Who Were the Models for the Buffalo Nickel?

Chief Iron Tail

The profile of the Native American chief on the obverse side of the Buffalo Nickel was not a portrait of any one man. James Earle Fraser, the sculptor who designed the coin, said that the head was a composite — a type, not a portrait. However, there were three Native American chiefs in particular who sat as models for Fraser.

Teresa de Francisci, the Peace Dollar Lady Liberty

Teresa de Francisci

Teresa de Francisci, the model for Lady Liberty on the Peace Dollar, was born Mary Teresa Cafarelli on May 4, 1898 in Naples, Italy. She was almost five years old when her family left Italy and immigrated to the United States on a steamer ship. According to Teresa, as that ship approached New York Harbor she became fascinated by the Statue of Liberty and often posed to imitate it as she was growing up.

Anna Willess Williams, the “Silver Dollar Girl”

Anna Willess Williams

It is widely believed that the model for Lady Liberty on the Morgan Silver Dollar was a Philadelphia schoolteacher named Anna Willess Williams. She was recommended to George T. Morgan, the designer of the Morgan dollar, by an acquaintance of her father’s, the painter Thomas Eakins. Morgan enthused that “Miss Williams’ profile was the most nearly perfect he had seen in England or America.” He described her as being fair in complexion, “with blue eyes and a Grecian nose,” with hair that was “almost her crowing glory… golden color, abundant and light of texture.”

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