I've written before about how the memorial inscription "AND IN MEMORY OF WARREN G HARDING" was removed from the reverse of the 1925 Stone Mountain Memorial half dollar at the recommendation of the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA) - and with President Calvin Coolidge's approval. (See link below.) In 1926, the former president was the subject of a coin proposal dedicated soley to creating a memorial to his memory and legacy.
Harding was the 29th US President (1921-1923), and was still serving in his first term when his administration began to come under attack over several corruption and bribery scandals; the negative attention began to be directed at Harding. The details of most scandals associated with Harding's administration, however, did not fully emerge until after Harding's death. Warren Gamaliel Harding(Image Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Public Domain.)
On June 20 1923, Harding embarked on a cross-country trip he dubbed "Voyage of Understanding;" It was Harding's intent to reconnect with the American people and rebuild his public image. During the trip, on July 3, he visited Meacham, Oregon and took part in an anniversary celebration for the Old Oregon Trail; he gave a speech at the event while dedicating a historical marker for the Trail. After Oregon, Harding traveled to Alaska, then made stops in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) and Seattle, Washington during his return from "The Last Frontier."
Though there had been signs that Harding was having health issues during much of the strenuous trip, it was not until late in July that they had become serious enough to raise the level of concern to the point that events on Harding's schedule were cancelled and the president was rushed to San Francisco for care. It was originally believed that Harding was suffering from ptomaine (food) poisoning, but upon examination by specialists in San Francisco, the diagnosis was changed to pneumonia and heart issues. After what appeared to be initial signs of recovery, Harding died suddenly of what today is believed to have been a heart attack on August 2, 1923.
In December 1925, in Pendleton, OR, a group met and formed the Harding Memorial Park Association ("Park Association") for the purpose of purchasing, developing and maintaining a park site in the Blue Mountains of Oregon to honor the fallen president; the site was to be as close as possible to the spot where President Harding spoke in Meacham, OR just a month before his death.
Bruce Dennis, a former Oregon State Senator and former owner-publisher of the La Grande Evening Observer
(of La Grande, OR) was elected as president of the Park Association. It was decided at the organizational meeting to sponsor a memorial (i.e., commemorative) coin bill in an effort to generate the necessary funds for the park.
It seems likely that the group in Oregon was spurred into action by the recent dedication of a Harding Memorial in Seattle Washington's Woodland Park. Harding spoke in Seattle a few weeks after his stop in Meacham.
Companion bills were introduced in the House and Senate that called for half dollars "in commemoration of the establishment of the Harding Memorial Park Association, a memorial to the memory of Warren Gamaliel Harding, late President of the United States, established in the State of Oregon, to perpetuate unto future generations the memory of those sterling qualities of citizenship for which he stood as an example for this generation, and to commemorate the place made memorable by an address delivered by him shortly prior to his death near the location of said park at the dedication of the Old Oregon Trail."
The House bill was introduced by Representative Nicholas John Sinnott (R-OR); the Senate bill by Robert Nelson Stanfield (R-OR). The House bill was referred to the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures; the Senate bill to the Committee on Banking and Currency. The bills allowed for the coins to be struck at multiple mints, without restrictions placed on the year(s) to appear on the coins or when the coining authority for them was to expire. It would have been possible for the Park Association to create a multi-year coin program with issues from Philadelphia, Denver and/or San Francisco. Though an exact mintage request was not specified at the time the bills were introduced, language within them indicates a minimum of 100,000 coins was sought.
Neither of the bills was reported out of Committee, however, so Harding would again miss out on being featured on a US commemorative coin of the classic era.
The Park Association appears to have ceased operations after failing to secure its desired memorial coin. Today, there is no Harding Memorial Park in the Blue Mountains - or elsewhere - in Oregon! The Association appears to have been another "coin or nothing" organization that disbanded after Congress refused to fund their pet project. Note: The Harding Memorial Park Association of Oregon should not be confused with the Harding Memorial Association of Ohio. The latter was organized in 1923, shortly after Harding's death, and successfully raised funds to build an ornate Presidential Grave Site and Memorial in Marion, OH. Harding Memorial, Marion, Ohio(Image Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Public Domain.)
For posts on Harding circulating commemorative coins, see:
- 1924 Roosevelt, Harding and Wilson 2-1/2 Cent Commemorative Coins
- 1924 Harding 7-1/2 Cent Commemorative Coin
For my posts on the Stone Mountain - Warren G. Harding connection, check out:
- 1925 Stone Mountain Memorial - President Harding Removed
- 1925 Stone Mountain Memorial - Warren Gamaliel Harding Memorial
For other of my posts about commemorative coins and medals, see: Commems Collection.