Ed P. asks: Who was the “indian” on the Indian head cent? Thanks. ps. my 86 year old father has been collecting since he was 10 but never knew the answer to this question.
The “Indian” cent was designed by Mint Engraver James Barton Longacre sometime in 1858 and the first coins were struck in January of 1859. The Indian is not a Native American Profile at all but probably a derivation from the face of a Greco-Roman statue that was housed in a nearby Philadelphia Museum. Longacre kept many sketches of this profile in his sketchbooks and mentions it in correspondence and official memos over a ten year period. (See the National Archives in Washington, D.C.)
The tradition on coins of the United States, at least until the modern era, was to portray a personification of Liberty, not a real person. The only thing ‘Indian’ about the cent is the headdress. You can see very similar profiles in Longacre’s work on all three types of gold dollar (from 1849), Double Eagle ($20 gold – from 1849) and on the $3 gold piece (from 1854).