Political pressure, not public demand, brought the Morgan dollar into being. There was no real need for a new silver dollar in the late 1870s; the last previous “cartwheel,” the Liberty Seated dollar, had been legislated out of existence in 1873, and hardly anyone missed it.
Silver-mining interests did miss the dollar, though, and lobbied Congress forcefully for its return. The Comstock Lode in Nevada was yielding huge quantities of silver, with ore worth $36 million being extracted annually. After several futile attempts, the silver forces in Congress—led by Representative Richard (“Silver Dick”) Bland of Missouri—finally succeeded in winning authorization for a new silver dollar when Congress passed the Bland-Allison Act on February 28, 1878. This Act required the Treasury to purchase at market levels between two million and four million troy ounces of silver bullion every month to be coined into dollars. This amounted to a massive s.... (Expand Text)