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George Washington


Born at Wakefield, Westmoreland County, Virginia. Married a widow, Martha Dandridge Custis, on January 6, 1759. They had no children.

During the French and Indian War, Washington was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel. He served under General Braddock in an attack on Fort Duquesne. The attack failed, Braddock was killed and Washington took command. He served for three years commanding troops in Virginia. In 1758 he resigned and returned to Mount Vernon. (named for Admiral Vernon)

He served in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1759 to 1774. In 1774 he was elected to the first Continental Congress.

In 1775 the Continental Congress appointed Washington as the commander in chief of the newly formed Army of the United States. The appointment was made June 15, 1775, so there was an Army of the United States before there was a country of the United States.

The British forces held Boston with the continental forces surrounding the city. Washington arrived in Cambridge July 3, 1775, to organize defenses and strengthen his army. In March 1776 his forces captured Dorchester Heights and withstood a counter attack. The American forces controlled the high ground with captured cannons in range of Boston harbor. On March 17, 1776,

General Howe withdrew the British forces from Boston.

The Continental Congress passed a resolution March 25, 1776, to honor Washington for the victory at Boston. The resolution called for a gold medal to be struck. As there were no minting facilities capable of producing medals in America, the medals were produced in Paris. The title "Comitia Americana" refers to the series of medals authorized by Congress and produced in Paris. These medals produced in France for America had legends in Latin. The Washington medal was the first of the series.

Dies were by Pierre Simon Duvivier. The originals were produced in Paris (Betts 542). The piece was restruck in Paris. The dies were copied in America and restrikes were made at the Philadelphia mint (Julian MI-1). Philadelphia made new dies as the old ones wore out. The mint continues to sell the modern restrikes (USM 401). A 38 mm pewter Washington medal was included with "America's First Medals" produced about 1976.

Washington resigned his commission December 23, 1783, and retired to Mount Vernon. In 1787 he served as president of the Constitutional Convention. In 1788 he was unanimously elected as the first President of the United States.

Washington was inaugurated April 30, 1789. At that time New York City was the capital. He was reelected but declined the opportunity for a third term. On September 19, 1796, he delivered his farewell address to Congress. He died at Mount Vernon and is buried there. Bloodletting by his physician contributed to his death.

The United States Mint was established during the Washington presidency. Washington appointed the first director of the mint, David Rittenhouse at a salary of $2000 per year. He approved the purchase of the site of the mint based on Rittenhouse's recommendation. Tradition says that Washington provided the silver for the 1792 half dimes. Another old story was that Washington, a Mason, laid the cornerstone of the mint. Mint historian Frank Stewart disputed that claim.

The image of Washington appears on thousands of coins, tokens, medals, decorations and paper money. In 1885 William S. Baker wrote Medallic Portraits of Washington. This was revised and updated by Russell Rulau and George Fuld a hundred years later. A few of the thousands of pieces are worth mention here.

George Washington was a Mason and there is a strong Washington/Masonic/Numismatic connection. He was initiated into the order November 4, 1752. After his death 1600 members of the Masons held a funeral march in Boston. Some of the Washington funeral medals were produced for the Masonic observation. Many other Masonic medals show the head of Washington.

The original Order of the Purple Heart was created by Washington in 1782 but only known to be awarded to three men. The current version was ordered by President Hoover and announced by the War Department on February 22, 1932, which was Washington's 200th birthday. This decoration is awarded for wounds received in war.

Washington appears on paper money:

3c Fractional Currency, third issue

5c Fractional Currency, second issue

10c Postage Currency, second and third issues

25c Fractional Currency, second and fourth issues

50c Postage Currency, first issue

50c Fractional Currency, second issues

$1 Legal Tender Notes

$1 Silver Certificates

$1 Federal Reserve bank Note, 1918

$1 Federal Reserve Notes, 1963 and later

$2 Silver Certificate, 1899

$5 National Bank Note

$20 Gold Certificate

$100 5 percent one-yr interest bearing note, 1863

$100 6 percent compound interest Treasury Note,


$500 7.4 percent three year interest bearing note,


Various Philippine currency

Various Confederate notes

The first Washington Indian Peace Medals were engraved and each was unique. They were dated 1792 and 1793. Perhaps the best known is the "Red Jacket" medal.

One series of three medals are known as the Washington Season Medals (Baker 170, 171, 172). Although his image does not appear on these, the name of Washington was on the reverse. They were issued in MDCCXCVI (1796). The designs were by John Trumbull, dies were cut by Conrad H. Kuchler, and the medals were struck by Boulton and Watt in Birmingham.

Additional pieces were struck at the U. S. Mint (Julian IP- 51, 52, 53).

Washington appears on an Indian Peace Medal (Julian IP-1). It was produced long after the end of the Washington administration to satisfy collector demand for a complete series of presidential medals. The obverse die

was by Pierre Simon Duvivier. The portrait was copied from the "Washington Before Boston" medal. The reverse used the standard Indian Peace Medal reverse by John Reich.

Washington appears on the obverse of a medal commemorating the Mint Cabinet of Washington medals. Design of the medal (USM 604) was by Anthony Paquet. He appears on the obverse of the medal for the Meeting of the General Society of the Cincinnati. It was struck in the mint in 1923. Dies were by George T. Morgan. A series of small medals (USM 607, 608, 609) were produced in response to collector demand. Design was by Anthony Paquet.

Washington appears on several Assay Commission medals including those for 1876, 1877, 1878, 1932, 1936, 1942 and 1946. He appears among a group on the 1965 Assay Commission Medal based on Dunsmore's painting of the examination of the first coinage. The 1976 medal reverse is based on the painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware" by Emanuel Leutz.

The Washington Quarter, first issued in 1932, was originally intended as a commemorative coin to mark Washington's 200th anniversary. The design is by John Flannagan.

Congress authorized a medal (USM 610) February 23, 1931, to commemorate the Washington Bicentennial. Design was by Laura Gardin Fraser.

The Washington Commemorative Half was issued in 1982 for the 250th anniversary. Design was by Elizabeth Jones. This was the first commemorative produced by the mint since 1954.

The George Washington Presidential dollar coin was released February 15, 2007, in a ceremony at Grand central Terminal in New York City. The obverse was designed and sculpted by Joseph Menna.

bio: ApCAB; BDC; BDEB; DAB; Drake; EAB; Limpert; TCBDA; WAB;WWWA-H

Source credit: Pete Smith, American Numismatic Biographies


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