One of the first coins produced in 1792 when the U.S. Mint officially opened, the penny has gone through some changes to get to where it is today. But the name “penny” was always the name of this one-cent piece. While the colonies were moving away from British currency, they adopted the term “penny” from the British coin. While British pence and American pennies were different values, they were both the smallest valued coins in their respective currencies which is why the name was adopted by the American colonies.
When first issued, the penny’s much larger heads (obverse) side featured Lady Liberty and was made of pure copper. In 1857, the U.S. Mint was asked by Congress to make the penny smaller and add nickel into the copper. This provided a new opportunity for a heads side design, which became a flying eagle. In 1909, President Abraham Lincoln became the face of the penny making it the longest-running portrait to appear on a regularly issued U.S. coin.
Learn about "Honest Abe"!
The legacy of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, is taught in every school in just about every grade, but now it's your turn to teach on your own terms. In 2009, the U.S. Mint issued four new designs for the tails (reverse) side of the penny showcasing parts of President Abraham Lincoln's life all of which occurred in different states/areas of the U.S.
1) His birth in Kentucky
2) His youth in Indiana
3) His professional life in Illinois
4) His presidency in Washington D.C.
Try to find these pennies and explore more about President Lincoln's life! It's also interesting to see how each part of the country lays claim to and is proud of having Lincoln as part of their history.
If your children are a little older, Lincoln's speeches in particular are impressive. If you want to see how some speeches, like the Gettysburg Address, are still making an impact on Americans today, watch The Address, a 90-minute documentary by Ken Burns.
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