The mountainous conflict that was the Civil War created an unimaginable divide within our country that left an ugly wound behind that took several years afterward to heal. In fact, just two years after the official end of the battle between North and South, the confederate states had still not been re-accepted into the Union. Additionally, several states struggled with the idea of the thirteenth amendment that made slavery illegal across the nation, and some would argue this did not guarantee freedom at all. Even president Andrew Johnson could not accept the newest laws that provided the right to vote to all male Americans- which included African-Americans- when he attempted to veto the law in 1867. Regardless of the turmoil that still lingered between the Union and Confederate states, territory expansion still remained on the mind of several government officials. William H. Seward, U.S. Secretary of State, for example had his eye on the Russian territory we now call Alaska for years since the government was first approached by Russia during President Buchanan’s term. Unfortunately for Seward he was met with some opposition once he presented the treaty to congress on March 30, 1867. However, there was no denying that the seven million dollar price tag- two cents an acre- was magnificent for a territory 1/5th the size of the United States. So despite the ridicule from fellow members of congress, Senate successfully passed the treaty by a one vote margin on April 9th. Six short months later Alaska was officially handed over to the United States.
Shortly after the start of the California gold rush in 1849, the huge influx of gold that made its way into the mints demanded the creation of a larger denomination. The initial task of design was up to the current Chief Engraver John Longacre; Director of Mint Robert Patterson had a different plan. Patterson felt Longacre would not execute the proper design and conspired to have him replaced by Charles Cushing Wright. His efforts included frequent obverse redesigns forced upon the engraver and merciless harassment. Luckily for Longacre, his designs finally were approved after a year of prototypes and the first gold twenty-dollar coins were struck in January 1850. The first circulated design featured a “handsome” depiction of Lady Liberty with beautiful tresses of hair topped with a Liberty inscribed coronet on the obverse. The reverse featured the necessary eagle with wings spread and a shield planted mid chest surrounded by glorious rays and stars amongst the motto UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and the TWENTY D denomination. This first design remained unchanged for sixteen years- throughout the Civil War- until 1866 when the IN GOD WE TRUST motto was adopted. The addition of this motto followed a suggestion written into the Philadelphia mint by Reverend M.R. Watkinson, who felt the country needed more God to avoid further public shame. Since then coins have continuously donned the religion-related motto.