Historical Origin And Design Inspiration Chairs
The Indian Head nickel, sometimes known as the buffalo nickel or the bison nickel because of the animal displayed on the reverse, was an American nickel five-cent piece minted from 1913 to 1938. It was designed by sculptor James Earle Fraser. The Indian Head nickel was replaced by the Jefferson nickel in 1938.
The Liberty Head nickel design had been introduced in 1883 by Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber. In the early 1900s, President Theodore Roosevelt had embarked upon a campaign to change the designs of U.S. coins, most of which had been designed by Barber.
Roosevelt considered Barber's coins ugly and preferred ancient Greek designs, which incorporated high relief. During his administration, Roosevelt had the old double eagle replaced with a new design by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, but most of the minor coinage was not altered.
In 1911, Treasury Secretary Franklin MacVeagh, who had worked with Roosevelt in the past and agreed with his opinions on U.S. coin designs, hired James Earle Fraser to design a new nickel.
Fraser featured a profile of a Native American on the obverse of the coin, which was a composite portrait of three Native Americans: Iron Tail, an Oglala Sioux chief, Two Moons, a Cheyenne chief, and Big Tree, a Kiowa chief.
A member of the Seneca Nation, John Big Tree, claimed his profile was used to create that portion of the portrait from the top of the forehead to the upper lip. The sculptor is reported to have said, however, that another Chief Big Tree, Adoeette or Addoeette, from the Kiowa tribe, was the Big Tree who was one of his models for the coin.
The "buffalo" portrayed on the reverse was an American Bison, possibly Black Diamond, from the Central Park Zoo.
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