San Francisco battled unruly citizens, ruffians, ne’er do wells, and criminals for several years after the population soared thanks to the California Gold Rush of 1848/49. By 1851 the once quaint town had seen an explosive population growth of thousands, which made it difficult to keep stable and govern properly. Furthermore, due to the lack of control more criminals flooded into the unruly town and rooted into the North Bay area. Eventually, the city experienced a period of unprecedented growth that allowed the chaos to become more organized and reform their government. In doing so, city planning still kept the area, known as part of the Barbary Coast trail or the Red-Light District, and ignored the goings-on that were mostly confined to this section of town now. The point was, it was sectioned and the rest of the city was well organized and well maintained. Still, the chaos that remained within the Red-Light district concerned citizens throughout San Francisco; these people also felt it should be necessary for everyone to follow the law. As a result, several laws were presented to the State of California and the Government of San Francisco, but they could just not gain traction. It wasn’t until the humbling earthquake of 1906 that true reform could be had as most of the city, which included the Red-Light District, sat in rubble. This opportunity allowed the San Franciscan elite to “spruce” up this section of the city and hopefully move the crime and prostitution out. Unfortunately, the city’s major problem of prostitution still ran rampant throughout the district and several people demanded an end. Soon enough, after the 1911 election of mayor James Rolph, he and the Governor of California set forth to put an end to the abundant criminal activity. Cue the Red-Light Abatement Act that aimed to oust criminality and prostitution once and for all. Instead of previous attempts to harass or attack the criminals, this act put the responsibility on the property owners in which these lewd acts were committed. The consequences of a raided property were closure for a year without the ability to use it for any reason, court fines, furniture confiscation and sales, and possible property auctions. This made property owners become absolutely paranoid of renter activities which in turn created a stricter rental rule. Soon enough the Act of 1913 put an end to California Brothels and residential criminality by 1917 which dissolved the Red-Light District in its entirety.
No one really seemed to enjoy the work of Charles Barber in his time, so when 1913 rolled around it was time to say goodbye to his Liberty Head five cent. Since Barber’s initial design, Teddy Roosevelt had since entered office, where he showed a vested interest in U.S. coinage. Roosevelt, a fan of the classic coins of Greece, set out to change the designs across the board. Even after he left office, his desire for a full run of classic-styled coins was alive and well throughout the treasury and mint. Secretary of the Treasury, Franklin MacVeagh, wanted to avoid another design from Barber at all costs to keep his appointer’s dream alive. To do this MacVeagh turned to James Earl Fraser, a mentee of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and well known for his monumental “End of the Trail” tribute sculpture to Native Americans. Fraser’s design turned out truly remarkable and just in Roosevelt’s taste. The obverse featured a true-to-race Native Chief who donned a feather in his hair. The reverse featured a buffalo, modeled after a Bronx Zoo bison, on a prairie along with the date and motto. The Buffalo Nickel was so different and captivating that the mint distributed some of its first strikes to thirty-three Native chiefs, President Taft, and the coin was honored at the National Memorial to the North American Indian. Unfortunately the first design proved to wear the date down rapidly, so Barber got his hand on the coin to modify the mound upon which the buffalo stood. However, Barber also took his greedy hand and smoothed the chiefs face, which took away some of the artistic merit Fraser had incorporated. Still, the nickel has remained a truly historical feat in the numismatic world for its artistry, historic importance, and its finesse.