Sunday, July 3, 2011

An American Birthday Bird

Happy July 4th! In honor of the holiday, here's a bird for you.

It's not just any bird, though. It's basically the obverse side of the Walking Liberty Half Dollar, minted from 1916 to 1947.

Why that bird from that particular coin? For one, it's a great looking eagle, from a great coin design. It was also the last, regular coin in circulation to NOT feature a president.

Up until the 20th century, it was considered unseemly for a democracy to put its leaders on its coins. That was something that monarchies and imperial governments did. The United States - ostensibly deriving its power from the people - populated its coins with metaphoric figures like "Lady Liberty," "Freedom," Indians, Eagles, Wheat, etc. In 1909, though, they put Abraham Lincoln on the penny, replacing the Indian. George Washington got the treatment on the quarter in 1931, pushing out the Standing Liberty quarter. 1938 had Jefferson replacing the Indian / Buffalo on the nickel. FDR followed suit in 1946, replacing the Winged Liberty (aka Mercury Head) dime.

Walking Liberty held out just a little longer, giving way to Ben Franklin in 1948, who was replaced under expedited circumstances by Kennedy in 1964.

So, in honor of one of the best designed eagles in American symbolism, and the last coin staying true to the American ideal that refuses to idolize power, here's the god damned bird, already.

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