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The Lafayette Dollar – 1900

Learn About Lafayette- A Vital Ally in the Revolutionary War

In 1775, the British had the “greatest army and navy on the face of the Earth.” No thinking person would have believed that the American colonies, which had a ragtag army and no navy, would force the complete and total surrender of British forces at Yorktown just six years later. How did this happen?

The war officially began at the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. For six years the American Continental Army battled the British Army all up and down the East Coast of America. From Vermont in the North to Georgia in the South, battles were won and lost by both sides. The weakly-trained Continental Army led by General George Washington was aided by brigades of local “minutemen” who were not professional soldiers, but farmers and tradesmen who simply wanted to protect their homes, families and their freedom.

Opposing them were the British Royal Army and any European mercenaries, such as the German Hessians, that the British could hire. Trained, professional soldiers, well-equipped and well-trained, opposed farmers and blacksmiths who often fought with their own rifles, handed down throughout generations in their families. And who had no military training.   

The first few years of the Revolutionary War were dominated by the British. Victories in Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill and Quebec, and the capture of New York and Philadelphia, shook American confidence but not American resolve. The British were attempting to keep colonists under British rule, while the Americans were fighting for their very freedom.

But America was not alone. In 1777, a young French nobleman believed in his heart that the American cause was worthy and, using his own funds, hired a ship and sailed to America. This young man sought no pay for fighting for America. He only wanted to support the fledgling colonies.

(Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette)

Only 20 years of age, Gilbert du Motier de la Lafayette left his homeland to fight for America. He was sent to serve directly under General Washington. In September of 1777, Lafayette was wounded by British troops at the Battle of Brandywine, in Pennsylvania. Lafayette was shot while trying to rally the retreating American troops as the British moved closer and closer to the then seat of American government – Philadelphia.

But the nation of France entered the war on America’s side and through the effort of many brave French soldiers and through the leadership of Lafayette, the tide turned against the British and Lafayette was instrumental in helping the Americans defeat the British at the decisive Battle of Yorktown.

In 1824, 43 years after the Revolutionary War had ended, Lafayette returned as a national hero to America. He toured all 24 states and this trip cemented Lafayette’s place in America’s history. He was a hero to both America and to France.

In 1900, the French were selected to host a World’s Fair, as America had done only 7 years earlier for the 400th Anniversary of the Landing of Columbus. The 1900 Paris Exposition was to be the event of the new twentieth century. America wanted to honor the friendship that had existed between our two countries. America wanted to erect a beautiful and lasting monument to honor the Frenchman who nearly 125 years earlier came to America to fight for our freedom. A monument to Lafayette would honor all Frenchmen who came to help America during our time of need.

(The Equestrian Statue of Lafayette in Paris)

 America wanted to involve its children in this effort and a special “Lafayette Day” was proclaimed across America. Schoolchildren were encouraged to save some pennies and donate these coins to the planned equestrian statue of Lafayette.  More than $45 thousand dollars was donated by these children. But for the statue to be completed $100 Thousand Dollars needed to be raised.

Congress passed an appropriations bill to raise more than $50 thousand dollars to be raised through the sale of 50,000 special commemorative Silver Dollars coins. These coins would honor Lafayette and his mentor General George Washington and would defray the coins of minting these coins and constructing this statue. The coin was designed by Chief Engraver of the US Mint, Charles E. Barber.

(The Lafayette Dollar, as designed by Barber – Obverse [left] – Reverse [right].)

Barber’s design depicted conjoined busts of General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette on the obverse facing right. Surmounting the busts were “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” above and “LAFAYETTE DOLLAR” below. The two legends were separated by two five-pointed stars.

The reverse depicted an equestrian statue of Lafayette, which is a depiction by Bartlett of the statue that was being erected, on a mound, with Bartlett and a palm branch below. Surmounting the equestrian figure is “ERECTED BY THE YOUTH OF THE UNITED STATES IN HONOR OF GEN. LAFAYETTE – PARIS 1900.” with periods between each word. 

The US Mint struck all 50,000 coins in one day at the Mint in Philadelphia.  Charles Barber’s monogram does not appear on the coin, but the name of the statue sculptor, “Bartlett,” is inscribed on the base of the statue on the coin.  The reverse inscription, “Erected by the youth of the United States in honor of Gen Lafayette/Paris 1900” is a tribute to the school’s fundraising efforts.

Sales in Paris were slim, at $2 per coin, but a total of 36,000 coins in total were sold. The Lafayette Silver Dollar Commemorative Coin has the distinction of being the only Silver Dollar coin in the classic commemorative coin series.

DateTypeMintageFine ValueUnc Value
1900Lafayette Dollar36,026$350$6,000

Expand your collection today and buy a 1900 Lafayette Dollar MS-64 NGC.

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