December 29: Silver Peace Dollars
If you are of a certain age, you may remember the value of a silver dollar, and you might recall its size and its heft – almost a full ounce of real silver. Most people today most likely remember non-silver Eisenhower dollars or the Susan B. Anthony or Sacagawea dollars from recent years, but old, real-silver dollars evoke special memories for some.
On this date, in 1921, a newspaper story, entitled “New Dollars,” revealed that the U.S. Mint was going to make new coins called “Peace dollars,” replacing the “Morgan Dollars,” named for coin designer George T. Morgan. Those were minted from 1878-1904, and again in 1921. One side of a Morgan dollar depicted Lady Liberty, with wavy hair and a “liberty” headband; the other side showed a U.S. eagle holding arrows and an olive branch.
The new Peace Dollars featured designs by Anthony de Francisci. He updated the “goddess of Liberty,” creating her with windblown hair streaming past her temples and a spiky crown resembling that of the Statue of Liberty. The flipside again portrayed the American eagle, but now with folded wings, its talons clutching olive branches. The rays of a rising sun depicted hopes for a decade of peace following World War One.
Peace Dollars commemorated the fact that America had finally signed a peace treaty with Germany, for the U.S. had not ratified the 1919 Versailles Treaty.
Coin-designer de Francisci had his 22-year-old wife Mary Teresa model for the Goddess of Liberty. She said: “I posed for him every day. His idea was to represent Liberty with her face uplifted – staunch, unafraid, with dignity, yet with the freshness of youth.”
The reaction in North Dakota to Peace Dollars was mixed. Bismarck’s bankers criticized the new dollars, because the edges were “uneven” and “not of uniform thickness.” 20 of them stacked together resembled the “leaning Tower of Pisa,” ready to topple.
Minot’s newspaper exclaimed: “Glory Be!” while others said the Peace Dollars were “pretty to look at.”
Minted from 1921to 1928, and 1934 to 1935; Peace Dollars were impressive, beautifully-designed, and memorable, though now long-forgotten by most North Dakotans.
Dakota Datebook by Steve Hoffbeck
- “New Dollars,” Sanborn [MN] Sentinel, December 29, 1921, p. 1.
- “Peace Dollar To Be Sent Out Tuesday,” Bismarck Tribune, December 31, 1921, p. 1.
- “His Wife’s Head On U.S. Peace Dollar,” Newark [Delaware] Post, January 18, 1922, p. 7.
- “H.R. 6192: 1921 Silver Dollar Coin Anniversary Act,” January 5, 2021, Public Law 116-286, 116th Congress, congress.gov, accessed November 17, 2022.
- “Haste Blamed for Uneven Edge Detected in Issue of 800,000 Peace Dollars,” Minneapolis Tribune, January 6, 1922, p. 19.
- “New Peace Dollar Won’t Stack,” Bismarck Tribune, January 16, 1922, p. 2.
- “New Silver Dollar Out Among the People,” Ward County Independent [Minot, ND], January 12, 1922, p. 4.
- “Dollars,” Bismarck Tribune, January 18, 1922, p. 4.