Pattern Trade Dollars Made

During 1872 several varieties of commercial/trade dollar patterns were issued, but with little originality. The only exception to this seems to be Judd 1223, which may have been struck in early 1873 with an obverse die dated 1872. By the end of 1872, the term "trade" dollar had been decided upon in preference to "commercial." These patterns were struck under confused circumstances at the Philadelphia Mint where no one was quite sure of the final congressional outcome for the draft mint law.

Mint Director James Pollock was more interested in a section other than the one concerning a standard or trade dollar. It was planned to move the office of the director to Washington where that official would be in close contact with the Treasury secretary. Pollock thought the directorship ought to stay at the parent mint and saw no reason for any alteration. Much of the drive for this change came from Henry Richard Linderman, who was widely rumored to have the inside track for the new post.

There is another series of patterns which seems out of place for 1872, the famous and beautiful "Amazonian" specimens. This design, by William Barber, has been justly acclaimed as one of the best ever created within the confines of the Mint, but it is not at all clear why it was struck. There was virtually no interest by anyone, except those in the silver camp, for a dollar of 412.5 grains. Perhaps Pollock and Barber thought that the new law would bring a change in design.

Judd 1223, mentioned above, is especially interesting because it is the first pattern to show the reverse eagle even close to the adopted trade dollar design. The eagles are not all that similar but the general concept is there and must have provided the basis for further thinking by those who would eventually choose the final design. (This eagle is a variation of the one found on Amazonian patterns of the same year.) What appears to be the first mention of the new design is found in a letter from Director Pollock to the Treasury, dated January 6, 1873.

With respect to the eagle on Judd 1223, it appears possible that Barber made a second clay model from the original plaster cast and then made the necessary modifications for the trade dollar eagle as dictated by Pollock or Linderman. By January, Linderman knew that he would be the new director in Washington and participated in decisions accordingly.

Just after the bill was signed by President Grant on February 12th, Linderman and Pollock discussed design possibilities for the trade dollar. Both felt that Barber had done a good job so far, but they wanted outside talent in order to have a wider choice for the final decision. With Linderman’s prompting, Director Pollock asked the Philadelphia jewelry and engraving firm of Bailey, Banks, & Biddle to execute some drawings for the trade dollar. The firm agreed, but no fee was discussed, leading to problems later on.



Pattern Coinage Continues

On March 15, a Saturday, Linderman visited Philadelphia to see how the design contest was coming along. As a result of examining both the Barber works and the outside competition, he decreed that the obverse was to portray a seated Liberty facing to the left, i.e., toward the West and the Orient. The eagle was stipulated by law to be on the reverse.

The future director also asked that designs, within the framework of his general decision, were to be turned into plaster—and then galvanos—for reduction on the Hill Reducing Machine. Some designs, including several not in line with his March 15th decision, had already reached the galvano stage, but Linderman ordered that these be carried all the way to the pattern stage. This Hill machine had been purchased in 1867 at the insistence of Chief Engraver James B. Longacre, who considered the new English version a great improvement over the one obtained from France in 1837. There was no change in basic technique, but the new machine did produce better results.

During April and May, while the various hubs were being made, discussions were underway on the best place to put the legends and mottoes required by law. It turned out that unanimous approval could not be reached, and several of the 1873 patterns have varying locations for the necessary lettering. It was a time of experimentation.

Several patterns were struck during this period and sent to Linderman for evaluation; on April 1st he had taken the oath of office for his new job in Washington as director of the mint. Nothing quite suited the director and he was to be in Philadelphia on a number of occasions, just to urge Barber on and make "suggestions" for certain features to be in the new drawings then underway.

Bailey, Banks & Biddle submitted their bill for plaster models in May and it came to $405. Linderman and Pollock both thought this to be high and suggested to the firm that they accept $300 instead. There had been no fixed agreement, causing this last-minute dispute.

Toward the end of May, Barber began to do his work with even greater care than usual and on the 31st sent a drawing to Linderman that the engraver claimed to be the best to date. Barber noted that the globe at the lower right of the obverse had been dropped for two cotton bales because otherwise the design was too close to Britannia as on the English coinage. The director agreed and ordered Barber to produce struck patterns as soon as possible, but the engraver had already begun this process. The completed patterns, almost certainly Judd 1322–1326, are very impressive.


Design Selection

On June 4th Linderman again visited Philadelphia and examined the Barber patterns, which had just been made. The director decided that the latest obverse was nearly perfect, but nevertheless ordered certain changes, notably on the base which was shortened. For the reverse eagle, Linderman directed that the one from Judd 1310–1314 be used but enlarged as shown on Barber’s latest drawing. The decision had now been made although technically the Treasury had yet to approve it. Linderman took care of that problem very quickly.

On June 9th Barber wrote the director that the new plasters were nearly ready and the galvanos would shortly go on the Hill machine for reduction. According to the engraver it would take 26 days to prepare working dies for the coining presses at Philadelphia. It would be a further eight to 10 days before dies could be sent out to the mints at Carson City and San Francisco.

In early July, just as the working dies were being prepared, Linderman wrote Pollock, who was now superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint, that all haste must be made as the Mexican government had ordered the suspension of the balance scale pesos, which had not gone over well in international trade since their introduction in the 1860s, in favor of the old 8 reales design. There was no time to lose if a foothold was to be gained in the Oriental silver trade.