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Who was Robert Scot? 

Robert Scot was Chief Engraver at the U.S. Mint from 1793 until 1823 and is best known for his Draped Bust design. His work emphasized ideals like unity, liberty, and rebellion, which were at the core of the American Revolution. Along with seamstress Betsy Ross, Scot and his family were Free Quakers, a sect disowned by Philadelphia Quakers for their support of the Revolution.  

History of Robert Scot 

Scot was born Robert Scott on October 2, 1745, in the Canongate district of Edinburgh, Scottland. He trained as a watchmaker and learned line engraving from Richard Cooper, Sr, at the Trustees Academy with classes at the University of Edinburgh. 

Life in the United States 

Virginia 

When he was about 30 years old, Scot moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia and changed the spelling of his surname from Scott to Scot. In Virginia, he found work engraving plates for Virginian currency. Scot later engraved the Virginia Seal, depicting an overthrow of tyranny following the Fifth Virginia convention in May of 1776. His further work on the currency of Virginia included the motto Sic Semper Tyrannis, translating to Thus Always to Tyrants. After Richmond was burned by the British Army in 1781, Scot prepared to relocate to Philadelphia. 

Pennsylvania 

After opening his engraving shop on the corner of Vine and Front Streets in Philadelphia in May of 1781, Robert Scot found work engraving for Robert Morris, the Superintendent of the Office of Finance. His work included designs for currency that provided crucial financial aid for the Siege of Yorktown, which led to the surrender of General Cornwallis and the British Army. After the siege, he was commissioned to engrave a map of the victorious effort, which was executed with great artistry and accuracy. Three years later, Scot was again commissioned to engrave a map, but this map was of the United States as it stood following the 1783 Treaty of Paris. 

Scot’s work for American officers continued, including an authorized engraving and line drawing of Charles Wilson Peale’s portrait of George Washington while he was visiting Mount Vernon.  

The Great Seal of the United States 

Scot is accredited with engraving the Great Seal of the United States by Dougall and Patterson in The Eagle and the Shield. The seal was designed by the Secretary of Congress, Charles Thomson, who wrote a note regarding the payment of a seal. Robert Scot is not formally credited with engraving the seal, but the matching style and technical aspects of Scot’s engravings lend further credibility to the notion that he engraved the Great Seal.  

Chief Engraver for the U.S. Mint 

Joseph Wright, a non-commissioned engraver working for the U.S. Mint, died of yellow fever in 1793. After Wright’s tragic passing, Scot was commissioned as the first chief Engraver for the Mint on November 23, 1793. As Chief Engraver, Scot was paid $1,200 per year and in his role, addressed some of the design mandates dictated by the Coinage Act of 1792, including an obverse design that was “emblematic of liberty” and a reverse with the “figure or representation of an eagle.” 

Robert Scot’s Coinage 

The first coins that Scot designed with these elements were the Flowing Hair silver coins and Liberty Cap half cent. In 1795, Scot worked on his most famous design, the Draped Bust depiction of Liberty.  

After several silver and gold coins were issued with a small eagle on the reverse, Scot employed a modified Heraldic Eagle on reverse designs, taken from the Great Seal. In 1798, Scot engraved a seal for the U.S. Navy, and seal dies for the Department of State in 1802 and again in 1817. 

Between 1807 and 1817, John Reich worked as an Assistant Engraver for the United States Mint and engraved the coin designs for that period. Following Reich’s resignation in 1817, Scot engraved all U.S. coins until his death in 1823. The seal used by the U.S. State Department and Navy, as well as the Great Seal, still feature much of Scot’s work.

Coins Designed or Engraved by Robert Scot 

Issue Years 
Liberty Cap Half Cent 1794-1797 
Draped Bust Half Cent 1800-1808 
Draped Bust Large Cent 1796-1807 
Matron Head Large Cent 1816-1835 
Flowing Hair Half Dime 1794-1795 
Draped Bust Half Dime 1796-1805 
Draped Bust Dime 1796-1807 
Draped Bust Quarter 1796-1807 
Flowing Hair Half Dollar 1794-1795 
Draped Bust Half Dollar 1796-1807 
Flowing Hair Dollar 1794-1795 
Draped Bust Dollar 1795-1804 
Capped Bust to Right Quarter Eagle 1796-1807 
Capped Bust to Right Half Eagle 1796-1807 
Capped Bust to Right Gold Eagle 1795-1804 

Scot’s patriotic iconography left a lasting mark on United States coinage, and many coins bearing his designs are appreciated for their beauty and artistry today.   

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