Capping Liberty

The Invention of Numismatic Iconography for the New American Republic

Benjamin Franklin’s Contributions to American Coinage

The Founding Fathers of American Coinage

Although the creation of a new circulating medium for the United States of America was a prime concern of many individuals, the contributions of three men, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington, were of signal importance in setting the monetary as well as the visual aspects of the new issues. The strong classical education of all three, as well as their deep grounding in contemporary liberal, humanistic thought, did much to shape the resulting coinage.

Benjamin Franklin’s Contributions to American Coinage

Benjamin Franklin’s contributions to American numismatic imagery are as manifold as his achievements in other spheres of the arts and sciences. As a printer in Philadelphia, he produced banknotes for several colonies, adapting images from popular emblem books. As an active proponent of colonial autonomy and interdependence, he devised symbolic representations of the unity of the separate entities, first as a segmented snake and then as a chain. He was a member of the original committee to design the Great Seal of the United States. As American ambassador to France, he had responsibility for the design of the first medals authorized by Congress and on his own initiative undertook the issue of the Libertas Americana medal, which served as the model for the earliest issues of cents.

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