In 1938, Delaware celebrated the 300th anniversary of the founding of its first European settlement. The Swedes and Finns came to the New World in 1638 on two ships, the Kalmar Nyckel
and the Fogel Grip
, and established a settlement on the banks of the Christina River in what is today Wilmington, DE. One of their first tasks was the construction of Ft. Christina (named in honor of the Queen of Sweden); with its construction, New Sweden was born. The Delaware Tercentenary Commission, the Governor-appointed group charged with planning and organizing the State's anniversary celebrations, sponsored legislation in the US Congress that called for a commemorative half dollar to help fund its operations/events. The Commission was successful in its efforts; the coin is well-known to collectors of the classic US commemorative series.Read More: Commems Collection
Little more than a decade later, in 1951, Delaware again looked to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the establishment of a new settlement upon its shores. This time it was the arrival of the Dutch and their construction of Fort Casimir on the Delaware River under the direction of Peter Stuyvesant (of New Netherland and the Manhattan Island purchase fame). The building of the Fort Casimir settlement was the beginning of the moves by the Dutch against Sweden's control of the area.
The Swedes captured the fort in 1654, but the Dutch regained control of it in 1655. It remained in Dutch hands under the new name of Fort Amstel until the British seized it and other Delaware settlements in 1664; the British changed the name of the settlement to New Castle. During colonial times, New Castle hosted Delaware's legislature and, beginning in 1704, after Delaware separated from Pennsylvania, the city served as the seat of the colony's government. In later years, New Castle also served as Delaware's first state capital.
A bill proposing the striking of "50-cent pieces in commemoration of the three hundredth anniversary of the settlement of New Castle, Delaware" was introduced by Senator Joseph Frear, Jr. (D-DE) on January 19, 1950. Senator Frear's bill called for up to 50,000 coins of standard size, weight and composition with all of them to be dated "1951" even if they are struck in a different year. As the bill did not allow for coins to be struck after December 31, 1951, it would appear that the senator was giving the Mint the flexibility to strike the coins in 1950 if it so chose; a prudent move considering how early in 1950 he introduced the legislation.
The coin was sponsored by the New Castle Tercentenary Commission. The Commission was created by Joint Resolution of the Delaware General Assembly in 1949 "to help the people of New Castle and the State pay fitting tribute to the Dutch Founders." The Commission was the only group that could request the coins, and it had to do so in groups of at least 5,000 on or before December 31, 1951. As with other commemorative bills, the legislation allowed the Commission to sell the coins at a premium and use the proceeds for expenses associated with its "authorized functions."
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency but was never reported out or subject to a formal hearing. It died for lack of action. As no companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives, the New Castle half dollar proposal experienced a quick and quiet death.
The lack of a commemorative coin did not stop the Commission from moving forward and completing its assignment. New Castle's 300th anniversary celebration was held on Saturday, June 16, 1951. The official program in New Castle included speeches from Paul R. Capelle, the mayor of New Castle, the governor of Delaware, Elbert N. Carvel and the Ambassador of Netherlands to the US, His Excellency J. H. van Roijen, among others during the morning session; a musical concert and historical pageant was presented in the afternoon.
I do not believe a privately-struck commemorative medal was produced for the celebration as I have not ever read of one or seen one either online or in person. (I'd be happy to be proven wrong, however!) In fact, the celebration appears to have been essentially devoid of commemorative souvenirs. Local papers even congratulated the Tercentenary Commission for not commercializing the celebration with a myriad of keepsakes. The only souvenir item I have in my collection for the event is the program for the celebration; I've presented images of the cover and a couple of interior pages below.
Hope you've enjoyed the read of another page in US commemorative coin history!