James Barton Longacre was born in 1794 in Delaware County, Eastern Pennsylvania. His mother died when he was young and he ran away to Philadelphia at the age of 12—unable to abide his new stepmother. He was taken-in by the family of a Philly bookseller and given an apprenticeship working in the bookshop. But young James displayed a talent for portraiture so the shopkeeper released him of his apprenticeship which allowed him to work for an engraver.
In a recess appointment by U.S. President John Tyler, Longacre was appointed Chief Engraver for the Philadelphia Mint in 1844, a position he held until his death in 1869. He was a prolific designer of many coins, including the iconic "Indian Head" penny (produced from 1859 to 1909). For the first year, the penny was embellished with a laurel wreath on the reverse. In 1860, that design was substituted with an oak leaf wreath and shield. Legend insists that the Indian's profile had been based on the face of Longacre's daughter, Sarah. The artist, however, reported that he modeled the profile on the face of a famous Venus sculpture which had been on-loan from the Vatican and was being shown in Philadelphia.
The cufflinks above are made from genuine, vintage Indian Head pennies, mounted on sterling silver fittings. Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.
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