From June 1, 1905 through October 15, 1905, the Lewis and Clark Centennial and American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair ("L&C Exposition") was held in Portland, Oregon to celebrate the centennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-06, to promote Portland's economic potential (with an eye toward investors) and to foster trade and economic cooperation among nations on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition Commemorative Medal Struck by US Mint
As the 1925 centennial of Vancouver approached, city officials there explored the potential for holding a similar Exposition for the economic benefit of Vancouver, Washington. Though not to be on the same scale as the L&C Exposition, the city was looking to host an Exposition lasting six weeks during the Summer of 1925. Fundraising for the event did not meet the needs/goals of planners, however, which led to Vancouver's celebration being scaled back to a week-long celebration in August (August 17-23) with the "main event" being the historical pagaent "The Coming of the White Man." (It was a different time for US society!) Much of the celebration hinged on the approval of the Ft. Vancouver Centennial Half Dollar and the coin's subsequent sales/net proceeds.
Prior to its August celebration, Vancouver did hold several centennial anniversary events. On March 19, 1925 - the 100th anniversary date of the founding of Fort Vancouver by the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) - Vancouver held a parade and groundbreaking for the reconstruction of the original HBC Fort. It had been hoped that the Fort could be reconstructed in time for the Centennial, but it was not completed until decades later due to multiple obstacles, not the least of which was funding. On the night of March 19, a special banquet was held on the US Military Reservation/Post in honor of the anniversary; it was attended by Washington's Governor, Roland Hartley.
On May 1, 1925, the Washington State Historical Society dedicated the monument it sponsored for the Centennial. It is known as the "Reservation Monument" due to its placement on the grounds of the US Military Reservation that is located at the site of the old HBC Fort. (The Reservation contains the original Fort's site, but is much larger overall.) Into each of the granite monument's six-sides is engraved a brief note about Washington State history. (For images and more information on the Monument, check out its entry in the Historical Markers Database
The coins were subject to multiple promotions, including a special air mail delivery courtesy of Lieutenant Oakley (see 1925 Fort Vancouver Centennial - Special Airmail Delivery!
) for more of the story. Unfortunately, the coin's sales did not come close to meeting expectations - just 14,994 were sold/distributed, including those given to VIPs such as US President Calvin Coolidge, Lieutenant Oakley, Herbert Campbell (President of the Vancouver Centennial Company) and important Vancouver officials. Over 35,000 half dollars were returned to the Mint for credit/melting.
The poor sales of the commemorative coin, and the Centennial's other mediocre fundraising efforts, led to an underfunded event that failed to bring national attention to Vancouver and, most unfortunately, led to the suicide of Centennial Company Secretary, Charles Watts, who succumbed to the pressures of trying to pay the Centennial's bills. Definitely an unfortunate chapter in the annals of the US commemorative coin series.1925 Fort Vancouver Centennial Half Dollar
For more of my topics on commemorative coins and medals, including more on the Fort Vancouver half dollar, see: Commems Collection