Grateful American® Foundation

Who was one of the first US chief engravers?

January 28th

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 6.54.40 PMJanuary 28, 1824 — William Kneass (September 25, 1781 – August 27, 1840) became the country’s chief engraver today, a job he held until his death in 1840.

Kneass is credited with designing the “Classic Head” motif, which appeared on numerous denominations of American currency, including the gold Quarter Eagle ($2.50) and Half Eagle ($5.00) gold pieces from 1834-1839.

He also modified John Reich’s “Capped Bust” design on the half dime through half-dollar from the years 1829-1837. Additionally, Kneass utilized his modified Capped Bust for the rebirth of the half-dime in 1829.

Born in Lancaster, PA, he served in the War of 1812 as a volunteer associate of the field engineers, and helped construct fortifications on the western front of Philadelphia. He then ran an engraving office on Fourth above Chestnut Street — a popular meeting place for “leading wits and men of culture.”

Married to Mary Turner Honeyman Kneass, they had six children including a notable architect, Samuel Honeyman Kneass (1806–1858), and engineer, Strickland Kneass (1821-1884).

Words of Wisdom

He was a warm gentleman of the old-school, who had the rare quality of engaging and winning the esteem and affection of children and youth.

— Eulogy of US chief engraver William Kneass (September 25, 1781 – August 27, 1840)

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