Designed by Robert Scot, the Draped Bust, Small Eagle Reverse
dime shows a draped bust of Liberty with her hair tied with
a ribbon. The word LIBERTY is above and the date is below.
To the left of Liberty there are 8 six-pointed stars, and
to the right there are 7. The Small Eagle Reverse shows
a skinny eagle perched on a wreath that is tied with a bow
and surrounded by the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The
left half of the wreath is laurel, and the right half is
palm. There is no denomination indicated on the coin, and
the edge is reeded.
Thomas Jefferson chose Scot to be the first
Chief Engraver of the United States Mint on November 23,
1793. Scot was born in 1744 in Edinburgh, Scotland or England.
(Documentary evidence is lacking as to where he was born.)
He was trained as a watchmaker in England and learned engraving
afterwards. He moved to the United States in 1777, where
he worked as an engraver of plates, bills of exchange, and
office scales. During the Revolution, he was an engraver
of paper money. In 1780 he was made the State Engraver of
Virginia. He moved to Philadelphia the next year. He was
appointed Chief Engraver of the United States Mint on November
23, 1793 by David Rittenhouse, Mint Director. His salary
in 1795 was $1,200 per year.
The Mint Director received only $800 dollars
per year more. Scot’s ability to make dies was limited,
and in his advanced years he had failing eyesight. His work
was somewhat less than that done in Europe at the time,
and Scot was criticized for its poor quality. He was responsible
for designs of most of America’s first coins. These include
the Flowing Hair and the Draped Bust motifs used on early
silver coins and the Capped Bust gold coins. Scot also designed
the 1794-1797 half-cent, the 1800-1808 draped bust half-cent,
and the Thomas Jefferson Indian Peace Medal. He died on
November 1, 1823 and was succeeded by William Kneass as
The early Mint in Philadelphia had many
challenges. Each of the specialists, the designers, engravers,
and press operators were men who had previously worked in
other fields. Coin manufacturing was a new trade for them.
Production was sporadic. For the new Mint to coin each of
the mandated denominations, it took four years. This delay
was partly because of inexperience and governmental obstacles.
Bonds that were unrealistically high were impediments to
engravers working with precious metals. Congress was not
united on the need for a government mint since private and
foreign coinage seemed to work. Because of the non-existent
or low production numbers in the early years of the Mint,
foreign copper, silver and gold circulated along with American
made coins for many years until they were later demonetized.
Record keeping in the Mint’s early years
was fairly inaccurate. At the end of the eighteenth century
Philadelphia had recovered from the British occupation and
Revolutionary War. It was the second largest city in the
English-speaking world, but it could do nothing to protect
its citizens from the mosquito-borne epidemic of yellow
fever. Its wealthy citizens went to the countryside to escape,
and the poor grimly waited their fate. Of course these annual
epidemics caused havoc with all manufacturing that required
continuity, such as a coinage sequence. In addition to yellow
fever, chaos at the Mint was also caused by chronic bullion
shortages, coin dies that would wear out and had to be re-engraved
because they were not taken out of production until they
failed completely, and a Chief Engraver, Robert Scot, who
was in his seventies and had failing eyesight.