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William Barber (engraver)

William Barber (May 2, 1807 – August 31, 1879) was the fifth Chief Engraver of the United States Mint from 1869 until his death.[1] He succeeded James B. Longacre in the position.

William Barber
Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint
In office
President Ulysses S. Grant
Preceded by James B. Longacre
Succeeded by Charles E. Barber
Personal details
Born (1807-05-02)May 2, 1807
London, England, United Kingdom
Died August 31, 1879(1879-08-31) (aged 72)
United States
Occupation Engraver



Mr. Barber was born in London, England on May 2, 1807.[1] He learned his profession from his father, John Barber, and was employed on silver plate work, after his emigration to the United States. He resided in Boston for 10 years and was variously employed in his line of work. His skill in this way came to the knowledge of Mr. Longacre, then Engraver of the Mint, and he secured his services as an assistant in 1865.[1] In January 1869 upon the death of Mr. Longacre, he was appointed as his successor, and continued in that position for the rest of his life.[1] He died as a result of severe chills brought on by bathing at the seashore.[citation needed] Besides much original work on pattern coins, he also produced over 40 medals, public and private. The work on all of them very creditable.

Barber is best known for his "Britannia"-inspired trade dollar design, which was produced from 1873–1878 for circulation in the Far East, and in proof-only form thereafter until 1885.[2] The 1884 and 1885 Trade Dollars are ultra-rarities, with ten and five coined, respectively. He also adapted the long-standing Seated Liberty design for use on the ill-fated 20-cent piece, which saw circulation only in 1875 and 1876, with proofs struck in 1877 and 1878.

Barber was a prolific pattern designer, and for a time engaged in a "pattern war" with fellow coin designer and future Chief Engraver George T. Morgan. Barber was succeeded as Chief Engraver by his son Charles.

Coins DesignedEdit

1877 $50 Half Union gold pattern (J-1546)


  1. ^ a b c d Whisker, "Barber, William".
  2. ^ Vermeule, p. 69.


  • Cornelius Vermeule, Numismatic art in America : aesthetics of the United States coinage, Atlanta, Ga. : Whitman Pub., 2007.
  • James B. Whisker, Pennsylvania workers in brass, copper and tin : 1681-1900, Lewiston, N.Y. : Edwin Mellen Press, 1993.
Government offices
Preceded by
James B. Longacre
Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint
Succeeded by
Charles E. Barber