38 mm (1-1/2”), 32 grams
HISTORY: The Official Medal, authorized by Congress, was struck at the Mint Exhibit on the exposition grounds of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco, CA. The exhibition celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal and the rebirth of a city rising from almost total devastation in the great earthquake of 1906, only nine years previously.
A contest was conducted for the medal’s design, and $1,000 was awarded to winner Robert Ingersoll Aitken (1878–1949), a San Francisco native, an already famous sculptor, and a commemorative coin designer. He was, in fact, the designer of the Fountain of Earth display at the Pan-Pac Expo and later the designer and sculptor for the west pediment of the U.S. Supreme Court building.
This so-called dollar was sold by the Department of Official Coins and Medals (Farran Zerbe, chief). It was minted in silver for $1, bronze for $.25, and gilt for $.50.
OBVERSE: A winged Mercury opens the Panama Canal locks through which passes the ship Argo. In Greek mythology, the Argo was the ship on which Jason and the Argonauts sailed from Iolcus to retrieve the Golden Fleece. It was named the Ἀργώ after its builder, Argus, symbol of navigation. A setting sun adorns her sails above the quote, “ON! SAIL ON!” Mercury, with an outstretched right arm, holds a caduceus, the symbol of commerce, pharmacy, and medicine. Signed “AITKEN FECIT.” “Fecit” comes from the Latin verb meaning “to make,” which Aitken used frequently on his work. “TO COMMORATE THE OPENING OF THE PANAMA CANAL MCMXV” encircles the medal.
REVERSE: Two gossamer-draped women, representing the two hemispheres, encircle planet Earth, each holding a bountiful cornucopia, a seagull at their feet. “PANAMA-PACIFICA INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION SAN FRANCISCO CALIFORNIA MCMXV” encircles the medal.