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Commems Collection: What If? 1937 Beckley, WV 100th Anniversary

 
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 Posted 12/05/2022  10:52 am Show Profile   Bookmark this topic Add commems to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Time for another "Most Obscure" contender...

May and June, 1937 saw the introduction in the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, companion bills "in commemoration of the one hundred and eightieth anniversary of the birth of John Beckley and the one-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the city of Beckley, West Virginia." (Interesting note: My research indicates that these two anniversaries were to occur in two different years - 1937 and 1938, respectively.)

John Beckley was born in England on August 4, 1757. He was sent to the Colony of Virginia by his parents to serve as an indentured servant to John Clayton who was the Clerk of the Court for Gloucester County, VA. Beckley was 11 at the time, and was trained as a scribe (i.e., someone who copies document by hand). After Clayton's death, Beckley chose to stay in Virginia and took on increasingly important positions leading to becoming the Clerk of the Virginia House of Delegates. He also advanced in politics, becoming a Councilman and then Mayor in Richmond, VA.

His skills and professional growth led to him being elected (by Congress) as the First Clerk of the United States House of Representatives; he served from 1789 to 1797 and then again from 1801 to 1807. He became closely-aligned with the politics of Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republican party; managing election campaigns for each. After being re-elected as Clerk during Jefferson's administration, Jefferson asked him to simultaneously serve as the First Librarian of the Library of Congress; he agreed to do so and held the position from 1802 to 1807.

Historians have continued to examine Beckley's career and now also consider him to be the first political campaigner, based on his efforts on behalf of Thomas Jefferson and supporters of Jefferson and his political views.

The bills made reference to the land upon which Beckley was founded being granted to John Beckley by the General Assembly of the State of Virginia on January 20, 1795. (John Beckley and Andrew Moore surveyed a 170,038-acre tract of land in 1794; they were granted a patent for it in 1795.) Beckley was not founded by John, however. John left his portion of the patent - 56,000+ undeveloped acres - to his son, General Alfred Beckley, upon his death in 1807.

After years of legal battles over ownership, Alfred finally secured full rights to the land. He moved to the area in 1836, built a house and planted the seeds of a settlement. The settlement became legal and official in 1838 when it was formally established by the Virginia General Assembly; the Assembly authorized Beckley to create a town plan on a portion of his large estate; it was located near the intersection of two oft-traveled trails. Per his memoirs, Alfred Beckley named the village in honor of his father, John Beckley.

The Town of Beckley was incorporated by the Virginia Legislature in 1872; since 1850, it has been the County Seat of Raleigh County. (Alfred Beckley donated the land for the County Courthouse with the stipulation that the County Seat be located at Beckley.)

As with Romney, VA (What If? 1937 Romney, WV 175th Anniversary), a significant portion of Beckley's early growth and development was tied to the arrival of a rail line in the area and the rich local deposits of "Smokeless" coal. The area's first major industry, however, was the timber industry - initially, cut trees were transported out of the area, but later, lumber mills were built locally to process felled trees from across the area.

The companion bills called for 25,000 half dollars of standard specifications, without limitations placed on which Mint facility or facilities could be used, without specification of the year/date to appear on the coins (though 1938 was likely intended), without specifying a minimum coin order size and without an expiration date for coining authority. As with the Romney, WV bills that came first, the Beckley, WV coin bills were quite open-ended. The half dollars were to be struck for the Beckley Centennial Commission.

The House bill was introduced first (May 1937) - by Joseph Luther Smith (D-WV) - and was referred to the House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures. About a month later, in June 1937, Matthew Mansfield Neely (D-WV) introduced the Senate bill; it was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency. Neither bill was reported out by its respective Committee, and each died for lack of action when the 75th Congress adjourned.

Without a US legal tender commemorative coin to keep it in the minds of collectors across the US, Beckley remained mired in relative obscurity and is largely unknown outside of its immediate region.


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 12/05/2022  12:20 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Very interesting!

A few more "nationally significant" accomplishments could have made a John Beckley commemorative more acceptable than one for the County, which is really pushing for relevance.
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 Posted 12/05/2022  2:18 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add nickelsearcher to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Good grief for these obscure West Virginia coin proposals.


Quote:
Without a US legal tender commemorative coin to keep it in the minds of collectors across the US, Beckley remained mired in relative obscurity and is largely unknown outside of its immediate region.


True that and thank goodness (actually lack of Congressional action) for no USA coin!
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 Posted 12/05/2022  2:51 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Good grief for these obscure West Virginia coin proposals.
Indeed! My paternal grandmother was from West Virginia. I wish she were around to ask if any of these proposals sounded significant to her.
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 Posted 12/05/2022  3:24 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Coinfrog to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
You need a podcast, commems.
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 Posted 12/05/2022  5:53 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add CelticKnot to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Time for another "Most Obscure" contender...

Obscure indeed! Obscure or not, another solid read. Thanks!
Edited by CelticKnot
12/05/2022 5:53 pm
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