In January 1914, with Europe on the brink of war and the United States in the throes of a depression, Henry Ford announced that he was doubling his workers’ pay from $2.34 per day to a princely $5 and, at the same time, reducing their nine-hour workday to eight hours. Ford Motor Company was, he said, initiating “the greatest revolution in the matter of rewards for its workers ever known to the industrial world.” Strange as it may seem in today’s inflated economy, $5 per day was indeed a handsome wage in 1914, and what Ford did was every bit as revolutionary as he proclaimed.
Clearly then, the half eagle—or $5 gold piece—was a coin with considerable clout in 1914, even though it was only slightly larger than the then brand-new “Buffalo” nickel. After all, it represented a full day’s pay for well-paid workers—enough to buy a pair of trousers plus a pair of work boots.
The half eagles being minted that .... (Expand Text)