JUNE 10, 1998 00:56 EDT
Panel Picks Sacajawea for $1 Coin
By STEVE FARR
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Nearly two decades after its last dollar coin flopped, the Treasury Department is ready to try again - perhaps with an Indian guide leading the way.
An advisory panel voted 6-1 to recommend to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin that its new dollar coin bear the image of ``Liberty, represented by a Native American woman, inspired by Sacajawea and other Native American women.''
An actual portrait of the Shoshone girl who guided Lewis and Clark through the Pacific Northwest 200 years ago won't appear because none are believed to exist. Neither will her name.
Rubin, who appointed the committee to pick a woman or women - none still alive - to go on the coin, is expected to accept the recommendation.
``We appreciate the work of the committee and look forward to seeing their recommendation,'' a Treasury Department statement said.
The choice was a compromise between panel members who wanted to honor a woman of history and those who favored an allegorical symbol. Finalists included Eleanor Roosevelt and black aviation pioneer Bessie Coleman.
Because of a recent best seller about the Lewis and Clark expedition by historian Stephen Ambrose and the Ken Burns documentary that followed, the mint had received several letters and e-mails backing Sacajawea.
``The suggestion of Sacajawea was essentially in the air for months before we convened,'' said the panel's chairman, U.S. Mint Director Philip N. Diehl. ``It was really a grass roots thing.''
The new coin would replace one that honored suffragette Susan B. Anthony.
The Anthony dollar was minted from 1979 to 1981 and widely disliked because it looked too much like a quarter. Supplies are expected to run out by mid-2000 and legislation for a new dollar coin was signed by President Clinton in December.
To keep the new coin from meeting the same fate as the Anthony, the legislation specifies that it be similar in size but gold-colored with a distinctive edge. The American eagle will be on the reverse. The details were left to the treasury secretary.
The panel included a sculptor, a college president, a former Bush administration official and Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., sponsor of the legislation establishing the coin.
``I see Sacajawea as an inspirational source,'' said Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity College in Washington. ``Women have been anonymous too long.''
Castle was the lone dissenter. Architect Hilario Candela abstained, saying few Americans had heard of Sacajawea, a sentiment shared by Castle.
``I believe she's a very obscure figure, the history of whom we know very little about,'' said Castle, who had pushed for the Statue of Liberty. ``I am just personally disappointed.''
Sacajawea was the only finalist to garner four votes. Two other committee members added their support after the rest agreed to broaden the coin's symbolism.
The panel also voted to recommend that the word ``Peace'' be included on the coin and that Native American artists and historians be consulted on the design.