This week I start a new series: an overview of the various presidents from George Washington to date with a small selection of coins minted during their administration. To include all of the design types—never mind different dates and varieties—would far exceed the space available. For that information see A Guide Book of United States Coins.
1st President (1789-1797)
Coinage: A book could be written on the coins of his administration. Notably, in 1792 the Philadelphia Mint was established, and in that year the first coins minted there, silver half dismes (half dimes), were issued. In 1793 copper half cents and cents were made for the first time, following in 1794 by the first silver issues and in 1795 the first gold.
Life dates: February 22, 1732, to December 14, 1799
Political party: Federalist
Vice-president: John Adams 1789 to 1797
First lady: Married a widow, Martha Dandridge Custis, in 1759. The couple had two children by Martha’s first marriage, John “Jack” Parke Custis and Martha “Patsy” Custis
Especially remembered for: Leadership during the Revolutionary War. Defining the duties of the office of president. “The Father of Our Country.” His sterling character which served as a shining example of integrity. Most popular president in terms of the number of different coins, tokens, medals, and currency notes with his portrait. One of four presidents honored on Mount Rushmore.
George Washington, our first and most famous president, was born in Wakefield on Pope’s Creek, Virginia, son of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. His father died when he was 11. At age 16 he went to live with his brother Lawrence, who built the Mount Vernon estate (which George later inherited) on the Potomac River. He learned surveying, then served with British forces in the French and Indian War. In the American Revolutionary War, he served as commander in chief of the United States Army. His forcing of the British to evacuate Boston, the privations of winter camp in Valley Forge, the crossing of the icy Delaware River, and other difficulties and triumphs became part of history. In 1781 with the aid of French allies and the assistance of Marquis de LaFayette he forced the surrender of British General Cornwallis at Yorktown.
Washington was chairman of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and 1788. After ratification of the Constitution, the Electoral College named him as our first president. It was his task and challenge to develop the first cabinet, to work with Congress and the Supreme Court, and to establish procedures for the presidency. At the time the seat of the federal government was in New York City.
When the French Revolution was followed by war between England and France, Washington ignored the recommendations of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and insisted upon a neutral stance. In his farewell address, he recommended that in the future the country avoid entangling alliances.
By the 1796 election, two political parties had developed, setting the scene for a contest. In 1797 Washington retired to his Mount Vernon estate on the banks of the Potomac River, where he lived until dying of a throat infection on December 14, 1799. In 1800, funeral medals inscribed HE IS IN GLORY, THE WORLD IN TEARS were issued in his memory.