Next up on our commemorative parade is the 1938 half-dollar marking the 250th anniversary of the settling/founding of New Rochelle, NY. The coin is presented via PCGS
examples in MS-66 and MS-64.
New Rochelle was founded by Huguenots (Protestants) from France in 1688. They came to the New World to escape religious persecution and purchased a tract of land of 6,000 acres along the Long Island Sound to settle. The land was purchased from John Pell, Lord of the Manor of Pelham, for "the sum of Sixteen hundred twenty & Five pounds sterling currant [sic] silver money of this province" and "...one fatt calfe on every fourer & twentieth day of June YEARLY & Every Years forever (if demanded)." (One Fatt Calfe
, see below) The settlement was named New Rochelle after the Port of La Rochelle in France (a Huguenot stronghold). Read More: Commems Collection
The obverse of the coin features Lord Pell receiving "one fatt calfe" (presumably the first) as part of the payment for the land. The reverse of the coin features a French fleur-de-lis which can be found both on the Seal of New Rochelle and the Seal of Port of La Rochelle. The coin was designed by Gertrude Lathrop who also designed the 1936 Albany Charter half-dollar.
An interesting side note to the design is the fact that Lathrop was not the original designer of the coin and was selected only after multiple of the New Rochelle Commemorative Coin Committee's designs were rejected by the Fine Arts Commission. The original design featured a Native American crouched on a hillside looking out into the Long Island Sound at the sailing ship that brought the Huguenots to the area; a rising sun is seen in the background. The original reverse was the Seal of New Rochelle. The original design was the idea of Pitt Skipton (see below) and modeled by Lorrilard Wise. (See Don Taxay's An Illustrated History of US Commemorative Coinage
for more details and illustrations.)
The coin was the idea of the Westchester County Coin Club. They appointed Pitt Skipton as Chairman of the New Rochelle Commemorative Coin Committee (it was a committee of one!) and he worked with his local Congressman and Senator to get a bill introduced into Congress. The result was Public Law 74-556 (authorized in 1936).
25,000 coins were struck by the Mint in Philadelphia in 1937, just under 10,000 were returned to the Mint for melting about two years later. The coin is relatively easy to find in higher mint state grades and often comes very flashy.
The New Rochelle half-dollar has the distinction of having its full story documented in a book devoted to it and New Rochelle's anniversary celebrations. The book is titled One Fatt Calfe
and was written by Amy C. Skipton (wife of Coin Committee Chairman Pitt Skipton) at the time the events transpired. It was published in limited number, with just 500 copies printed. Until recently, it was a difficult and relatively expensive book to come by but I have now noticed a number of on-line book sellers offering digital reproductions of the book at much lower prices. Given a choice, I would purchase an original copy again but the low-priced reproductions are enticing if you're more interested in reading the story than "collecting" the book.
I have included images of my MS-64 example and MS-66 example. In hand, both coins exhibit very nice surfaces and simply incredible cartwheel luster. They are so close in quality, that fellow collectors I've shown them to have not been able to pick one from the other in blinded tests. What I find most interesting, is that the marks that each coin shows can generally be found in the same places on the coins. Even though I've "upgraded" this coin, I haven't been able to release my MS-64 back into the wild -- I like it too much!
In addition to the coins, I've also included images of the original holder/mailer for the coin, and a few images from One Fatt Calfe
. The holder shown is a five-coin holder, I've read about holders for one, two and ten coins as well but I don't recall seeing one of these as of yet (only a matter of time!).
Enjoy!1938 New Rochelle 250th Anniversary -- Obverse1938 New Rochelle 250th Anniversary -- Reverse1938 New Rochelle 250th Anniversary -- Original Holder, Front (R) / Back (L)1938 New Rochelle 250th Anniversary -- Original Holder, InteriorOne Fatt Calfe -- Title PageOne Fatt Calfe -- Artist with Model