The 1936 Columbia, SC Sesquicentennial half dollar had a fairly smooth journey through the 74th Congress. Representative Hampton Pitts Fulmer introduced HR 8886 on July 17, 1935 during the First Session of the 74th; it was immediately referred to the House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures.
Fulmer's bill called for the coinage of 10,000 "50-cent pieces in commemoration of the sesquicentennial anniversary of the founding of the city of Columbia, South Carolina." Columbia was created to host the State Capital and Government - it was designed city. It was created by the State Legislature in 1786 while it met in Charleston - South Carolina's first capital. Columbia's site is more centrally-located within SC - the primary reason for the its selection. It took a few years, however, for a State House to be built in Columbia, so the legislature did not hold its first meeting in the new capital until 1790. As Columbia was not chartered as a town until 1805 and not as a city until 1854, the original, stated purpose of the coin bill was slightly misleading; this was updated via an amendment to the bill (see below).
The First Session of the 74th Congress adjourned on August 26, 1935 without acting on HR 8886. The 74th's Second Session convened on January 3, 1936 and soon after took up action regarding the Columbia, SC coinage bill. It was reported back from the Committee, with amendments, on February 17.
The Committee viewed the coinage bill favorably, but reported it back with several recommended amendments. One change concerned the coin's requested mintage, the Committee recommended a change to 25,000 coins. The committees responsible for coinage in the House and Senate did not favor low mintage bills and generally sought a minimum of 25,000 coins to help avoid potential market manipulation and raising the ire of collectors against dealers/distributors Of course, there were exceptions - the recently-approved (circa 1935-36) Old Spanish Trail and Hudson, NY Sesquicentennial coins each had authorized mintage limits of just 10,000.
The other recommended change was also designed to potentially prevent abuses regarding the distribution of the coins. Rather than allow the potential for a single representative to be in charge of distribution, the Committee suggested amending the bill to state that a committee of at least three individuals was necessary.
The Committee's recommendations were incorporated into the bill when the House took it up for consideration; the amended bill was passed without objection and sent on to the Senate. The Senate Committee on Banking and Currency recommended a few minor changes to the wording of the bill, primarily involving the insertion of "capital of South Carolina at" at several places in the bill - it wanted to ensure that the coin's focus was on the anniversary of Columbia being declared the new capital of SC vs. just the city in general.
The amended bill passed easily in the Senate and was concurred with by the House without objection. It was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 18, 1936.
The coin's obverse depicts Lady Justice
holding a balance scale in her upraised left hand while holding a sword, pointed down, in her right hand; she is not blindfolded. The pans of the scale are level, indicating fair and equitable treatment for all under the law. The sword is symbolic of the enforceability of the law; it is a double-sided sword which is meant to indicate that it will defend and protect either party in a dispute. It is also shown positioned below the scales, which is meant to indicate that the law is enforced after the evidence is weighed and not before.
The reverse of the coin depicts a palmetto tree as its central design element. Wood from local palmetto trees was used in the construction of the fort built on Sullivan's Island to protect Charleston, SC. On June 28, 1776, a group of nine British Navy ships, under the command of Commodore Sir Peter Parker, attacked the still-under-construction fort. The attack lasted approximately nine hours, but the Palmetto logs withstood the barrage and the fort held - Charleston was saved!
At the base of the tree is seen a broken branch from an oak tree. This is meant to symbolize the fort outlasting the British ships which were constructed from the wood of oak trees - oak is often used as a symbol for strength based on its real-life characteristics. Also seen are two bundles of six spears (12 in total), tips raised, flanking the tree's trunk. On the actual State Seal, the two bundles of spears are tied together with a band that is inscribed (in Latin) with "QUIS SEPARABIT" - the English translation is "Who will separate us?" The 12 spears represent the 12 original states not named South Carolina.
Abraham Wolfe Davidson is the artist responsible for the coin's designs.
The coin was sold by The Columbia Sesquicentennial Commission for $2.15 per coin; $6.45 per three-coin PDS set. A total of 25,000 coins were struck (9,000/8,000/8,000) with all being distirbuted; none were returned to the Mint to be melted.1936 Columbia, SC Sesquicentennial Half Dollar
You can read more details about the Columbia, SC half dollar, its original holder and various related ephemera by checking out:
- 1936 Columbia, SC
- 1936 Columbia, SC - Ephemera
- 1936 Columbia, SC - Ephemera #2
- 1936 Columbia, SC - Cousin
You can explore more of the Columbia's design details via:
- 1936 Columbia, SC Sesquicentennial - Coins Depicting Mythology Thread
- 1936 Columbia, SC Sesquicentennial - Coins Depicting Places Thread
- 1936 Columbia, SC Sesquicentennial - Coins With Stars Thread
- 1936 Columbia, SC Sesquicentennial - Coins with Trees
More of my posts about commemorative coins and medals can be found here: Commems Collection