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Commems Collection: What If? 1948 Corning, NY Centennial

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 Posted 10/05/2022  08:16 am Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
A bill calling for a half dollar "in commemoration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the city of Corning, New York" was introduced in the House of Representatives in April 1948 (80th Congress). The bill was introduced by Representative William Sterling Cole (R-NY) and was immediately referred to the House Committee on Banking and Currency. The coin was sponsored by the City of Corning, NY.

European settlement of the area that would become Corning, NY began about 1789; the first formal name of the area was the "Town of Painted Post."

Erastus Corning, a prominent businessman and politician of Albany, New York, built his wealth through business interests in iron works, railroads, banking and other enterprises. Erastus was also a land speculator. His first New York land venture was the buying, improving and selling of lots within the Painted Post settlement site beginning in 1835.

In 1836, the settlement was renamed as "Corning" in Erastus' honor. (Note to self: Pay for significant improvements to an area and you might just get a town named after you! )

In 1848, the settlement at Corning split into two sections. One became the Town of Corning, which incorporated in 1852. The other became the City of Corning with incorporation in 1890. Both the Town and City of Corning continue to exist today and share a border in Steuben County, NY.

The bill sought up to 100,000 silver half dollars of standard specifications. The bill did not place a restriction on the number of Mint facilities that could strike the coins, but did specify that all were to bear the year "1948" regardless of when struck (i.e., 1948-dated P/D/S Sets were a possibility). Also, the bill specified an expiration date for coin orders of July 1, 1949. Specifying a defined expiration date vs. the more common "one year post enactment" was unusual and a bit risky. If the bill was not approved before July 1, 1948, its coins would have less than a year to be produced, with each passing day after July 1st being one less day available for ordering.

Another atypical aspect of the coin bill was that it included details about the designs to be used on the coin. The coin was to feature "the likeness of the lens of the telescope at Mount Palomar, and also the seal of the city of Corning, New York."

The Corning Glass Company, based in the City of Corning, NY, produced the glass disc that would be shaped and polished into the 200-inch mirror incorporated into the Hale Telescope. The Hale Telescope at the Mount Palomar Observatory in California was dedicated in 1948 and, for more than four decades, was the largest reflective telescope in the world (it lost the title in 1993 when the Keck I Telescope became operational).

To learn more about the telescope's glass disc created by Corning Glass, see: Corning Museum of Glass - The Glass Giant.

The coin bill was never reported by the Committee and thus died for lack of action when the 80th Congress adjourned. Even with its connection to Mount Palomar and the Hale Telescope's ground-breaking observations of space, in the view of Congress, the event to be commemorated was too much of a local event vs. one of national significance.

For more of my topics on commemorative coins and medals, including more What If? stories, see: Commems Collection.

Collecting history one coin or medal at a time! (c) commems. All rights reserved.
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 Posted 10/05/2022  08:39 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Coinfrog to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Had the opportunity to tour the Corning Glass Works back in the '70s - quite an impressive place.
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 Posted 10/05/2022  09:23 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
It might have been interesting to see how they would have incorporated the lens into the design. Thank you for sharing this bit of history.
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