“Seated Liberty” quarter was first issued in 1838,
and continued in circulation until 1892. The designer, Christian
Gobrecht designed a coin that showed a figure of a seated
woman who represented “Liberty” with her right
hand resting on a Union Shield. Her left hand held a pole
that was topped by a Liberty cap. These were all symbols of
preparedness and freedom—ideals that were important
to U.S. citizens.
After almost 50
years of the “Seated Liberty” design, the director
of the U.S. Mint decided it was time for a change. The Seated
Liberty dime, quarter, and half-dollar had used the same design
for almost 50 years.
Barber, the designer of the “Barber” quarter,
was a member of a family who had worked as engravers for generations
(Engravers created the designs for the coins and paper money).
He was born in England in 1840, and came to the United States
with his family when he was 12. Charles’s father was
Chief Engraver for the U.S. Mint. Charles later became an
assistant engraver. When his father died, Charles became the
new Chief Engraver.
A bill in Congress
that passed in September of 1890 made it legal for Mint officials
to change the design of any coin as long as the “old”
design had been in circulation for at least twenty-five years.
Since it didn’t have to wait for Congress to say it
was O.K. to change to the design of the quarter, the Treasury
Department organized a contest. They wanted to see who could
produce the best design.
department chose some of the best engravers in the country
to be the judges of the contest. But the judges didn't like
any of the designs people sent in. Each of the judges thought
they could make up a better design themselves. Charles Barber
was eventually chosen to do the work. He made the “Barber
design” for new coins, and that was the one the mint