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From the Colonel’s desk: A Kentucky gold dollar for Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor, by Joseph Henry Bush, about 1848.

Kentucky is known for its many connections with Zachary Taylor, the US Army’s Mexican-American War hero who later became President. Louisville is home to his childhood home and Zachary Taylor National Cemetery – one of America’s 171 military cemeteries – the burial place of the President and his family. Zachary Taylor Elementary School is also located in Louisville.

Zachary Taylor House in Louisville, Kentucky. (Courtesy photo by C. Bedford Crenshaw).

In November 2009, the United States Mint issued the last coin of that year’s presidential dollar (a coin program that began in 2007). It honored Zachary Taylor with a strongly forward-looking portrait of the sculptor and engraver Don Everhart. The coins were minted in the tens of millions and went into general circulation on November 19, 2009. Its official opening ceremony took place a few days later, on the President’s birthday, on November 24th. The 392nd Army Band played 19th century music to commemorate Taylor’s military victories in the 1846-1848 war against Mexico. It was these victories that promoted the major-general to president – a position he was not necessarily enthusiastic about. “An idea like this never crossed my mind,” he once wrote in a letter, “and it probably won’t come to any sane person either.”

Zachary Taylor called Kentucky longer than any other place at home. He grew up in Bluegrass State and is buried in the old family home in Louisville. (Image courtesy of the United States Mint). Move the pointer to zoom.

The US Mint described Zachary Taylor in their “golden” dollar product offering (actually made of a shiny manganese-brass composition):

Zachary Taylor, twelfth US president, was born in Virginia in 1784. Shortly after he was born, his family moved to a plantation outside of Louisville, Kentucky, where he spent his childhood. His long army career began at the age of 23, and for the next 30 years he served in many remote outposts stretching from Louisiana to northern Wisconsin. He led his troops to decisive victories in the Mexican-American War, which earned him the nickname “Old Rough and Ready”.

US Mint sculptor and engraver Don Everhart, who designed and modeled Taylor’s portrait for his presidential dollar, was also the creator of the Statue of Liberty motif on the reverse.

His reputation as a national hero made him an attractive presidential candidate, and he won the general election in a race with three candidates. Although he had little political experience, Taylor proved to be independent, to the horror of his political party, the Whigs. When the slavery debate in the western territories threatened to tear the country apart, he was determined to keep the union at all costs. He warned the leaders of the South that if necessary, he would command the army himself to enforce the law.

Taylor fell ill after attending a lengthy ceremony at the Washington Monument on a scorching July 4th, 1850. He died five days later after serving only 16 months in office. He was the second president to die in office. “

The Philadelphia Mint produced 41,580,000 of the Zachary Taylor dollars for circulation and another 784,614 in a special satin finish format for coin collectors. The Denver Mint minted another 36,680,000 copies for the circulation and, like Philadelphia, 784,614 satin-finish pieces. Even further west, in California, the San Francisco Mint produced 2,809,452 coins in brilliant proof – the crème de la crème of American coinage – for collector’s sets.

Today, Zachary Taylor’s Presidential Dollar is easy to find online, at your local coin store, or at coin fairs and conventions. The Guide Book of United States Coins gives market prices of $ 3 to $ 4 for Mint State and Proof samples. This finely crafted “Kentucky dollar” is an inexpensive but historically significant addition to your collection of bluegrass state money.

Dennis Tucker, Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, is the editor of Whitman Publishing, a leading manufacturer of warehouse and display supplies, reference books, and other resources for collectors and hobbyists. He was named a Kentucky Colonel in March 2021 for his career in book publishing and promoting Bluegrass State’s status as a major subject in numismatics. His column, “From the Colonel’s Desk,” examines the Commonwealth’s rich connections to American coins, tokens, medals, paper money, private currency, and related artifacts.

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