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Morgan Dollars

Dates Issued: 1878 – 1921

Designer: George T. Morgan



The model for Morgan’s Liberty head was a Philadelphia school teacher named Anna Willess Williams. She sat for him on several occasions only after he promised to keep her modeling strictly secret. In those days respectable ladies could not be artist’s models. Despite all her precautions, her identity was eventually revealed by a newspaperman. Miss Williams, as she feared, lost her job.


From “Collectible American Coins” by Kenneth E. Bressett with The American Neumismatic Association, pp. 169-170.


Anna Willis Williams

1858 – 1926


Whose classic features were used as symbol of Goddess of Liberty on millions of silver dollars.


Photo-engraved from a daguerreotype made by an itinerant photographer at Concord camp meeting about 1875.


“You Just Can’t Take A Good Picture” was a favorite alibi with roving photographers who blamed their subject and not their equipment when results were unsatisfactory.


Preston News extends grateful acknowledgement to Mrs. Elmer E. Wheeler nee Nettie Willis Stevens and Mrs. William D. Uhler nee Margaret Stevens daughters of the late Mr. E. G. Stevens one of Eastern Shore’s most successful merchants and granddaughters of the late Col. Arthur John Willis a wealthy Caroline County slave and land owner ardent abolitionist, valiant soldier, statesman and internationally known diplomat whose contributions of clippings from Denton Journal, personal recollections and other known facts also data furnished by Mr. Harold Kent Schoff made this authentic review possible.


Miss Williams was born at Williston on the Choptank. Her mother the daughter of Col. Arthur John Willis, married Henry Williams of Philadelphia and moved with him to that city. Anna Willis Williams was the youngest of nine children was born under adverse circumstances. Her father once well-to-do lost his money and soon after her birth he died. As a girl Miss Williams would have disproved the theory of some artists that to be beautiful one cannot have brains. She was medium height of graceful figure with a face worthy of the honor bestowed upon it of representing the Goddess of her native country. Her complexion was fair, her eyes blue, her nose Grecian, and her hair was golden, abundant in quantity and of wonderful fineness in texture it was worn in a becoming coil.


Miss Williams was a teacher of the Girls School at the House of Refuge when she was chosen to be the model for the Goddess upon the silver dollar. Her profile was considered the most perfect of any girl in America. It was with great difficulty however that she was prevailed upon to give sittings to the artist. Only upon conditions that her identity should not be revealed would Miss Willilams consent to have her likeness stamped upon the new silver dollar the Treasury had decided to mint.


For years the incognito of “Miss Liberty” the woman’s face on the new dollars remained a secret in the keeping of the Government and the artist. Then a Philadelphia newspaperman revealed that Miss Williams as the “Silver Dollar Girl.”


Then came offers of stage engagements for long terms at fabulous salaries all of which Miss Williams rejected. She continued for sixty dollars a month to teach her Girls School until she accepted in 1891 the position of teacher of kindergarten philosophy in the Girls Normal School 17th and Spring Garden Sts. Philadelphia. The story of how Miss Williams came to be the model for the artist designated by the Government to imprint the features of “Miss Liberty” on the Silver dollar has not been told often. Miss Williams was besieged for the story many times but in latter years she smilingly referred to it as “An incident of my youth” and preferred to talk of her work in the kindergarten Schools she supervised. George Morgan, an expert designer and engraver, was assigned the duty of preparing the new design for the silver dollar that was to be minted in Philadelphia. Thomas Eakins a Philadelphia artist was friend of both Mr. Morgan and the Willis-Stevens families and he had been thrown in contact with the girl often while she was an art student. It was at Mr. Eakins suggestion that Mr. Morgan and Miss William’s friends finally prevailed upon her to pose for the profile that was to go upon the face of the new silver dollar.


It was some time later that the cap and sheaf was decided upon as the ornamentation for the head suggested b Mrs. Hannah Kent Schoff. (Note – “The late Mrs. Hannah Schoff who passed away June 30, 1940, age 88 was the founder of our modern kindergarten system. Mrs. Schoff was a direct Mayflower descendant and a member of the Mayflower Society of America.”)


Then came stories that the engraver had put so much of his own soul into his work that he fairly worshipped his ideal and the romance would end as it always does. Those stories proved to be the product of romantic imagination for Miss Williams continued her work in the kindergartens, the work in which she found her greatest joy in life. She became one of the most successful of the many talented women teachers in this country and was specially successful as an instructor of kindergarten training and philosophy. She was a diligent student and an enthusiastic follower of the University Extension movement. In March 1891 she received the prize for the best original essay on psychology offered by the University Extension Society. Her literary talents found expression in frequent contributions to current periodicals and The Fine Arts claimed her appreciation. Miss Williams served in the capacity of supervisor of the kindergartens in Philadelphia Public Schools for more than 25 years. She retired in June 1924 when 66. Her work in her chosen department called her to many cities where she lectured on kindergarten teaching to give the work a start. After her retirement Miss Williams issued a plea that attendance to kindergarten classes should be made compulsory on the grounds that it forms a key stone of the whole educational structure. Her death occurred at her home 31 S. Fiftieth St. Philadelphia, April 17th, 1926. She was 68. Apoplexy which followed an accident n which she broke hr hip was the immediate cause of death. She had been confined to her bed since the mishap failing to rally.


Miss Catherine C. Williams her niece was at her bed side when she passed away. Miss Williams made her home with her niece after her retirement as a public school teacher.




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