Sandburg's Hometown

January 27, 2014


The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
by Barbara Schock

Carl Sandburg knew the value of a penny from the time he was a very small child. He once made an unauthorized charge for some candy at the Swan H. Olson grocery store. His father made clear the price of the candy had taken food out of the mouths of other family members.

The one cent coin produced by the United States Mint between 1859 and 1909 was called the Indian Head penny. A Native American female was depicted as “Liberty” wearing a feathered headdress. The word Liberty appeared on the headband.

In 1909 a new one cent piece was introduced in honor of the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. President Theodore Roosevelt felt U.S. coinage was uninspiring. He had hoped the sculptor August Saint-Gaudens would design a new set of coins. Unfortunately, Saint-Gaudens died before the work could be completed.

Roosevelt had seen a bronze bas relief plaque created by Victor David Brenner, a Lithuanian-born Jewish immigrant. Brenner had used a Matthew Brady photograph as the inspiration for his portrait of Lincoln. Some modifications were necessary for the actual stamping of the coins.

There was some controversy as Americans were unaccustomed to seeing the image of a real person, living or dead, on their coins. But Lincoln had become so revered after the Civil War that the new penny became very popular.

On July, 9,1909, production of the new penny began at the Mint in Philadelphia. Circulation of the new cent began August 2nd in New York City. People stood in line at banks to acquire the coins. The going rate of barter was three pennies for a nickel. The Mint had struck 25 million of the pennies before releasing them to the public. The penny was made of 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc and tin.
Reverse of Penny with Lincoln Statue in Lincoln Memorial
On the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth in 1959, the reverse of the coin was changed. The Lincoln Memorial replaced the wheat design. The statue of Lincoln can be seen inside the monument if one uses a magnifying glass.

On the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth in 2009, a series of four new designs for the reverse side of the penny were introduced. They denote his birth and childhood in Kentucky, youth in Indiana, professional life in Illinois and his presidency in Washington. The Brenner profile of Lincoln will continue to appear on the obverse side of the coin.

The U.S. Mint produces 13 million pennies a year. The coins are made of 97.5 percent zinc with a copper coating. As metal prices have risen in recent years the cost of producing the pennies has increased. The government no longer makes a profit on each penny. There are some who argue that the penny should be discontinued. There are 130 billion one-cent pieces in circulation (or in dresser drawers) across the nation. The common copper is everywhere.

A good many pennies arrive at the Carl Sandburg State Historic Site every January. Traditionally, fourth grade students in Knox County collect pennies for maintenance and improvements at the Site in honor of Carl Sandburg’s January 6th birthday.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity