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Image of First United States Silver Dollar, 1794
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Materials: Silver
Measurement: Dia.38.9 mm; Wt. 26.622 g
Source: Gift of Chase Manhattan Bank
Note: Breen 5360

First United States Silver Dollar, 1794

The first silver dollars - and the first silver half dollars - were delivered on the same day, October 15, 1794. Chief coiner Henry Voigt was responsible for 5,300 half dollars that day, and they apparently went into commerce as soon as they were released.

The dollars were another matter. Precisely 1,758 of them were coined on the fifteenth, and they were immediately delivered to Mint Director David Rittenhouse for distribution to dignitaries as souvenirs.

The VIPs were not impressed with what they saw. The dollars were struck on the largest press the mint possessed, but the machine was originally intended for cents and half dollars. The only way it had proved adequate for striking the copper pattern was by striking the piece twice.

The impressions it gave with a single blow were weak, a situation not helped by the fact that the obverse die was damaged early on and had to be polished down along one part of its circumference. This resulted in its making an even weaker impression. So the new federal dollar was not a brilliant success. But it was a first - and sometimes that's success enough.
Related Events
1789: The United States Constitution is adopted, creating a strong federal government.
1792: The U.S. Mint is established in Philadelphia, with David Rittenhouse as its first director.
1793: George Washington begins his second term as President of the United State.
1794: The Whiskey Rebellion breaks out in Pennsylvania over excise taxes on liquor.
1799: George Washington dies at his home, Mount Vernon.
Legendary Firsts The following objects are in this section.
Massachusetts Pine Tree Shilling, "1652" (struck 1667-1674)First United States Silver Dollar, 1794Great Britain, Sovereign, 1838
Massachusetts, "twenty shillings," 1690Brasher Doubloon, 1787United States, 5 Dollars, 1838
Pewter Continental Dollar, 1776United States, 20 Dollars, 1854United States, 10 Dollars, 1838
Copper Pattern Dollar, 1794Portrait Medal of James Smithson, 1817 
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