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The first silver dollars were minted in 1794. The new coin was struck with using a press intended for cents and half dollars. It was the largest press the mint possessed, but proved inadequate for the job. Each coin needed to be struck twice. The result was not a very impressive coin.
In 1876, the Director of the US Mint, Dr. Henry Richard Linderman, wanted new engraving talent at the Philadelphia mint. Dr. Linderman contacted the British Deputy Master of the London Royal Mint, C. W. Fremantle, and through a series of letters was successful in contracting an Englishman by the name of George T. Morgan as the engraver of the new US silver dollar. Morgan wanted an American face rather than a Greek figure for Lady Liberty’s image on the obverse of the coin. Anna Willess Williams of Philadelphia sat for Mr. Morgan five times before he chose her for what would later become one of the most recognized coins in the world. The reverse design was created from Morgan’s personal study of eagles in nature along with a custom wreath and bow design. Each side of the Morgan dollar includes a stamped “M” — located on the trunk of Lady Liberty’s neck and on the reverse in the bow of the wreath.
The Morgan dollars were initially called Bland dollars after the congressman who sponsored the bill for a new silver dollar. To this day, the Morgan silver dollar is one of the most collected and sought-after American coins.
During World War I, silver prices spiked in part due to silver hoarding in India spurred by rumors that the British government was unable to redeem all the paper currency they had issued. To stabilize the situation, the British asked the U.S. to sell them silver in order to increase their supply. After an extended debate in Congress, the Pittman Act in 1918 was passed without Congressional sanction. The Act required the Treasury to strike millions of silver dollars, using the Morgan dollar design.
The Peace dollar was first minted in 1921 and production skyrocketed in 1922 to replace the 270,232,722 silver coins that were melted in the sale to England. The Peace dollar commemorates the signing of the peace treaty between the United States and Germany at the end of World War I. The Peace dollar was designed by Anthony de Francisci, an Italian who served as an apprentice under James Earl Fraser, designer of the Indian Head nickel. De Francisci used his wife as a model for his design of Lady Liberty. This coin was struck from 1921 until 1935 and was the last silver dollar issued for circulation.