Lee Speaks on Morgan’s Sketchbook

The fifth speaker in the Maryland State Numismatic Association annual Distinguished Lecturer Series was Curator Karen M. Lee of the National Numismatic Collection housed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. She spoke on George T. Morgan’s sketchbook and autographed copies of her book, The Private Sketchbook of George T. Morgan, America’s Silver Dollar Artist. The sketchbook includes drawings made over several decades. Many were what we would call industrial design; in the Victorian era even something as practical as an iron grating was expected to be aesthetically pleasing. It also has drawings related to pattern coins and medals that Morgan designed while still living in England. Morgan came to the United States because the Royal Mint staff was dominated by a cadre of big-name artisans, though there is evidence that he assisted with some of the design or engravings of British coins and medals.

Ms. Lee also displayed Richard Doty’s final book, Pictures from a Distant Country: Seeing America Through Old Paper Money. Dr. Doty was senior curator of the National Numismatic Collection until his passing on June 2, 2013. He had originally agreed to be MSNA’s fifth distinguished lecturer but was forced to decline due to illness. This book was one of several designed to bring the Smithsonian’s extensive numismatic collection into people’s homes. It pictures many rare bank notes from the pre-Civil War era.

Ms. Lee’s background is in museum design. The last topic she discussed was the upcoming expansion and renovation of the numismatic collection space at the National Museum of American History. Currently the collection only has an alcove, though it is filled with outstanding rarities such as all three types of 1804 dollars (including the unique type 2) and the unique 1849 double eagle.

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