In a special Coin World article, Roger Burdette discusses a numismatically important letter written by President Theodore Roosevelt about the artistic state of U.S. coinage.
On Dec. 27, 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote a personal letter to his secretary of the Treasury, Leslie Mortier Shaw:
“My dear Secretary Shaw:
“I think our coinage is artistically of atrocious hideousness. Would it be possible, without asking permission of Congress, to employ a man like Saint-Gaudens to give us a coinage that would have some beauty?”
This brief letter explained the president’s opinion about the art on current U.S. coinage, and asked if he could have someone like Augustus Saint-Gaudens redesign the coins. It was the “genesis” — the beginning — of the renaissance of American coinage design that produced new, modern, creative designs on U.S. circulating coins over the next generation.
The letter to Secretary Shaw has been often quoted, but the references have all been from a copy held by the Library of Congress. The original, delivered as personal mail and not official correspondence, has been hidden — until now.
After more than a century, the original letter signed by President Roosevelt has been discovered. Few documents of American numismatics come close to the importance of this letter.
Dated Dec. 27, 1904, the letter was written on White House stationery, marked “Personal,” and is addressed to “Hon. L. M. Shaw, Secretary of the Treasury.” Following this personal letter, a flurry of official correspondence and personal letters show how the medal and coin design project developed over the next two-and-a-half years.
According to Heritage Auctions, the letter was recently discovered in a group of letters and other documents signed by various presidents and notable Americans including Benjamin Franklin, William Henry Harrison and John F. Kennedy.
The group of letters, including this one signed by Theodore Roosevelt, was purchased in Long Island by a part-time book and manuscript dealer and collector.
The genesis letter to Secretary Shaw is the original as signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. It was the personal property of Secretary Shaw until it passed to others by unknown means. It is not only a vibrant part of American history, but it is the point of origin for the collaboration of Roosevelt and Saint-Gaudens that led to the complete redesign of America’s coinage. A large part of U.S. numismatic heritage would be missing if this letter had never been written
To read the complete article, see:
Roosevelt redesign 'genesis letter' surfaces
Wayne Homren, Editor
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization
promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at coinbooks.org.
To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor
at this address: email@example.com
To subscribe go to: https://my.binhost.com/lists/listinfo/esylum
Copyright © 1998 - 2020 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.
NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster