- This article is about the individual who designed the Morgan dollar. For more uses of "Morgan", see Morgan.
|George T. Morgan|
|7th Chief Engraver of the United States Mint|
|v · d · e|
George T. Morgan was an engraver who was active during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in England, Morgan eventually emigrated to the United States to work at the Philadelphia Mint, where he initially held the title of Assistant Engraver under Chief Engraver William Barber (1807–1897), and later Charles E. Barber (1840–1917). After the death of the latter, he became the Philadelphia Mint's seventh Chief Engraver, and held this position until his death.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Morgan was born on November 24, 1845, in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England. During his adolescence, Morgan was educated at the Birmingham School of Art. Afterwards, he received a scholarship to the South Kensington School of Art (now the Royal College of Art), where he pursued two years of further education and received multiple awards and prizes for his engravings. He was later employed at the Royal Mint in London, where he worked alongside medallists Joseph Shepherd Wyon (1836–1873) and Alfred Benjamin Wyon (1837–1884). Here he was greatly respected for his skills, but was not elevated from his position of assistant engraver due to a well-established relationship between the Wyon family and the prominent Tower Mint.
In 1876, Henry Linderman (1825–1879), the Director of the United States Mint, sent a letter to Royal Mint Deputy Master Charles Fremantle (1834–1914) in which he asked for a recommendation for a superb die-sinker to serve as an Assistant Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint. Fremantle strongly recommended Morgan for the position, and with his response he had a letter from Morgan sent back to the United States. Morgan was employed shortly after, and on September 27, 1876, he set off from Liverpool on the USS Illinois. Upon his arrival in Philadelphia twelve days later, Morgan was warmly welcomed by Linderman, but not by Chief Engraver William Barber nor his son, Charles. The two Barbers were discontent with Morgan's appointment as Assistant Engraver, largely because William wanted his son to succeed him as Chief Engraver, and saw Morgan as viable competition. They also did not want to give up any office space, which they had been using for both government work and personal engraving ventures. After being introduced to his work settings, Morgan went to Washington, D.C. to discuss designs for the silver coins of the United States with Linderman. When Morgan returned to the mint shortly after he was told by the elder Barber that there was no room available in the offices, and that he would need to find another place to work on his engravings. Morgan did most of his work at a rooming house until Linderman ordered Barber to make a space for him in the mint.
Intent on becoming more knowledgeable on American art, Morgan entered the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The earliest U.S. pattern coins designed by Morgan during his tenure at the Philadelphia Mint were for half dollars. However, when in 1877 Linderman commissioned both Barber and Morgan to work on engraving a new dollar coin, a competition between the two men ensued to produce the most favorable design. Numismatists of the time preferred the images created by Barber, but Linderman evidently favored Morgan's designs, and they came to be used on the famous Morgan dollar issued from 1878 to 1904, and again in 1921.
Linderman, Morgan's largest supporter in the mint, resigned in 1878 due to health issues, and was succeeded by Horatio C. Burchard (1825–1908) not long after. William Barber remained the Chief Engraver of the United States Mint until his death in 1879, and was then succeeded by his son Charles. Morgan continued to work at the mint as Assistant Engraver until Charles Barber died in 1917. At the age of 72 and after 41 years of working for the United States Mint, Morgan was declared its Chief Engraver in February 1917.
Morgan died suddenly in his home in Germantown, Pennsylvania, on January 4, 1925. At the time of his death he was 79 years old. He was succeeded as Chief Engraver of the United States Mint by John R. Sinnock (1888–1947), who was previously appointed as the Assistant Engraver of the Mint in 1923.
Coins[edit | edit source]
During his lifetime, George T. Morgan designed many coins, the most popular of which being the eponymous Morgan dollar. He designed a large number of pattern coins, including the 1877 Morgan half dollar, the 1878 100 dollar Gold Union, the 1879 "Schoolgirl" dollar and "Coiled Hair Stella", and the 1882 "Shield Earring" coins. The reverse of the 1892 to 1893 half dollar commemorating the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, was also designed by Morgan, as were the reverses of the 1915 half and 2½ dollar coins celebrating the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and of the 1916 to 1917 gold dollar for the building of the McKinley National Memorial in Ohio. He is believed to have also played a role in the production of the 1903 gold dollar coins commemorating the Louisiana Purchase, although the extent of his involvement is unclear. The dies for the obverse of the 1918 half dollar marking the 100th anniversary of Illinois' statehood were also engraved by Morgan. The last coin designed by Morgan was the 1924 Huguenot-Walloon Tercentenary half dollar, whose obverse and reverse dies were produced by the late engraver with some light modifications from James Earle Fraser (1876–1953).
The design of Liberty on the obverse of the Morgan dollar was later used on 2000 1 and 10 dollar pieces of Liberia celebrating the past millennium. Subsequently, the reverse design of the Morgan dollar was used on a 2006 coin of the same denomination that commemorated the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco Mint surviving a massive earthquake in 1906.
References[edit | edit source]
- George T. Morgan on the English Wikipedia
- New York Mint – George T. Morgan
- Coin Update – The Life and Coins of George T. Morgan
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