The first official penny minted in the United States holds a special place in numismatists’ and historians’ hearts. This penny, issued by the U.S. Congress in 1787, possessed a distinctive design, rich in symbolism and meaning, which sets it apart from the coins we use today.
In this article, Lacoon will delve into what was the motto on the first official penny and the significance of the unique motto displayed on the coin.
The Birth of America’s First Penny
After the American Revolution, the United States had to overcome many difficulties. One of these was creating a new currency for the entire country.
In response, the U.S. Congress issued the country’s first official coin, known as the Fugio cent, in 1787.
The Journal of Congress documents this historic event, marking a significant milestone in the development of the United States monetary system.
The Creator Behind the Dies
The Fugio cent was brought to life by the talented hands of Abel Buel, a skilled New Haven, Connecticut engraver.
Buel was entrusted with the responsibility of creating the dies used to strike the coins, a testament to his reputation and craftsmanship.
The resulting design was both artistic and symbolic, capturing the essence of the young nation.
A Resourceful Use of Copper
The copper used to mint the Fugio cent came from an unconventional source: the bands that held together powder kegs supplied by the French government during the American Revolution.
This resourceful use of materials, and repurposing of military supplies for the creation of a national currency, demonstrated the innovative spirit of the United States in its early days.
The Sundial and a Motto to Remember
The obverse (front) of the Fugio cent features a unique design that captures the essence of the period. At its center is a sundial, representing time, surrounded by the sun’s rays. This image speaks to the notion of progress, a core value of the burgeoning nation.
The front of the currency also has a saying that would have appealed to many Americans back then: “Mind Your Business.” Benjamin Franklin made this phrase famous, and it had two meanings. Firstly, it told people to be careful and independent by considering their matters.
On the other hand, the phrase can be understood as a call for unity, asking citizens to concentrate on building the fledgling nation together.
The Thirteen Original Colonies and Unity
The reverse (back) of the Fugio cent holds another layer of symbolism. In a display of unity, the design features 13 linked circles, each representing one of the original 13 colonies.
Surrounding these interconnected circles is a larger circle containing the words “United States,” emphasizing the importance of solidarity among the states.
At the center of the reverse design is a powerful motto: “We Are One.” This statement underscores the collective strength of the young nation, stressing the importance of unity and cooperation among its diverse members.
The first official penny of the United States is a treasure trove of symbolism and meaning.
From its resourceful use of copper from military supplies to the mottos displayed on both sides of the coin, the Fugio cent tells a story of a nation in its infancy, working together to build a brighter future.