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Commems Collection: What If? 1922 Rutherford B. Hayes Half Dollar

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 Posted 10/13/2020  9:02 pm Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
In 1877, Rutherford Birchard Hayes succeeded Ulysses S. Grant as President of the United States; he was the 19th US president, Grant was the 18th. In 1922, Hayes came close to following Grant once again, this time, however, it concerned being honored on a US commemorative coin.

President Rutherford B. Hayes, circa 1880. (Image is public domain.)

Hayes served as US president from March 4, 1877 to March 4, 1881. He was a one-term president who did not run for re-election; he vowed he would serve just one term in office while on the campaign trail and remained true to his word. The 1876 election was a hotly contested one and Hayes wound up losing the popular vote to Samuel J. Tilden by approximately 270,000 votes.

Republicans in Congress challenged the voting results in three states - Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana. Not counting the three states, Tilden led the vote of the Electoral College 184-165. Congress assembled a bipartisan 15-member Commission to look into the election results and resolve the dispute. Meanwhile, a separate group of Republicans and Democrats quietly met to determine if a deal could be arranged. They reached an unwritten and unofficial deal (the "Compromise of 1877") that resulted in the Commission awarding the disputed electoral votes in the three states to Hayes. In exchange for the votes, Hayes promised to: 1) remove the Federal troops that were in Louisiana and South Carolina to help keep the Republican government installed, and 2) appoint a Southern Democrat to his cabinet. With the Compromise in place, Hayes was assigned the 20 electoral votes from the three disputed states by the Commission and won the Electoral College vote 185-184. He was officially sworn into office during a private ceremony on March 3, 1877; the public swearing in took place the following Monday (March 5th).

Overall, the Hayes presidency is generally considered unremarkable. He was an abolitionist (and pressed for the protection of the rights of southern blacks but was largely unsuccessful against the Democrat-controlled House, he did put an end to the Government's Reconstruction policies toward the South and laid the groundwork for civil service reforms that would largely be moved forward by others after he left office.

Of potential interest to coin collectors, Hayes vetoed the Bland-Allison Act on February 28, 1878; the Act required the US Treasury to purchase silver in the marketplace and to use it to strike silver dollars. Hayes supported a gold standard for US currency, not one of silver or bimetallism and vetoed the bill because it would essentially undo the gold standard provisions of the Coinage Act of 1873, take the US off the gold standard and force the Government to accept payments on debt owed to it with a less valuable metal (silver). His veto was overridden by the House and Senate the same day he issued it and thus the bill became law. As a result, to the joy of thousands of collectors, many Morgan silver dollars were soon struck by the US Mint!

1878 Morgan silver dollar, image courtesy of PCGS CoinFacts,

Prior to his time as president, Hayes served as the Governor of Ohio (January 10, 1876 - March 2, 1877 and January 13, 1868 - January 8, 1872) and a Representative from Ohio to the US House of Representatives (March 4, 1865 - July 20, 1867). He served as an officer in the Civil War on the Union side, and was an attorney prior to entering public service.

I would suggest visiting the web site of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums ( for lots of great information regarding the life and legacy of Hayes. FYI: Hayes' presidential library was the first such library built in the US; it was constructed in 1916.

I mentioned at the top the potential coinage link between Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant...

Grant was born in Point Pleasant, OH on April 27, 1822. In honor of his life's accomplishments in the US military, as General of the Army for the Union during the Civil War and as a two-term President of the United States, a pair of commemorative coins (a gold $1.00 coin and a silver 50-cent piece, with mintages of 10,000 and 100,000, respectively) were authorized to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth on February 2, 1922. The bill for the coinage was introduced in the House by Representative Charles Kearns on May 11, 1921, roughly a year ahead of Grant's birth anniversary.

Rutherford B. Hayes was born in Delaware, OH on October 4, 1822. The 100th anniversary of his birth was the subject of commemorative coin legislation introduced by Senator Frank Barlett Willis (R-OH) on May 22, 1922, less than five months ahead of Hayes' birthday. As in the Grant bill, the Hayes coinage proposal called for the Mint to strike 100,000 silver half dollars of standard specifications for the anniversary; no gold coin was included in the Hayes bill.

Neither the bill text nor the discussions about it in Congress specify the sponsor of the coin or to what purpose the proceeds from its sale were to be used. This was not unusual for commemorative coin bills of the time, the Acts for the then-recently authorized Maine and Alabama half dollar, for example, did not specify their sponsor. The bill did include language, however, specifying that the "United States shall not be subject to the expense of making the necessary dies and other preparations for this coinage." From this language it is reasonable to assume that the coin was not meant to be a circulating commemorative and that it did have a specific sponsor who had agreed to pay the Mint's expenses for the coins. But who? I have searched newspapers of the day, as well as the pertinent records of Congress, but I have not yet found notice of the coin's sponsor. (My search continues, however!)

The Hayes bill was reported favorably by the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency and passed by the full Senate (Committee of the Whole) without challenge or even much discussion. The approved bill was referred to the House Committee on Coinage, Weights and Measures where it died for lack of action, however.

In the end, the Hayes bill did not generate the needed excitement within the House of Representatives to gain authorization. Was it because of Hayes' rather average presidency? Was it because the coin didn't have a strong vocal proponent in the House that made an emotional plea to colleagues to rally them in support? Was it that the Treasury Department pushed back behind the scenes to discourage yet another commemorative coin bill?

It does not appear to be a partisan issue as Republicans controlled the Senate and House in 1922 (as well as the presidency with Warren G. Harding). So, while no critical negatives regarding the bill were discussed in the House, it is clear that the bill never gained the needed support. As such, the proposal only got a third of the way home - it received Senate approval, but lacked House approval and the president's signature. Of course, Hayes did eventually appear on a US coin - the 2011 dollar from the Presidential series.

Image courtesy of the US Mint,

I'm not aware of any medals issued in 1922 to commemorate Hayes, but a new 11-cent postage stamp was issued by the Post Office on October 4, 1922 (his birthday centennial).

Read More Commems Posts: Commems Collection

Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
Edited by commems
10/14/2020 12:45 am
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 Posted 10/14/2020  02:09 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add freddo30 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I'm glad that one didn't make it. I can't imagine anything other than a dead President and some landmark / monument like the hopelessly dull 1922 Grant or 1916-17 McKinley issues. Hayes himself was a relatively unremarkable President installed by a hotly contested election ; not a matter of national unity or significance to all worthy of commemoration.
Edited by freddo30
10/14/2020 02:11 am
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 Posted 10/14/2020  06:25 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add scopru to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Nice read commems
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 Posted 10/14/2020  8:57 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add CelticKnot to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Interesting read, and thanks for the history lesson on Hayes' election to office.
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 Posted 10/15/2020  10:44 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add fredcdobbs to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Good read, thanks for the history lesson.

Hayes, was on 4 different US stamps, the 1922 11 cent shown and another of the same design but a different printing. He was on the 19 cent stamp of the 1938 presidential series,as he was the 19th president, and then in 1986 he was on the Ameripex mini sheet of presidents, which are a rather blah looking stamp design.
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 Posted 10/15/2020  11:41 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Not Mint to Be to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Sure like reading these posts. Thanks for digging up the info.
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 Posted 10/15/2020  11:55 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cdngmt to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Your post are fascinating, enlightening and entertaining especially to a Canadian like me. Please keep it up

Thanks & Regards
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