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Private medals commemorate 1864 anniversary of religious motto In God We Trust on 2-cent coins

Issue features designs by U.S. Mint Sculptor-Engraver Donald Everhart II
By , Coin World
Published : 05/08/14
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A medal in three metallic compositions is being privately issued in 2014 in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the use of “In God We Trust” on the nation’s coinage.

The motto first appeared on United States coinage with the 2-cent coin in 1864.

The obverse and reverse designs of the high-relief medal were sculptured by Donald Everhart II, a sculptor-engraver on the engraving staff of the United States Mint in Philadelphia. The medal is a private commission.

The obverse features conjoined portraits of three figures prominent in securing the motto’s use — the Rev. Mark R. Watkinson, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, and James Pollock, two-time director of the U.S. Mint.

According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury website at www.treasury.gov, “The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States coins largely because of increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War.”

Chase received numerous appeals from devout individuals, the first recorded being a Nov. 13, 1861, letter from the Rev. Watkinson, from Ridleyville, Pa.

Several years later, the Mint Act of April 22, 1864, changed the composition of the cent coin and authorized the minting of the 2-cent coin. Pollock was directed to develop the designs for these coins for final approval by the Treasury secretary. During the design of the 2-cent coin, a motto was selected and placed on the adopted design. The motto was placed on other denominations over the years, though it was not until well into the 20th century that all denominations bore the motto.

A law passed by the 84th Congress and approved by President Eisenhower on July 30, 1956, declared “In God We Trust” the national motto of the United States.

The inscription IN GOD WE TRUST was first used on paper money in 1957, when it appeared on the $1 silver certificate. The first paper currency bearing the motto entered circulation on Oct. 1, 1957.

Superimposed at the base of the conjoined portraits on the obverse of the medal is a keystone within which appears the anniversary dates 1864 and 2014. Pennsylvania is known as “the Keystone State.”

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