ON THIS DATE in 1878, the face of eighteen-year-old Anna W. Williams appeared on the Morgan silver dollar, which was first struck this day.
A student at the Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts, Williams had caught the eye of coin designer George T. Morgan, who had been looking for a female profile to represent the Goddess of Liberty. Morgan thought her head the best he’d ever seen.
Williams’ role in modeling the coin became public in 1879, much to her chagrin. She taught kindergarten for more than 40 years and rejected any claims to celebrity. “I can’t be interested in a purely accidental occurrence of days long gone by,” she said in 1922.
The Morgan Dollar, also called the Liberty Dollar, circulated from 1878 to 1921. The New York Mail and Express once stated that Williams’ face was “known to more people than that of any other woman of the American continent.”