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Remembering William Barber

There is no better way
to begin this commentary than by quoting an excerpt from an  article by
Paterson Dubois, “Our Mint and Engravers,”  which appeared in the American
Journal of Numismatics, July 1883, pages 12-16: 

“William Barber, fifth
engraver of the Mint, was born in London, May 2, 1807. He learned his
profession from his father, John Barber, and was employed on silver plate work;
he also worked for De La Rue & Co, in making dies for embossing cards and
labels. ‘In September, 1852,’ says his late friend, Mr. W.E. DuBois,  [American
Journal of Numismatics, Vol. XIV, No. 2] ‘partly from a desire to
better his condition, but specially from a growing dislike to the government
there, both civil and ecclesiastical, he resolved to emigrate to this country
with his family. In doing so, he declined good offers. He resided in Boston ten
years and was variously employed in his line of work. 

“ ‘Afterwards he was
employed in the Gorham silverware manufacture, making dies for ornamental
embossing. His skill in this way came to the knowledge of Mr. Longacre, then
engraver of the Mint, and he secured his services as an assistant. This was in
1865. In January, 1869, upon the death of Mr. Longacre, he was appointed as his
successor, and continued in that position for the remainder of his life.’ 

“His death, which
resulted from severe chills brought on by bathing at the seashore in New
Jersey, occurred in Philadelphia, August 31, 1879. His associates in the
service voted, that ‘in parting with him we lose the cooperation of an affable,
active, painstaking and meritorious officer, skillful in one of the most
difficult of all arts, and evincing and progress and improvement in it
continually.’ ”

William Barber
produced the 1874 and 1875 pattern twenty cent pieces. He also created the
twenty cent coins that circulated in 1875 and 1876 (plus Proofs for collectors
in 1877 and 1878). Twenty cent pieces were not popular at the time because they
were too close in value to the quarter dollar. Today they are numismatically
popular for inclusion in type sets.  The most often seen variety is the
1875-S. 

He designed the trade
dollar denomination made for circulation from 1873 to 1878 and in Proof format
through 1885 (the last two years being rarities).


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