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Lowell Quarter Released

February 4, 2019 0 Comments

Today, February 6, 2019, marks the official release of the first quarter in the America the Beautiful series for the year. This is the 46th release – when the series ends in 2021 there will be 56 coins in the full set, with 5 coins released this year and again in 2020.

This release features Lowell, Massachusetts, often called the cradle of the American Industrial Revolution, a town founded in 1823. This planned city sits on the Merrimack River, 25 miles from Boston, and it was created in tribute to Francis Cabot Lowell, a Boston trader who saw that, after the Revolution, to be truly free America needed to manufacture its own good, and not be dependent on trade, as it was at that time. Textiles were major goods, used by everyone, and Lowell was built as a mill town to satisfy that need. Giant weaving mills were created along the river banks, with the rapidly-flowing water providing power in the early years. The workers were a combination of Irish immigrants escaping the Potato Famine, and girls from the surrounding farms, known as Mill Girls. The fine work of keeping the looms operating needed the slender and quick fingers of women, not the clumsy hands of potato farmers.

It is one of these Mill Girls that features on the quarter. In a design created by Joel Iskowitz, from the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program, and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill, we see a young woman, her hair safely held up in a bun, operating a power loom. The circular bobbin roll, that held the different colored threads for the design being created, features prominently. Behind her is a view of the town, featuring the iconic Boot Mill clock tower. Before the abolition of slavery, Lowell turned Southern cotton into cheap cloth for slave labor, and the town thrived and grew, producing more textiles than all the other states combined. Through the 19th century the town attracted many of the new immigrants, ‘yearning to breathe free’, and by 1900 the town was 50% immigrant. Absorbing new arrivals is an American institution.

In the 1920’s the town began to fail, ironically because mills were being built in the South. The Depression hit hard, and despite a flurry of activity during WWII and the years immediately afterwards, many mills closed, and the town spiraled into misery. It was revived to a degree in the 1970’s, with an influx of new immigrants from Cambodia, and the mill district became the Lowell Historic National Park in 1978. It is as a National Park the city is celebrated on the new quarter. The image of the Mill Girl is surrounded by a border carrying the inscriptions, LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS, 2019, AND E PLURIBUS UNUM.

The obverse has the standard design of the series, John Flanagan’s profile portrait of George Washington. The inscriptions are, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN GOD WE TRUST, LIBERTY, and QUARTER DOLLAR. The mint marks – P for Philadelphia, D for Denver and S for San Francisco – also appear on the obverse.

Circulation-quality quarters are available in 40-coin rolls, as 2 or 3-roll sets, and in 100-coin bags. Denver and Philadelphia coins are destined for general circulation, but San Francisco coins will only be available in collector’s sets. In addition, on February 7 the Mint releases the three-inch, five-ounce .999 fine silver un-circulated version of the coin, which with its large size really shows well the fascinating image. While American industry has fallen precipitously from its high-point in the post-WWII years, the memory lives on in Lowell.

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