The heads of Washington and Lafayette appear jugate-here actually check to check, in a singularly appropriate testimony not only to their joint role in the Revolution but to their relationship in life. The childless Washington and the then extremely handsome young Lafayette were closer than brothers throughout the war. It might have been even more appropriate to portray them as they appeared then, rather than decades later, but possibly no engraved portrait of Lafayette of that time was available to go with those of Washinton by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere.
We may take Lafayette's pose on the statue, as depicted on the coin, to represent him in triumphal procession rather than charging against the enemy-note his sheathed sword, like a Highland pipe major's baton, serving as a standard rather than bradished unsheathed as a weapon.
The words PARIS 1900 refer to the Paris Exposition.
Congress authorized these coins as of March 3, 1899, as part of our government's participation in the 1900 Paris Exposition, and in commemoration of the centennial of Washington's death.
To defray part of the cost of completion of Paul Wayland Bartlett's (1865-1925) equestrian statue of Lafayette, then under construction in Paris for display at the Exposition.
The Lafayette Monument Committee (Robert J. Thompson, secretary); Charles E. Barber.
Barber copied an engraving or photograph of familiar Jean Antoine Houdon bust of Washington (1875) for his lifeless head of the President. His prototype for the head of Lafayette-as for the entire composition-was beyond doubt Peter L. Krider's Yourktown Centennial Medal (1881), pictured in Slabaugh.
Originally, the Lafayette Monument Committee requested that Congress authorize production of 100,000 half dollars, which would be sold at a premium, the profits going t defray the cost of the monument. Later, Secretary Thompson changed his mind and advocated a silver dollar as a better souvenir. With this amendment, the authorizing bill went through Congress without difficulty, becoming the Act of March 3, 1899.
On December 14, 1899, the exact day of the centenary of Washington's death, the 50,00 production coins (with 26 extra for assay) were struck, taking something over ten hours of press time. The first specimen struck, after the precedent established by the Columbians and the Isabella Quarter, received an offer of $5,000, but by rearrangement it went instead into an elaborate presentation case at the order of President McKinley, to be taken by Secretary Thompson (appointed Special Commissioner of the United States to the President of the French Republic by the State Department for the purpose) aboard the S.S. Champagne, destination Paris. Thompson presented it to President Loubet of France on February 22, 1900. Photographs of the casket were released on that day but we have not been able to locate one.