L.W. Hoffecker, the Texas coin dealer and one-time president of the American Numismatic Association (A N A), is credited with designing the 1935 Old Spanish Trail half dollar. He also conceived of the coin, pushed it through Congress, promoted it, distributed it and pocketed a few dollars from sales of it - but that's not what I'm here to discuss.
While Hoffecker did create the original design concepts for the coin, he was not an artist and needed the help of others to bring the design to fruition. Hoffecker first engaged Elmer L. Boone, an artist in El Paso, to take his concepts and turn them into usable drawings. It was Boone's drawings that were submitted to the Commission of FIne Arts (CFA) for their review and approval.
Boone (1883-1952) was known for his paintings of landscapes of the southwestern United States. He was born in Joplin, Missouri, studied art in Chicago and moved to El Paso where he worked as a painter and commercial artist. He died in El Paso after returning from a painting trip to Arizona.
In addition to not
being an artist, Hoffecker was also not
a sculptor and thus needed to engage such talent to create the models for the Spanish Trail coin from Boone's drawings. Edmund J. Senn, another local El Paso artist, was commissioned to complete the task. Minor changes were made to Senn's models before they were reduced and used to create the coin's dies. Namely, the ribbon upon which "LIBERTY" was inscribed on the obverse was removed and Hoffecker's "LWH" initials were moved from between the commemorative "1535-1935" dates to a spot along the rim to the right of the dates (the initials were also made less prominent.)
Senn was born in Austria in 1873. He emigrated to the Pacific Northwest of the United States in 1902, settling in Seattle. His early professional work was dominated by his stone sculptures for buildings in California, Oregon and Washington. He moved to El Paso, TX ~1930 where he provided art instruction privately and in local public schools, as well as continued to work as a professional sculptor. Senn died in El Paso in 1945.
So, while it's clear that Hoffecker envisioned the design for the Old Spanish Trail half dollar, I don't believe the contributions of the other artists involved can be minimized. I'm sure Hoffecker closely oversaw the work of Boone and Senn, but it's hard to imagine (at least for me) that their talents did not impact the coin's final designs in a meaningful way. I'm not an artistic person either, but I've created many concepts over the years for which I worked closely with an artist to fully realize. Yes, I had input into their final product, but I've always been impressed with how they visually expressed the concepts I described (or poorly sketched) - their talents and contributions were evident!1935 Old Spanish Trail Half Dollar
To learn more about the Old Spanish Trail half dollar, check out:
- 1935 Old Spanish Trail - Redux
For more posts about commemorative coins and medals, check out: Read More: Commems Collection