Portraits and Posers for Coins and Currency

About the portraits and people who posed for coins and currency of the United States treasury.


The Squaw on the Indian Penny. "The U.S. Mint's outlay for models' fees has been practically nil. Legend has it that when the eagle was selected as our national emblem the Philadelphia Mint adopted a live specimen named Peter, who posed for several early coins before he got tangled up in the Mint's machinery. Peter died as a result of his injuries, but he retained his Civil Service status through the thoughtfulness of fellow employees who had the bald bird stuffed.

"Though the Mint was not on a 1st-name basis with the bison who posed for the buffalo nickel, the Indian was long thought to be a chap named Two Guns Whitecalf. According to designer James Earle Fraser, however, the portrait was a composite of 3 other braves--Irontail, Two Moons, and a taciturn type with long braids who never did give his name.

"The Indian on the old penny was a palefaced squaw named Sarah Longacre, daughter of a Mint official, while the Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Roosevelt, and Kennedy coins were all done from portraits. When designer John Sinnock added his initials to the Roosevelt dime in 1946, word spread among the benighted that the tiny 'J.S.' stood for Joseph Stalin and was the work of subversives boring from within the Mint."

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