MacNeil’s magnificent Standing Liberty Quarter was first
put into circulation in 1917. Both the 1916 Standing Liberty
Quarter and 1917 Standing Liberty Quarter were released at
the same time. This was the first time in United States history
that the quarter had a different design from the dime and
half dollar. The obverse shows a full length Liberty looking
to her left with her right breast and shoulder exposed. She
is standing in the doorway of a half wall. In one hand she
holds an olive branch and the other a partially draped shield.
At the top of the wall are the motto’s words “In
God” on the left and “We Trust” on the right.
The word “Liberty” is at the top of the coin surrounding
her head, and the date is below her feet. MacNeil’s
model for Liberty was first said to be Dora Doscher, a silent
film actress who later used the stage name Doris Doree. However,
it was later found that Irene McDowell, a Broadway actress
whose husband disapproved of her modeling, had posed for MacNeil.
There is evidence that Liberty is actually a composite of
both of these women.
As soon as the coin was released,
the Society for the Suppression of Vice, led by Anthony Comstock,
saw that the drapery exposed Liberty’s right breast,
including the details of the nipple on the sharpest struck
coins. They began to put pressure on the Secretary of the
Treasury, William McAdoo, to withdraw the issue. The Treasury
refused to withdraw the coins already in circulation, but
the coin was redesigned and reissued in 1917 with Liberty
covered up. It is also likely that because the coin exhibited
the wrong symbolism at the time of entry into World War I,
it was redesigned. In the Type II version, Liberty wears a
coat of medieval chain mail instead of being seminude.
A major design problem throughout
the series is Liberty’s head. It is usually weakly struck
with few details. Full head or FH coins with full facial features
are rare and bring a substantial premium. They bring even
higher prices if full details are found on the knee, central
drapery, and shield including the rivets and central smaller
shield. A second problem is that the date is unprotected and
tended to rapid wear.The reverse of the coin shows an eagle
in flight. The design has been criticized because the eagle
is unrealistic. It was said to have the “head of a hawk,
the wings of an eagle, and the body of a dove.” On the
Type II reverse, the eagle was raised and three of the stars
were placed below it. However, its physiology remained unchanged.