In May 1936, during the 74th Congress, efforts began to commemorate "the four-hundredth anniversary of the journey and explorations of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado" with a US 50-cent piece. A bill calling for such a coin was introduced in the House of Representatives by John Joseph Dempsey (D-NM). As per standard procedure, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures.
A companion Coronado coin bill was introduced in the Senate by Carl Atwood Hatch (D-NM) and Dennis Chavez (D-NM). It was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency.
The two bills, somewhat unusually, included a bit of historical background/context for the half dollar being sought. After the Title of each bill, a pair of "Whereas" clauses were included. They read:"Whereas the year 1940 marks the four-hundredth anniversary of the journey and explorations of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, the Spanish explorer, whose discoveries in the years 1540, 1541, and 1542 gave to the world the first comprehensive knowledge of that part of Western America now included within the United States of America, and including the States of Arizona, California, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas; and
Whereas the State of New Mexico by legislative act has created a corporation known as the Coronado Cuarto Centennial Corporation for the purpose of properly commemorating and observing, during the year 1940, the phenomenal accomplishments of its first explorer."Coronado Expedition Map(Image Credit: Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin. Public Domain.)
Coronado's expedition set out from Mexico in search of cities rich with gold - the Seven Golden Cities of Cíbola. He did not ever find such cities, but a group within his expedition did encounter what is today known as the Grand Canyon - it was a first-time "discovery" for Europeans.
The House bill moved forward, and was soon reported by its coinage Committee. The Committee viewed the bill favorably and reported it with a recommendation to pass. In its Report, the Committee recommended that the "Whereas" clauses be removed and that the provision establishing a minimum order size for the coins also be removed. When considered by the House, the Committee's recommended amendments were accepted and the bill was passed without debate.
The amended House bill was received in the Senate and referred to its Committee on Banking and Currency. The Committee did not report it out before Congress was adjourned, however, so it was not considered by the full Senate and died for lack of action.
When the 75th Congress convened in January 1937, Representative Dempsey and Senators Hatch and Chavez all quickly re-introduced their Coronado coin bills; each was referred to its respective Committee. Dempsey's bill in the House included the changes recommended by the House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures in the previous Congress. The new Senate bill was a duplicate of the previous Senate bill as it had not been reported by its Committee with suggested amendments (as was the House bill) before Congress had adjourned (e.g., it still featured the "Whereas" clauses).
Once again, the House bill moved forward first, and was reported out by the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures. The Committee made a couple of recommended changes to the bill's language: 1) It added a minimum order size of 25,000 coins (vs. 5,000) and added an expiration date of December 31, 1940; and 2) It corrected a minor reference to the coin's sponsor, replacing "committee" with "corporation" to correctly refer back to the Coronado Cuatro Centennial Corporation.
The House agreed to the Committee amendments and passed the bill via Unanimous Consent (i.e., without any objections raised). The Senate considered the bill under a call for Unanimous Consent, and passed it without discussion. At that point, the bill was signed off by the House and Senate and sent to US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
After reviewing and considering the Coronado coin bill, President Roosevelt informed Congress that he was withholding his approval of it (i.e., vetoing it), citing, among multiple reasons, "that the practice of striking special coins in commemoration of historical events and of permitting the sponsoring organization to sell them at a profit was a misuse of our coinage system." Congress did not challenge the veto, thus ending the coin bill's journey. Personally, I consider the explorations of Coronado to be far more worthy of a coin than the obviously inaccurate history presented for the Old Spanish Trail half dollar - I would have supported the bill at the time.
Even without proceeds from a commemorative coin, the Coronado Cuatro Centennial Corporation staged a multi-faceted celebration with a pageant (the "Coronado Entrada"), festivals and public events that began in May 1940. The Commission also initiated a variety of cultural and educational activities that included exhibits of art and handicrafts plus historical publications. The celebrations also included the US Government, as Congress established the US Coronado Exposition Commission to participate in the event. The "4C" was clearly not dependent on coin sales for the execution of its mandate from the New Mexico Legislature!
As a result of its participation, the US Government created the Coronado International Memorial in Arizona in 1941, with the expectation that Mexico would designate a similar site on its side of the border. After several years, it became clear that Mexico would not be establishing a memorial site, so the US renamed its site to Coronado National Memorial. It continues to operate under this name to the present, administered by the National Park Service. (You can read more about it here: Coronado National Memorial
For more of my topics on commemorative coins and medals, including more on the Modern US Commemorative coin issues, see: Commems Collection