The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 6, February 11, 2024, Article 11


Jim Haas is the author of Hermon Atkins MacNeil: American Sculptor In the Broad, Bright Daylight. He submitted these thoughts on MacNeil and his model for the Standing Liberty Quarter. Thank you! -Editor

  MacNeil's Dollar

1916 MacNeil's Dime - Obverse, Plaster MacNeil was indeed a gifted sculptor, producing over 200 works in a career spanning fifty-plus years. But he was also a very competent designer of not only the Quarter, his sole award, but let us not forget he was one of eight sculptors invited to submit models for the Peace Dollar in 1921. Anthony de Francisci was awarded the commission earning him $1,500; the other seven participants $100 for their entries. Bankers complained that the coin would not stack, while others thought the coin to be unartistic. Relatively unknown until a decade prior, MacNeil had also submitted a design for the ten-cent coin, the plaster of its reverse discovered by the family that purchased their College Point home from his widow. This writer directed its owner to Stack's Bowers resulting in its eventual sale.

  peace dollar

As E-Sylum readers know from my submissions, MacNeil was also a gifted medalist. He had excellent mentors and teachers one among them his uncle was Henry Mitchell of Boston. He along with St. Gaudens, who championed MacNeil's career, was charged in 1891 with selecting the new silver coinage from submitted designs. They found none that were deemed worthy and Charles E. Barber got the job. As acknowledged in The Controversial Quarter, MacNeil did study in Paris. In June 1888 after completing his second year of teaching at Cornell University, he took himself to Paris. There he studied under Michel-Marie-Antoine Chapu, one of France's foremost medalists and one of his favorite teachers. Chapu liked one of his sculptural works so much that he encouraged him to submit it to the salon of 1890.

Irene MacDowell was his first model for Miss Liberty; Doris Doscher was his second. Born in New Jersey in 1881, MacDowell's maiden name was Beer. Her father died in 1888 whereupon a year later her mother married William Weitling who in time moved his family to College Point, home of Hermon MacNeil. Irene married George I. MacDowell in April 1903 and the couple lived with her parents until moving, prior to 1915, to the village of Rock Tavern in upstate New York, Orange County.

MacNeil would have been well acquainted with William Weitling because by 1915, he had risen to the vice-presidency of the rubber firm founded by Conrad Poppenhusen at which time MacNeil was on the Board of Control of the Poppenhusen Institute an adult education school founded by Poppenhusen in 1868. William Weitling served along with him. According to newspaper notices, Irene would occasionally return to visit her parents in College Point, this making probable that on one of those visits she was MacNeil's model as was published in the reports of her death in 1973. It can only be assumed that with her work with MacNeil completed, she returned to her home in Rock Tavern with her daughter who was born in 1914.

It was not uncommon for a sculptor to make use of more than one model for a particular figure and for reasons known only to MacNeil, he focused on Doris Doscher. Perhaps it was because as he was quoted in an interview, She exemplified the highest form of American womanhood. Logically speaking, the image of Liberty was a composite, but MacNeil never mentioned Irene MacDowell in any published articles.

At the time of her death, it was written that MacDowell had been both a model and actress. According to a story published three months before her death she had been the model for the figure of Victory in Albany's Soldiers and Sailors Memorial. The same had been said of Doscher. In the obituaries of both women their acting careers were noted and that their husbands had been MacNeil's tennis partners, a sport at which Hermon excelled. Between 1915 and 1917 his name appeared in newspaper articles reporting success in various tournaments, but not that Messr's Doscher or MacDowell had ever played with or against him. Irene's husband George was the son of a 19th century actor, Melbourne MacDowell, but for a variety of reasons, it appears he had little to do with his father. One 1973 report said that her husband would not have approved of her being either an actress or a model. In no reportage contemporary with the release of the Quarter was Irene MacDowell ever referred to as the Liberty Girl. Doscher, however, was an actress as well as a model and was referred to in various newspaper articles as the American Coin Girl and the Girl on the Quarter.

One thing is for certain, MacNeil's Quarter remains one, if not the best, of America's most beautiful coins.

  1916 Quarter

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
LOOSE CHANGE: FEBRUARY 4, 2024 : MacNeil's Standing Liberty Quarter (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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