Florida became the 27th State of the Union on March 3, 1845. As such. its centennial anniversary was a long way off during the US commemorative coin boom of the mid-1930s. So, an alternative milestone was needed! The Florida Constitution to the rescue!
The original Florida State Constitution was written in 1838, ratified by the Florida Legislature and approved by popular vote in 1839. The State Constitution took effect in 1845 when it was approved by the US Congress and Florida was granted Statehood. The Constitution governed Florida until it seceded from the Union in 1861 near the start of the American Civil War. After the War, Florida adopted new Constitutions in 1865 and 1868. The 1868 document was approved by the US Congress, and Florida was formally readmitted to the Union. A revised State Constitution was adopted in 1885 and various updates/amendments have been authorized since.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the 1838 document, companion bills were introduced in the US House of Representatives and US Senate that called for half dollars "in commemoration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Florida State Constitution." Representative Millard Fillmore Caldwell (D-FL) introduced the House bill, Senator Charles Oscar Andrews (D-FL) introduced the Senate bill; Andrews did so on behalf of himself and Senator Claude Denson Pepper (D-FL).
The bills called for up to 30,000 half dollars to be struck at a single US Mint facility on behalf of the Committee for the Florida State Constitution Centennial Celebration. All coins were to bear the date "1938" regardless of when struck, with the ordering window for the coins closing one year after the bill's enactment. A minimum of 5,000 coins had to be ordered at a time.
All of the provisions previously adopted by the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency for US commemorative coins were followed by the bills' language. Had the bills been introduced in 1936 or early 1937, they might have found success. By 1938, however, Congress had turned away from new commemorative coin bills and neither was reported out of the Committee to which it was referred (the House bill to the House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures; the Senate bill to the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency). Both of the bills thus died for lack of action when Congress adjourned.
Not to be harsh, but I support the bills' failure. If Congress could not approve a bill to mark the 150th anniversary of the US Constitution, why should the Constitution of a State be so honored. No disrespect intended for Florida, but I don't think a state-level constitution surpasses the importance of the US' national Constitution.
For other of my posts about commemorative coins and medals, including more What If? stories, see: Commems Collection
To check out the What If? story about the proposed US Constitution half dollar:
- What If? 1937 Constitution Sesquicentennial