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Commems Collection: What If? 1940 Bethesda Orphanage

 
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 Posted 06/07/2022  10:38 am Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
The Georgia Colony was formed by the British in 1732, under King George II. In 1740, Evangelical preacher Reverend George Whitefield founded the Bethesda Orphan House near Savannah, Georgia with money he had raised while preaching in England and America; he hoped to eventually add a school and college to the site. Whitefield believed in strict discipline for the orphans, as he believed it was the way to help ensure they would grow up to become positive, productive members of society.

(Reverend Whitefield's life story is an interesting one, here's a brief bio on him from the "New Georgia Encyclopedia" - George Whitefield.)

Whitefield died in 1770, and Bethesda was entrusted to Selina, Countess of Huntington, who attempted to carry on with Whitestone's vision; the Countess had financially supported Whitestone and his preaching. A fire to the orphanage's main building in 1773 partially derailed her efforts, however, and after she died in 1791 the State of Georgia took over the orphanage/site and assigned trustees to oversee it. A second major fire in 1805 signalled the end for Whitestone's dream. The State Trustees disbanded and the land was sold.

The Union Society, a charitable organization, was established in 1750, and was an early financial supporter of the Bethesda orphanage. After the orphanage ceased operations in 1805, the Society carried on some of its work regarding caring for the Savannah-area orphans. In 1854, the Society purchased a portion of Whitestone's original orphanage site, reconstructed needed buildings and relaunched the orphanage.

The name of the orphanage was changed to the Bethesda Home for Boys in 1900. In 1992, the name became the Bethesda School and beginning in 2011, the facility began operating as the Bethesda Academy - a private middle and high school for boys. The Bethesda Academy is the DBA - Doing Business As - name of the Bethesda-Union Society.

In June 1939, long-time Senator Walter Franklin George (D-GA) introduced a bill in the Senate that called for fifty-cent pieces "in commemoration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the Bethesda Orphanage for Boys" at Savannah, Georgia. Upon its introduction, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency. (Note: The bill identifies the 200th anniversary of "the establishment" of the orphanage, vs. the 200th anniversary of continuous operations.)

The bill adhered to the Committee's recently adopted provisions for commemorative coins, namely the coins were to be struck at a single mint, all were to bear the date "1940" and their coining authority had a specified expiration date (in the case of the Bethesda coin, the expiration date was to be two years after the coin bill's enactment).

The Bethesda-Union Society was the listed as the sponsor/beneficiary, and all proceeds of coin sales were to go to benefit the orphanage. The bill called for the striking of up to 100,000 half dollars; the sponsor was to be required to order a minimum of 5,000 coins at a time.

As with so many of the coin bills featured in my What If? stories, the bill was never reported out of Committee and thus died for lack of action. The local nature of the Orphanage (catering to boys in and around Savannah, GA) was likely the primary reason the bill did not receive more consideration; its strong religious connection likely also didn't help. It was a time when "national significance" had become an important hurdle to overcome for any commemorative coin bill, and those that didn't meet the criteria were pushed aside.


For other of my posts about commemorative coins and medals, including more What If? stories, see: Commems Collection.




Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
Edited by commems
06/07/2022 10:45 am
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 Posted 06/07/2022  11:14 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Coinfrog to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Very interesting, thanks! Seems like a pretty obscure subject.
Edited by Coinfrog
06/07/2022 6:36 pm
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 Posted 06/07/2022  4:15 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add chafemasterj to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Well written and enjoyed as per usual.
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 Posted 06/07/2022  10:52 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add hokiefan_82 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks, commems. Interesting history, but as you explained it's sort of clear why this one couldn't "make the cut" at that time.
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 Posted 06/08/2022  05:39 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add nickelsearcher to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Great history read commems, many thanks.


Quote:
It was a time when "national significance" had become an important hurdle to overcome for any commemorative coin bill, and those that didn't meet the criteria were pushed aside.


Shame that this legislative attitude was not in favor during the 1935/1936 commemorative craze era.
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