Capping Liberty

The Invention of Numismatic Iconography for the New American Republic

Liberty’s Cap: The American Context

Although Congress was typically vague in prescribing an “impression emblematic of Liberty” for the obverse of all the new federal coins to be produced under the Mint Authorization Act of 1792, there is no doubt that the principal image in the minds of most members would have been some form derived from the Roman allegorical figure of Liberty, identifiable by her staff and distinctive cap. By the end of the eighteenth century, this figure had lost its specific reference to antiquity and had become part of the common visual vocabulary as a symbol of both liberal thinking in general in Europe and the struggle for independence in the American colonies.