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Teacher Feature

Whose Head Goes Here?


The release of the Illinois quarter marks the first time any person (President Abraham Lincoln) has ever been featured on two circulating coins of different denominations.  But this is not the first "first" for President Lincoln and American coinage.  When the portrait of President Lincoln first appeared on the "Lincoln cent" in 1909, it was the first time a U.S. president's image was included in an American circulating coin's design.

In 1909, the year marking President Lincoln's 100th birthday, there were many people who greatly supported the placement of this man's image on the one cent coin.  Not without its share of controversy, however, there were also many people who opposed this idea.  Some were simply upset with the idea of change from the familiar image of the Indian head that had been on the one-cent coin for the previous 50 years.  More so, others were upset that the placement of a president's image on a coin harkened back to European monarchies where the images of kings and queens adorned the currency.  There were even some people angered by the idea that Victor David Brenner, an artist who did not work for the United States Mint, was commissioned to design this new coin.


With partners (and under adult supervision) allow your students to use Internet and library resources to research the pros and cons that were raised in 1909 concerning the placement of a U.S. president on an American coin.  When they have completed their research, allow students to meet with another pair to discuss what they have learned.  In this larger group, students should discuss these different viewpoints and why they agree or disagree with them.  Finally, students should independently write an essay from their own point of view as to why a president's image should or should not be placed on American coinage.


After your students have examined the controversy surrounding the Lincoln cent, introduce them to the newest coin bearing this famous man's likeness, the Illinois quarter.  Bring the excitement of this new quarter into your classroom by trying out the 2003 50 State Quarters® Program lesson plans on the United States Mint H.I.P. Pocket Change Web site: Coin Connections (for grades K-1), Places We Live (for grades 2-3), and The Life of Lincoln (for grades 4-6).


The project described above reflects some of the national standards of learning as defined by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and the International Society for Technology in Education.  These standards are listed below:

Language Arts Standards

Demonstrate competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process, Demonstrate competence in the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing, Use grammatical and mechanical conventions in written compositions:  Students will follow the different stages of the writing process to write an essay describing their own view of this debate.

Gather and use information for research purposes, Demonstrate competence in the general skills and strategies for reading a variety of informational texts:  Students will use informational texts to research information about varying points of view relating to the Lincoln cent.

Social Studies Standards

Civic Ideals & Practices:  Students will analyze the multiple viewpoints of the American public concerning the placement of a president on their coinage.  They will explore their own views on this subject matter and will reflect accordingly through writing.

Time, Continuity, & Change:  Students will note that beliefs of individuals at different points in time reflect their particular historical context.

Technology Standards

Technology research tools:  Students will use the Internet to research information about varying points of view relating to the Lincoln cent.

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