Articles

The Lewis and Clark Exposition Gold Dollars

The Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition held at Portland, Oregon, in 1905, was also commemorated by an issue of souvenir gold dollars. These were sold at two dollars each, and bear the dates 1904 and 1905, respectively.

Lewis and Clark were commissioned by the government to explore the newly purchased Louisiana Territory.

The Act of Congress authorizing these pieces, reads as follows:

[EXTRACT FROM]

[PUBLIC—NO. 111—58TH CONGRESS]

SEC. 6. That upon the approval of this Act the Secretary of the Treasury shall, upon the request of the Lewis and Clark Centennial and American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair Company, cause to be coined at the mints of the United States not to exceed two hundred and fifty thousand gold dollars, of legal weight and fineness, to be known as the Lewis and Clark Exposition gold dollar, struck in commemoration of said exposition. The words, devices, and designs upon said gold dollars shall be determined and prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury, and all provisions of law relative to the coinage and legal-tender quality of all other gold coin shall be applicable to the coin issued under and in accordance with the provisions of this Act. That the said coins shall be disposed of by the Secretary of the Treasury to the said Lewis and Clark Centennial and American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair Company at par, under rules and regulations and in amounts to be prescribed by him . . .

Approved, April 13, 1904.

Although the Mint records state that 60,069 pieces were struck, 25,028 dated 1904 and 35,041 dated 1905, these figures do not tell the true story. Of the 25,028 struck in September 1904 at the Philadelphia Mint, 10,025 were sold and 15,003 were melted down at the San Francisco Mint. The Fair Management ordered from the Philadelphia Mint 10,000 pieces dated 1905. This mint, prior to its summer closing, struck an additional 25,000 during March and June, to meet possible orders; and as none of these were needed subsequently, the entire 25,000 were melted. In other words, about 10,000 of each date were distributed, and 40,000 of the 60,000 pieces struck were returned to the melting pot.

The coins are unattractive and commonplace, bearing a portrait on each side. Because of the small size of the coin, the portraits are insignificant.

Almost no notice of these pieces appeared in the press at the time and only one short account of them was reported in the numismatic journals, so that they are not widely known. The portraits were designed by G. E. Barber of the Mint.

Obv.Bust of Meriwether Lewis to left, around top: LEWIS-CLARK EXPOSITION PORTLAND ORE. Below:•1904•All within beaded border.
Bust of William Clark to left, around top: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Below:•ONE DOLLAR•All within beaded border.
Reeded.14½mm. Gold.
Roman.
Same as above, but dated 1905 on obverse.
A bronze memorial was erected in honor of the Indian guide, Sacagawea, in Portland, Oregon, in 1905, from funds derived from the sale of the gold dollars. Without Sacagawea’s assistance, the Lewis and Clark Expedition would have been unsuccessful.

Leave a comment