Did George T. Morgan make a die sample before the Satin
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5 posts in this topic

4 posts

March 9, 2017

 

Gentlemen/Ladies,

 

 

I was writing you in order to provide and strengthen my understanding as an artist and for the purpose of research.

As a sculptor, I can only praise the fine artistry of George T. Morgan and Anthony de Francisci’s work in contribution to our Country in the work of the 1921 Peace Dollar.

I have researched many different avenues of information formulating the understanding that; if an esteem pair of artists (Engravers) such as these two gentlemen, were to under go such a honorable, national task, they would perfect it first.  In producing a master sculptured disk in order to cut coin dies, as they did, they would have to correct some of the imperfections of the primary master with grinding before completing the final product. Would they not?  Therefore, as a sculptor, I myself would at least make an impression from the first master, cut dies, simply to see if the proper image would transfer the image quality appropriately.

My question(s) to the NGC and its members, is to request verification of my understanding that indeed, the Master Engraver George T. Morgan and Anthony de Francisci made a sample(s) (specimens) of the original 1921 Peace Dollar prior to the imaging of the Satin(s) or the Proof(s) which were presented to the various dignitaries.

I understand that they were under a time constraint where as, Mr. Morgan had to step in to expedite the entire process. But, I truly can’t see a perfectionist like Mr. Morgan, sculpting a master with a time constraint, not wanting to take a chance of damage to these precious dies, without finding some kind of remnant planchet, maybe even some scrap soft metal there in the mint, in order to make a sample, in order to see if the sculpturing and grinding(s) were perfect.

Please advise me on any information that the NGC and its members, or others, have in reference to maybe his notes, his diary, Mint records etc.

I appreciate not only this opportunity to inquire of this chat group, but I have appreciated all of the diligence you have provided for our members.

Respectfully

JD

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The story of the Peace Dollar's creation is told in Volume Three of Roger Burdette's Renaissance of American Coinage. He may just chime in here, as he follows the boards.

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JD---

 

Regarding:

My question(s) … Master Engraver George T. Morgan and Anthony de Francisci made a sample(s) (specimens) of the original 1921 Peace Dollar prior to the imaging of the Satin(s) or the Proof(s) which were presented to the various dignitaries.

I understand that they were under a time constraint where as, Mr. Morgan had to step in to expedite the entire process. But, I truly can’t see a perfectionist like Mr. Morgan, sculpting a master with a time constraint, not wanting to take a chance of damage to these precious dies, without finding some kind of remnant planchet, maybe even some scrap soft metal there in the mint, in order to make a sample, in order to see if the sculpturing and grinding(s) were perfect.

Comments:

First, you should understand that although George Morgan was a very skilled die engraver and designer, he was not the “perfectionist” some allege. During his tenure as Engraver there are multiple overdate dies for which he, as Department Superintendent, was responsible. He did not have a working knowledge the Janvier reducing machine – this work was done by Harry Blythe, a diesinker in the Engraving Department. His hands-on work was almost entirely limited to cleanup of reductions and date changes on Annual Master Dies.

 

As for “grinding,” it’s not clear what you mean. Master dies, hubs and working dies were not “ground" with anything. The steel shanks were cut down to size before final hardening and tempering on a rotary lathe.

 

For the Peace dollar of 1921, de Francisci had about 10 days to come up with preliminary and revised models for the coin. After approval by the Secretary of the Treasury, Jim Fraser made casts in New York and these were sent to the Philadelphia Mint. Blythe made reductions. A press notice was sent out by the Mint Bureau which mentioned the broken sword on the reverse. This caused considerable pubic objection. This is the point at which Morgan showed his skill.

 

Morgan took the reverse reduction and, with de Francisci watching, retouched the reduction to remove the sword, and convert it to the 1921 details seen on the coins. This was all manual work and all done by Morgan; de Francisci only watched and probably offered comments. A master die was made from the altered reduction and this was further retouched to repair areas that were best handled incuse instead of relief. From this point, a master reverse hub was made, and several working dies. Impressions could be made from the soft steel dies to check the work, but the material had to be very pliable – bees wax, wet paper board, possibly a fusible alloy of very low melting point, etc. (We have no examples for the Peace dollar, however.)

 

One or more of the hardened/tempered working dies, paired with an obverse die, were used in a medal press to make samples for approval by the Mint Director and others. Some were left as-is and others were sandblasted in the style of medals – these all are the “proofs” commonly referred to. These pieces were both engineering test samples and design approval samples.

 

The part of the story that is missing – and that was otherwise normal procedure – was manufacture of several thousand test or trial pieces on normal toggle presses. (This was done in 1922 for each of the design variations.) The reason was that President Harding wanted 1921-dated Peace dollars produced ASAP as part of publicity for the Conference on Reduction of Armaments then in progress in Washington. This meant there was no time to run the usual production tests, and even if that had been possible, there was no time to go back and redo all the master dies and hubs before the end of the year.

 

Hoping this was helpful.

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Gentlemen

I appreciate the invaluable, timely information which you have shared with me concerning the Great Engravers ( (Artists) Morgan & DeFrancisci).

Humbly in Appreciation

JD

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Glad to have helped a little. The book, mentioned above, has details and photos. If you have other questions, just ask.

Edited by RWB

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