December 19, 2008

The girl on the penny

There's a bit of uncertainty about who the girl on the Indian Head penny was. In its February 12, 1909, edition, the NY Times stated:The familiar Indian head on the present cent was made many years ago from a portrait of Mary Cunningham, a little Philadelphia girl, whose father was an employee of the mint.But another source reports:One of the more enduring legends behind the design of the Indian Head cent is that Mr. Longacre's young daughter Sarah was used as the model. Supposedly she was in his office when a delegation of visiting Indian chiefs happened to be there. Someone put a war bonnet on the girl's head and from that came the design.

In reality, Longacre himself stated that the head was simply copied from a Greek statue in a local museum. There seems to be little doubt about this story as the head is virtually the same as the one he used on the gold dollar and double eagle in 1849.
Comment:  I'd say there's still a little doubt. Longacre might've made two portraits similar because he preferred that look or because he wasn't imaginative enough to differentiate them.

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