The 1994 Capitol Bicentennial commemorative silver dollar was a one-coin program that was approved by the 103rd Congress on December 14, 1993. (Public Law 103-186) The same Act also authorized the Thomas Jefferson silver dollar and the three-coin (all silver dollars) Vietnam Veterans program. Due to the late-in-the-year authorization, all of the coins were released in 1994.
The bill moved through Congress very quickly! It was introduced in the House on November 22, 1993 by Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-MA) and was passed by the House and Senate just two days later on November 24, 1993. (Who says Congress can't move fast when it wants to!) The bill was signed into law on December 14, 1993 - just three weeks after its introduction!
Construction on the Capitol began in 1793, while George Washington was serving as the nation's first president under the US Constitution. (He took part in the cornestone laying ceremonies!) So, it would have been most appropriate for the Capitol Bicentennial coin to have been struck and released in 1993, but it wasn't to be. The most significant event from 1794 was the firing of Stephen Hallet, the superintendent of construction, by Thomas Jefferson, for not following the approved design of William Thorton (the winner of the design contest for the Capitol) and going against the wishes and explicit instructions of President George Washington and US Secretary of State Jefferson. Hallet was fired on November 15, 1794. Front Elevation of Dr. William Thorton's Winning Design for the Capitol(Image Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/
The obverse of the 1994 US Capitol Bicentennial commemorative silver dollar depicts the US Capitol Dome (to the right of center). The statue of Freedom
on top of the dome is surrounded by a circle of 13 stars, meant to symbolize the 13 states that had ratified the US Constitution and were part of the Union at the time construction on the Capitol began. William C. Cousins was the designer/engraver. The design has always resonated with me and is one of my favorites within the modern series.1994 US Capitol Bicentennial Silver Dollar - Obverse John Mercanti
handled the coin's reverse design. It is a rendering of a segment of one of the four stained-glass skylights positioned within the grand stairways of the Capitol's Senate and House wings. At the time of the coin's release, Mercanti commented, "achieving a faithful representation of the original window took more hours and patience than any other coin in my experience." (The Numismatist,
November 1994, p. 1519.) The four windows/skylights were created by the brothers John and George Gibson for the US Capitol between 1858 and 1861. They are currently awaiting restoration and have been temporarily been removed and replaced in the Capitol with painted acrylic panels that mimic the original designs.1994 US Capitol Bicentennial Silver Dollar - Reverse + Original Stained-Glass Reference (Image Credit - Stained-Glass Window: The Capitol: An architectural history booklet, US Mint.)
The reverse design presents a 13-star US Shield at its center, with a Bald Eagle with spread wings surmounting it; the Shield is encircled by a laurel wreath. Three arrows are being clutched by the eagle's right talon, while its left holds the traditional olive branch. From behind the Shield extend four US Flags, two on each side. The flags are more stylistic then faithful renderings, however, as none include the correct number of stars for the time/year the original skylights were created. At the time, the US Flag had 33 stars, but the design within the skylight presents just 12 stars (or fewer) on each flag; Mercanti maintained the flags as originally presented without updating for increased accuracy. Below the Shield is found a pair of olive branches.
In addition to the individual proof and uncirculated silver dollars that it sold, the US Mint also offered a package containing the 1994 Capitol Bicentennial silver dollar (proof version) and a brief booklet titled "The Capitol: An architectural history" and referred to the product as the "Architectural History Edition." The package/set had a Pre-Issue Discount price of $42 which was increased to $46 after a month.
The well-illustrated, but brief, booklet included in the set devotes most of its pages to discussing some of those who have served as an Architect of the Capitol over its history. An introduction to the contributions of Dr. William Thornton (as noted above, the winner of the design contest for the Capitol), Benjamin Latrobe, Charles Bulfinch, Thomas Walter and Constantino Brumidi are included. As with other booklets prepared by the Mint for its special packages, the booklet contains good information but also makes the interested reader realize there is much more to discover and creates a desire to seek out additional information. Today, the web site of the Architect of the Capitol is a great place to explore the many facets of the US Capitol. Check it out here: https://www.aoc.gov/
The Library of Congress has put together an absolutely wonderful online exhibit titled on the history of the US Capitol - "Temple of Liberty: Building the Capitol for a New Nation." It covers lots of ground, but it well worth the time spent! You can find it here: https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/uscapitol/
The package is one of the simpler designs of the Mint. It consists of an outer slipcase and an inner coin tray with a hole in its center to hold the silver dollar. The white tray has brief information printed on it about the design/designer of each side, but it is only cursory. The true "meat" of the package is in the "The Capitol: An architectural history" booklet.
Mint sales figures indicate that 63,465 of the sets with the proof dollar were sold. For comparison, the individual proof dollar moved 216,114 units and the individual uncirculated coin had sales of 68,332. Sales across all options totaled 347,911 of 500,000 authorized.1994 US Capitol Architectural History Set - Slipcase - Front1994 US Capitol Architectural History Set - Coin Tray - Obverse1994 US Capitol Architectural History Set - Coin Tray - Reverse1994 US Capitol Architectural History Set - Booklet - Front Cover1994 US Capitol Architectural History Set - Booklet - Interior Page1994 US Capitol Architectural History Set - Booklet - Back Cover1994 US Capitol Architectural History Set - Slipcase - BackHope you enjoyed the read!