Large Cents of Smell
While much has been written about the enthusiasm and excitement that greeted the new Flying Eagle cent in 1857, I have never really seen anything that told what the public thought about the Large cent. After all, it had been struck almost continuously since 1793.
Apparently displaying a lack of sentiment for the old coin, a large crowd of over 1000 people showed up at the Philadelphia Mint on the Flying Eagle cent's first day to exchange their Large cents for the new coin. About 3,000,000 new Flying Eagle cents were paid out by the end of the day.
So it was with pleasure that I came across the following in an article from the February 7, 1857 issue of Harper's Weekly. The article was about the new Flying Eagle cent, but it let you know what at least one journalist thought about the old Large cent.
"[The Flying Eagle's] smaller size makes it much more convenient for handling, and less burdensome for transportation, while the neater look and the freedom from the brassy odor, renders it much more acceptable to fastidious delicacy. Ladies may now venture to touch with their ungloved fingers small change without being, like Lady Macbeth, unable to wash out with Cologne, or any other toilet detersive, the "damned spot" of a base contamination."
Apparently, the Large cents made your fingers stink so much that "ladies" wouldn't touch them without their gloves on. Since both the Large cent and Half cent were composed of copper, I would have to assume that the Half cent suffered this fate as well.
The new Flying Eagle cent was composed of 88% copper and 12% nickel, that little bit of nickel must have made the difference. At least enough of a difference to allow ladies to once more handle small change with their bare hands.