Continuing the story of the 1953 Louisiana Purchase 150th Anniversary, rejoining the Hearing discussion...
Next to present was Leland Howard, Assistant Director of the Mint. He attended the Hearing in place of Nellie Tayloe Ross, the Director of the Mint, who was said to have had "a slight cold." IMO, Ms. Ross, based on previous experience, knew what type of Committee reception the Mint was to face once it aired its objections to the coin bills, and did not want to go through it yet again - "A perfect job for my Assistant!" she decided (cough, cough).
Howard made his purpose at the Hearing clear from the start. "...as a representative of the Bureau of the Mint, the Treasury Department, I am here to oppose this bill, and to give their views as to why we oppose commemorative coin bills." He was quick to note, however, that "the Treasury Department does not oppose the bill under discussion because of the event to be commemorated. We oppose this measure in accordance with our long-standing policy against commemorative coins."
He then reviewed the standard Treasury objections:
- The US coinage
system is designed for trade/medium of exchange, not to be a fund-raising tool.
- It is not good to have too many coin designs in circulation - it's confusing to the public.
- There is a Public Law on the books that prohibits coin design changes more often than once per 25-year span.
- Commemorative coins are not generally successful as fund-raisers - many coins are returned to the Mint to be melted.
- Neither Congress nor the Mint has effective control over the potential market abuses perpetrated by some coin sponsors and/or coin dealers associated with the commemorative coin issues.
As it had in the past, the Treasury suggested the striking of a commemorative medal vs. a coin.
The Committee challenged the Treasury Department's position and peppered Howard with assorted questions - often interrupting his prepared remarks with questions on topics that differed from what he was presenting. In multiple cases, it appeared that the Committee member asking the question was not knowledgeable about how US commemorative coins were handled and was looking for an education from Howard (which he did his best to provide).
The Committee did not make a decision on the coin bills during the Hearing, deciding instead to meet in Executive Session later in the week. After such meeting, the bill was reported out with a favorable review and recommendation to pass. The Committee did recommend the bill be amended, via substitution in whole, however. The amendment changed the maximum allowed mintage from 5.0 million to 2.5 million, and, in an interesting twist, added a provision that enabled non-profit historical societies in other states that were formed, in whole or in part, from the Louisiana Territory (e.g., Arkansas, Iowa, Colorado) to purchase coins from the Association and/or the Society at face value and resell them at a premium on the condition that all proceeds "shall be used solely for the observation of the Louisiana Purchase sesquicentennial."
The added provision did not specify that other societies desiring coins would have to share in their production costs, but it did not prohibit it either. It seems likely to me that pro-rated production costs would have been assessed to other societies to prevent them from causing a net loss within the original sponsor organizations. The amendment also did not put a limitation on the number of coins that could be requested by the other societies, an omission that the Association and Society would likely have corrected before making the coins available to others.
The amended bill, as reported, passed the House in April 1953 without issue; a spelling error was found ("Hundreth" vs. "Hundred"), which was corrected via amendment before the bill was sent on to the Senate. Upon receipt in the Senate, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency.
The Senate Committee reviewed the bill and reported it favorably in July 1953. The bill was not considered in the Senate, however, until January 1954 - roughly six months later! At that point, several amendments were proposed as the Senate considered the bill. One ensured that the Missouri Historical Society was included in the coin's distribution plan (the House bill only listed the Association from Louisiana, as did the bill introduced in the Senate in March 1953). A second changed the coin's date from "1953" to "1954" and a third removed the provision that the non-sponsor historical societies that request coins must use proceeds from coin sales solely on Sesquicentennial activities. This last change would have enabled the other societies to use their discretion when applying net coin sale funds to their expenses (i.e., they could be applied to a society's Sesquicentennial events or any other of its needs).
The Senate's amendments were concurred with in the House and the final version of the bill was signed off in each chamber and presented to the President. US President Harry S. Truman, however, issued a veto of the bill rather than sign it into law. The bill and veto message were referred to the House Committee on Banking and Currency, but no further action was taken. Congress realized that overturning Truman's veto was unlikely and therefore did not move to challenge it. For the record, Truman was not against the LA Purchase anniversary itself, he just did not favor its coin proposal. It needs to be noted that Truman also vetoed coin bills for the 300th Anniversary of New York City and the 300th Anniversary of Northampton, Massachusetts at the same time - it was clear he would not be looking favorably on future commemorative coin bills.
Thus, IMO, a coin bill calling for a commemorative coin to mark a worthy event of national significance was defeated.
Recall, however, that the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase was commemorated with Gold One Dollar coins and US Mint-struck commemorative medals in 1903-04.1903 Louisiana Purchase Exposition Gold Dollars 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition Commemorative Medal
For Part I of this discussion, click Here
For my discussion of the Louisiana Purchase Sesquicentennial circulating commemorative proposal, see:
- What If? 1953 Louisiana Purchase 150th Anniversary - Circulation