As the Nation’s economy grew, interest in the possibilities this young country offered peaked. Additionally, the young country offered freedom and refuge from some of the world’s most horrific regimes at the time. As a result of this peaked interest and necessity to find safety the United States became known as the Melting Pot of cultures since the 1800s. Further into the nineteenth century more immigrants began their trek to the U.S. which invoked the necessity for restrictions. The earliest immigration restriction reared its ugly head in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act, which had its roots in racism and xenophobia. A few years later in 1890, the people called for more of a federal hand in who we let into our country and argued that the U.S. should be, “more particular about whom they let in.” To ease citizens’ qualms, President Benjamin Harris established Ellis Island as an immigrant examination depot in 1892. The new depot filtered some twelve million incoming immigrants in its operable years from 1892 to 1954, but its peak year was 1907. April 1907, in particular, saw an influx of six hundred thousand people with April 17th as the busiest day when 11,747 passed through Ellis Island. Confused as to why this particular year turned out to be record breaking, historians peeked into the surrounding conditions of the time. Upon research they discovered that the years that led up to the peak of U.S. immigration saw an influx of inhabitable conditions in foreign countries that included xenophobia and Jewish pogroms that sent millions overseas. Thankfully, despite regulations and restrictions, the United States remained open throughout this period to aid in the refuge of thousands of people who hoped for a better life.
The mint had been overfilled with silver coins for decades before the coinage act of 1890, which meant there was no need for new strikes and new designs. As a result, the half dollar maintained the Seated Liberty design for fifty-two years. By the late 1880s, Mint Director James P Kimball set out to change designs across the board when reserve numbers dwindled low enough to necessitate new strikes. In order to expedite the process for future coins, Kimball seized the new design opportunity to push legislation through congress that allowed coin alterations every twenty-five years of circulation. This law, called the Twenty-Five Year Law, allowed the mint to automatically change the design of a particular coin without the red tape of congress. Once the legislation passed and Kimball had the okay, he looked to the world’s top artists to compete for a design spot on the silver coins. Unfortunately, thanks to egotism, ungratefulness, and lack of pay the artists refused to participate in the contest, so Kimball took it to the public. The result was dismal, however, so Mint Engraver Charles Barber was given the opportunity to redesign the coins. Although Barber’s design was “uninspired” he achieved a practical design that was good enough for the newest silver half-dollars. Barber’s obverse design featured a right facing Lady Liberty that was rather matronly and a reverse eagle that resembled the U.S. great seal. As with several early coins, it is relatively difficult to find superb pieces, especially from the branch mints that often produced weak strike; making this a truly unique piece with an interesting history.