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"In God We Trust"
on U.S. Coinage
|Rev. Watkinson's Letter
Secretary Chase's Directive
1861 Pattern coins
1862 Pattern coins
1863 Pattern coins
Director Pollack's Recommendation
First Uses of "IN GOD WE TRUST"
On November 13, 1861, with the nation embroiled in civil war, a small-town Pennsylvania preacher sat down to write a letter. It was addressed to Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury under President Lincoln.
Rev. Watkinson was concerned that "recognition of the Almighty God" had been overlooked on the nation's coinage. He believed that proudly declaring such recognition "would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism" and "place us openly under the Divine protection that we have personally claimed."
It is interesting to note that the "allseeing eye" device Rev. Watkinson suggested is exactly the device used on the Nova Constellatio silver pattern coinage of 1783 (and subsequently used on the Nova Constellatio copper coinage of 1785).
Ridleyville, Pa., Nov 13, 1861Dear Sir: - You are about to submit your annual report to Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances. One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form in our coins.
You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were now shattered
beyond reconstruction. Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries
rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation. What I propose
is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the
13 stars a ring inscribed with the words "perpetual union"; within this
ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American
flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united;
in the folds of the bars the words "God, liberty, law."
This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could
object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of
To you first I address a subject that must be agitated.
(signed) N. R. Watkinson
Minister of the Gospel
|Secretary Chase's Directive
Exactly one week later, on November 20, 1861, Secretary Chase wrote to Mint Director James Pollack, declaring "the trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins" and directing him to prepare "a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition."
Chase declined to forward Rev. Watkinson's more specific suggestions, but instead gave Pollack general instructions to devise a new motto without making any particular recommendations.
In a lengthy letter dated December 26, 1861, Director Pollack responded to Chase, suggesting that the most appropriate place for the new motto would be on the reverse of the coins, above the eagle.
Treasury Department, Nov. 20, 1861Dear Sir:
No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.
You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with
a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words
(signed) S. P. ChaseJames Pollack, Esq., Director of the Mint, Philadelphia, Pa.
|1861 "GOD OUR TRUST" Pattern Coinage
At first the motto "OUR TRUST IS IN GOD" was suggested, but it contained too many letters to comfortably place on smaller coins. "We therefore, selected for greater brevity the words 'GOD OUR TRUST' which carries the same idea."
Pollack had his staff prepare four pattern dies containing the proposed
motto: reverses of the silver half dollar and ten dollar "eagle" gold coins,
with and without a scroll. The new dies were paired with the regular
obverse dies and struck in both copper and the regulation metal (silver
and gold, respectively). Thus a total of eight different GOD
OUR TRUST pattern coins dated 1861 were struck.
With more pressing matters such as the financing of the war effort occupying
his time, Secretary Chase had not responded to Director Pollack as of June
16, 1862. On that date Pollack wrote to Chase noting that it
was now time to prepare dies for the 1863 coins. Chase's delay apparently
accounts for the fact that no new dies were cut with the proposed motto
in 1862 - instead, a total of six patterns were struck using the
same four motto reverse dies and new 1862 obverse dies. None
were struck this year in gold.
The year 1863 was one of great experimentation at the U.S. Mint.
Patterns were produced for the proposed copper one cent, two cent, and
three cent pieces, plus the ten cent "postage currency" pattern, as well
as other coins. A total of twenty-nine pattern coins bearing some
form of the new motto were produced. In addition to the initial "GOD
OUR TRUST" motto, "GOD AND OUR COUNTRY" was used on a Two Cent pattern,
and the ultimately adopted motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" appeared on two cent,
quarter, half dollar, and dollar patterns.
As part of a long letter to Secretary Chase dated December 8, 1863,
Director Pollack recommended the coinage of the bronze one and two-cent
pieces. Chase consented and Pollack drafted proposed legislation
which was later passed as part of the Mint Act of April 22, 1864.
Chase approved the pattern two-cent piece with the shield design and motto
"IN GOD WE TRUST". Thus the 1864 two-cent piece became the first
circulating U.S. coin to bear the new motto.
United States Mint
Philadelphia, PaI also propose for your consideration the coinage of a two-cent piece, same material and double weight of the cent, and with such devices and motto as may be approved by you. This piece would be a great public convenience, and its coinage, in my opinion, should be authorized. The devices are beautiful and appropriate, and the motto on each such, as all who fear God and love their country, will approve. I prefer the "shield and arrows" to the "head of Washington" on the obverse of the coin. They are submitted for your consideration. If you approve the change of material, and the coinage of the two-cent piece, or wither, I will, if you direct it, prepare a supplement to the existing laws, to be by you submitted to Congress for their action.
|First Uses of "IN GOD WE TRUST" On Circulating
Judd, J. Hewitt, M.D., United States Pattern, Experimental, and Trial Pieces, Western Publishing Company, Racine, WI, Seventh Edition, 1982
Lindheim, Leon, Facts and Fictions About Coins, The World Publishing Company, Cleveland, OH, First Edition, 1967
Pollack, Andrew W. III, United States Patterns and Related Issues, Bowers and Merena Galleries, Inc., 1994
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON PATTERN COINAGE, SEE