In 1856, James Ross Snowden, the Director of the Philadelphia Mint, minted a new one-cent coin. The new penny was made of a composition of ninety-six percent copper and four percent tin and zinc, which was harder and more durable than the previously used ninety-nine percent copper alloy. The new cents were also smaller in diameter, weighing only 2.4 grams. The public was not initially receptive to the change and many considered the new coins to be too light and too small.
In response to the public outcry, the Mint increased the weight of the new cents to 3.11 grams and the diameter to 19mm. The new design was not well received and was quickly replaced by the "Flying Eagle" cent in 1857. The "Flying Eagle" cent was very similar in appearance to the new penny, but with the addition of an eagle on the reverse side.
The "Flying Eagle" cent was short-lived and was replaced by the "Indian Head" cent in 1859. The "Indian Head" cent was very different in appearance from the previous two cents, with a larger diameter and a new obverse design featuring the head of a Native American. The "Indian Head" cent was minted for fifty years, until 1909.
In 1909, the Mint introduced a new design for the one-cent coin. The new coin was much larger than the previous cents, weighing 4.5 grams and measuring 20.5mm in diameter. The new design featured the head of President Abraham Lincoln on the obverse side and the Lincoln Memorial on the reverse side. The "Lincoln" cent was an instant success and remains in production to this day.
The Lincoln cent underwent a minor redesign in 1959 to mark the 50th anniversary of the coin. The new design featured the head of President Lincoln on the obverse side and the Lincoln Memorial on the reverse side. The words "ONE CENT" were moved from the reverse side to the obverse side, above the portrait of President Lincoln. In 1982, the composition of the coin was changed from ninety-nine percent copper to ninety-five percent copper and five percent zinc, to reduce the cost of production.
The Lincoln cent has undergone several other minor changes since 1982, but the overall design has remained the same. The Lincoln cent is currently minted in both Philadelphia and Denver and has a diameter of 19mm and a weight of 2.5 grams.