In 1876, Director of the Mint Henry Richard Linderman began efforts to redesign the nation’s silver coins and silver dollars. Linderman contacted C.W. Fremantle, Deputy Master of the Royal Mint in London, requesting him to “find a first class die-sinker who would be willing to take the position of Assistant Engraver at the Mint at Philadelphia.” In response to Linderman’s request, Fremantle wrote “My inquiries as to an Assistant Engraver lead me very strongly to recommend for the post Mr. George Morgan, age 30, who has made himself a considerable name, but for whom there is not much opening at present in this country.” An agreement was reached between Linderman and Morgan for the engraver to work at the Philadelphia Mint under Chief Engraver William Barber on a six-month trial basis.
Morgan arrived in Philadelphia on October 9, 1876. His earliest pattern coins designed during his tenure at the Philadelphia Mint were intended for the half dollar. In 1876, Morgan enrolled as a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to prepare to create a new Liberty head design. Morgan also obtained studies from nature of the bald eagle for preparation of the reverse design. For the representation of Liberty, Morgan sought to depict an American woman rather than the usual Greek–style figures. Morgan’s friend, artist Thomas Eakins, suggested he use Anna Willess Williams of Philadelphia as a model. In total, Morgan had five sittings with Williams; he declared her profile to be the most perfect he had seen.
On October 18, 1877, Linderman requested Superintendent of the Philadelphia Mint James Pollock to “instruct Mr. Morgan to prepare without delay, dies for a silver dollar, the designs, inscriptions, and arrangement thereof to be the same as the enclosed impression for the Half Dollar and numbered ‘2’ substituting the words ‘one dollar’ in place of ‘half dollar'”. Linderman also ordered Pollock to “instruct Mr. Barber to prepare a reverse die for a dollar with a representation of an eagle as well as the inscriptions required by law. He will select whichever of his Heads of Liberty he prefers for the obverse of the same.” Linderman evidently preferred the designs of Morgan over those of the Chief Engraver; he wrote Pollock on February 21, 1878, “I have now to state for your information, that it is my intention, in the event of the silver bill now pending in Congress, becoming law, to request the approval by the Secretary of the Treasury, of the dies prepared by Mr. Morgan.”
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