentioned before that I was working on an article covering his medallic wins, losses and rebirths. That idiosyncrasy was also present in a number of his sculptural efforts about which I might also write something.
In one of the articles I found there was a sentence or two referencing the lack of artistry and lamenting the rush to complete the project.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NEW BOOK: HERMON ATKINS MACNEIL
Wayne Homren, Editor
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