Benjamin Franklin was 70 years old when he signed the Declaration of Independence. But after 11 years as a free nation, the United States still did not have a strong national government to unite the states far into the future. It needed a constitution. Ben Franklin had served in the Constitutional Convention to help create one, and it was finally written and agreed on in 1787.
Franklin, a true founding father, was proud and happy to be among those who signed this second great document. In fact, Franklin is the only man who signed both the Declaration and the Constitution and two major international treaties as well!
Franklin was also a man of science, who experimented with electricity and invented very useful gadgets. His long life allowed him time to do many exciting things in the fields of science, government, business, communications, and the arts.
The United States Mint is celebrating the 300th anniversary of this great man's birth by creating two commemorative coins honoring him in 2006. These coins pay tribute to Franklin as a scientist with the "Scientist" design and as one of our great leaders with the "Founding Father" design.
You probably won't see these special commemorative coins in your daily change, but you still may come across a Franklin half dollar, a circulating coin that was made between 1948 and 1963. You can read about this coin and more about Ben Franklin on July 2001's "Coin of the Month" page. And check out January 2006's Coin of the Month, where Peter presents the "Scientist" Franklin commemorative dollar!
Before the current United States Mint building in San Francisco was built in 1937, the work of the Mint was carried on in another building—one that has become known as the "Granite Lady." Since the new building opened, the Granite Lady has also become known as the "Old Mint." This classic building is the subject of the San Francisco Old Mint Commemorative Coin Program.
There are two coins in the program: a five-dollar coin made of gold and a silver dollar. One side of each coin looks just like a US coin once made in the building. The other sides show images of the "Granite Lady" herself. Both coins, struck in San Francisco, carry the "S" mint mark.
The sale of these coins will play a part in the Granite Lady's future, too. Funds raised will help the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society fix up the building as a museum of the city, of American coins, and of the California Gold Rush.
Although the Granite Lady first opened its doors in 1874, 2006 is the 100th anniversary of an important event in the life of this building as well as the whole city: In 1906, a strong earthquake and a series of fires just about destroyed San Francisco. But when the flames died down, the US Mint building at the corner of Fifth and Mission streets stood among the ruins with little damage. The Mint went on to help sustain and rebuild the city and to continue making American coins.
Have you ever wondered what that time in 1906 was like? To get a glimpse, just hop aboard our Time Machine and push the button for 1906!
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