Smithsonian’s National Numismatic Collection Receives Sacagawea Dollar

Archival Materials Are Gift of Artist Glenna Goodacre
April 24, 2011
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has recently acquired 17 items from sculptor Glenna Goodacre from her successful commission to design the Sacagawea dollar coin released in 2000. This donation preserves the creative and technical challenges of such a design and represents an important part of American history. The materials include fired clay coins, bronze sculptures, plaster studies and pencil-drawing proofs up to the first release of the coin in a presentation box, which will be housed in the museum’s National Numismatic Collection.

Goodacre, of Santa Fe, N.M., is a nationally acclaimed artist and sculptor with a career spanning 40 years. She has created hundreds of pieces, including the bronze Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C., and a portrait of former President Ronald Reagan, which is held at the Reagan Library in California.

“The items Goodacre donated show her love and dedication of the coin from concept to completion,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “She artfully portrayed a young American Indian guide and mother whose amazing adventure still lives in the hearts, minds and imagination of the American people today.”

The artist faced many challenges surrounding the design of the coin, such as no known images of Sacagawea exist. Sacagawea (c. 1788 – 1812) was a Lemhi Shoshone woman who accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition of the Western United States acting as their interpreter and guide. Goodacre used Shoshone college student Randy’L Teton as a model and dressed her in an authentic period beaded leather dress. Logistical issues included the project specifications that stated that the image was not supposed to touch the coin’s border inscription yet the central image had to be large enough to be clearly visible.

“It was a great honor for me to sculpt my own design for the Sacagawea Dollar, to work with the wonderful U.S. Mint engravers and staff who took my drawings and studies all the way through to an actual minted coin,” said Goodacre. “It was a unique experience for a sculptor like me, and the high point of my long career as an artist. “The Smithsonian is the perfect home for my preliminary coin material, and I’m proud to have my work in the National Numismatic Collection.”

Goodacre experimented with many designs for the coin — head studies, standard profile, a standing figure of Sacagawea pointing the way. She also wanted to feature images of Sacagawea with her infant son, who accompanied her on the expedition and express Sacagawea’s ability to communicate with the tribes the group met as it made its way through unknown territories. After a general call for designs, the six top candidates were put on the U.S Mint website for a public vote and three of Goodacre’s submissions proved to be the most popular. The design process continued until 1999 when all parties were satisfied, and it was unveiled at a White House event hosted by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The final design shows a head/shoulder view of Sacagawea with her infant son sleeping peacefully on her back. The U.S. Mint also asked Goodacre to sculpt the bas-relief for the coin herself, which makes her one of only a handful of private-sector artists in history who have created an American coin.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. To learn more about the museum, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).