France's Sower influences America's Walking Liberty half dollar

Weinman's 'walker' reflects Roty's design in huge doses
By , Coin World
Published : 01/17/16
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Editor's note: this is the final part of a story exploring the intersection, influence and imitation between American and world coins. The story originally appeared in the February 2016 monthly issue of Coin World.

American collectors may not recognize the name of French medalist and designer Louis Oscar Roty, but they surely are familiar with his most famous design. 

La Semeuse, or The Sower, is a walking personification of Liberty that some experts say is similar to or was the inspiration for the Walking Liberty half dollar introduced in 1916 and designed by Adolph A. Weinman. Another coin of Weinman’s design, the Winged Liberty Head dime, also debuted in 1916, and it is not immune from the suggestion that there is a “French Connection.”

Dr. George Frederick Kunz, writing in the 1913 American Journal of Numismatics, calls Roty the “leader of the modern French school of medallists.” 

Roty’s work includes a range of coinage for several other nations, including Chile. 

His most famous coin design is that created for French coins in 1897. 

This, the aforementioned Sower design, was used for the 50-centime and 1-, 2- and 5-franc coins through 1920. 

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“Possibly no coin ever had a greater influence on the taste of a country than has had his coin, La Semeuse, ‘The Sower,’ which was a radical change from former types of coinage,” Kunz writes. “It possessed such a marked and individual quality that it brought Roty instant recognition. ...” 

Medalist and Lincoln cent designer Victor David Brenner was a pupil of Roty’s, and Kunz notes a resemblance between the two. “Much of [Brenner’s] work shows the strength and delicacy of that of his master, of whom he is a worthy successor.” 

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