The political pressures regarding silver mining interests throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries marked the beginning of the creation of the Morgan Silver Dollar. In 1873, the Fourth Coinage Act demonetized all silver bullion, forbidding anyone in possession of bullion to no longer take it to the Mint to have it struck into legal tender coinage. Unsurprisingly, this caused a public outcry among miners, bankers and manufacturers who argued that free silver coinage was necessary for economic prosperity. Not long after it was passed, the Act led to a great financial crisis that caused a depression throughout the country and, in time, began to be referred to as the "Crime of '73."
Not long after, representative Richard P. Bland and Senator William B. Allison lobbied together to urge the return of free silver and established an Act that demanded that the Treasury purchase two to four million dollars' worth of silver bullion per month from western mines to be struck into coins. This Act was passed in 1878 but because the Fourth Coinage Act had caused the production of the previous silver coin, the Seated Liberty Dollar, to cease, it meant that a new design was required. Luckily, the Director of the U.S. Mint, Henry P. Linderman, was already seeking a suitable engraver for the task. He had contacted the Deputy Master of the Royal Mint in London, C.W. Fremantle, to enquire if he knew anyone that might be suitable for the position. Fremantle suggested Linderman employ an engraver named George T. Morgan; so, on October 9, 1876 Morgan arrived in U.S. to begin his six-month trial. Neither he nor Linderman were aware that he would go on to design one of the most celebrated coins in history.
As soon as Morgan arrived in Philadelphia to take up his role at the Mint, he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Here he studied techniques that would allow him to capture the planned designs for the new silver dollar. One of the requirements for the new coin was that it should feature a portrait of Lady Liberty rather than the full-length version that had been seen on coin's that preceded it. To gain inspiration for this, Morgan enlisted Anna Willess Williams to sit for him as a model. Williams was a young schoolteacher from Philadelphia and reluctantly agreed to help Morgan as long as he could guarantee that she would not face public scrutiny. However, some historians claim that once the press caught wind that Williams was in fact the Liberty on the new dollar, she lost her job and even ended her engagement to be married. Nonetheless, the Liberty portrayed by Morgan is still one of the most recognized in the world. In her hair she wears a coronet inscribed with "LIBERTY" and there are stalks of wheat and cotton that symbolize the agricultural heritage of the U.S. The 13 stars that can be seen around the reeded edge of the coin are representative of America's original colonies and the year of mint and the motto "E PLURIBUS UNUM" complete the design on this side. This motto, meaning "out of the many comes one" was one of the first mottos of the United States and stems from the American Revolution. It signifies the joining of the colonies into one united country.
The reverse tells another story. Morgan had spent time studying nature to achieve the design of an eagle in flight. However, once the first strikes of the coin had been issued, a bird expert explained that an eagle always has an odd amount of tail feathers whereas Morgan's eagle had eight. Morgan modified the design, but these "8 tail feather" coins are incredibly sought after by collectors today. Around the eagle is a laurel wreath and in its talons, it clasps a set of arrows and an olive branch. The edge of the coin features the engravings "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and the coin's denomination written as "ONE DOLLAR." Finally, the religious motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" is placed between the eagle's wings.
Features of the 1880 $1 Morgan Silver Dollar PCGS MS65:
• Mint: U.S. Mint
• Denomination: $1
• PCGS: Professional Coin Grading Service
• Purity: .900 pure silver
• Certification: MS65 (Gem Uncirculated: only minor marks or imperfections)
• Reverse: Design of an eagle surrounded by a laurel wreath