The term “curiosity killed the cat” meant nothing to the American archaeologists and explorers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was often all or nothing for these men who would aim to discover mythological lands since they would usually out themselves in considerable danger. American archeologist, Hiram Bingham experienced no exceptions to the trials and tribulations of exploration, especially on his quest to uncover the “lost” city of Machu Picchu. This mysterious city had been the object of speculation for some time; it was thought to be a summer retreat for Incan Rulers and few knew of its whereabouts. Prior to 1911 it was not even known to exist since the Spanish invasion of the sixteenth century nearly wiped out the Incan people. Still, thanks to a hearty dose of curiosity and the strength for great exploration Bingham set out across the rocky terrain of the Peruvian forest in hopes of discovery. In part to underdeveloped areas, Bingham had to travel from Cuzco to a small isolated city at the base of the mountain range by mule and foot. Upon arrival he received assistance from a local farmer who pointed out the ruins at the top of the mountains and claimed there were more to be seen. This famer had dubbed the mountain Machu Picchu, which meant “old peak” in the native Quechua language. The next day Bingham was set to head up the mountain where he hoped his hard work would pay off. After he and his crew made their difficult trek up the ridge, a group of peasants gleefully helped the archaeologists the rest of the way up. Finally, near the end of the day on July 24th, Bingham laid eyes on the spectacle that was Machu Picchu. From his trip Bingham returned home and recorded his discovery in a best-selling novel that made Peru a hot-spot for tourists. Soon the once hidden city became the gem of the century and is still considered one of the world’s most famous man-made marvels.
There is no doubt that the collaboration between President Theodore Roosevelt and infamous sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens produced some of the most beautiful coinage and commemorative medals in American history. From the gorgeous Walking Liberty double eagle to the jaw-dropping Panama Canal medal made for Teddy himself, Saint-Gaudens had a knack for coinage. Amongst the coins that he and Roosevelt issued was the Indian Head Eagle, or ten dollar coin. This coin, along with most other gold coins, received a facelift after Roosevelt had won office in 1904 for his second term. Teddy had a particular sense of style and an appreciation for classic coinage, which he wanted to bring to America. Thankfully, his good friend Augustus Saint-Gaudens was all-aboard to produce several varieties of coin obverses and reverses from which he aspired to make into actual coins. Between the twenty dollar and ten dollar coin, the two had difficulties agreeing on the appropriate designs for their respective sides. While Gaudens liked the perched eagle for the twenty, Roosevelt favored it for the ten; this correspondence continued for the entirety of 1906 and into early 1907, until a final design was determined. The finalized coin featured Lady Liberty, with a likeness similar to Gaudens’ Nike in a central park statue, who donned a beautifully eccentric Indian Headdress. Both men eventually settled for the perched, realistic looking eagle for the reverse which brought strength and dignity to the coin. Amongst the designs were forty-six stars- only in the first few strikes, later it is thirteen- the UNITED STATES motto and the denomination. The very first coins lacked the IN GOD WE TRUST motto because Roosevelt felt this was blasphemous since coins were sometimes used for immoral activities; the motto was added shortly after a congressional stint that felt it belonged. Despite the beautiful design, the coin had multiple issues before it could be circulated. First, the original wire-edge choice made the coins difficult to stack, so the mint added a traditional rolled edge to protect the raised design. Unfortunately the rolled edge proved to create a poor strike so the 31,550 pieces struck had to be melted down to create anew. Finally, after slight modifications, the coin struck nicely with a rolled edge and it was ready for circulation by the fall of 1907.