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Who Is On The Indian Head Small Cent?

In this blog post, we will take a look at some of the history behind the inspiration for the Indian Head Small Cent. Keep in mind that many of the portraits, paintings, photographs, and sculptures used when designing coins are not 100% what the coin looks like. So, take a few to explore this history behind the coins!

Indian Head Small CentIndian Head Small Cent Coins  |  Statue of Venus by Edmonia Lewis

There has been much chatter about the source of inspiration for James B. Longacre’s bust of an Indian on the Indian Head Small Cent. However, in Longacre’s words, the design was based upon the profile of the Bust of Venus by Edmonia Lewis. At the time of Longacre’s work, the statue was on loan in Philadelphia from the Vatican. When looking at this statue from a profile view, it is easy to tell that Longacre drew inspiration from this famous statue. Edmonia Lewis made several other statues that look even more like the coin, however, as story has it, this was the main statue used for the coin’s design. However, the reason many people dispute the story is because of one famous myth. Longacre was said to have taken his daughter to work with him frequently so that she could be exposed daily to a working society. She would sit in his studio as he drew his new illustrations for coinage. One day, when a group of Native American’s were in his studio, his daughter tried on all of their headdresses. Many people have assumed that the illustration is a drawing of her with the headdress. However, there are no actual claims of documentation to support that. In addition to the lack of documentation, at the time this design was created, James Longacre’s daughter would have been 30 years old rather than 12 to 14 like many people would have assumed.