I previously wrote about the failed 1952 attempt to get a commemorative half dollar for the 250th Anniversary of Mobile, AL - You can read my previous post here: What If? 1952 Mobile, Alabama 250th Anniversary
- a different take on Mobile's milestone anniversary was more successful in 1961.
In February 1961, Representative Frank William Boykin (D-AL) introduced a bill in the House that called for medals
"in commemoration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Mobile, Alabama." A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Joseph Lister Hill (D-AL) on behalf of himself and John Jackson Sparkman (D-AL).
How was this 250th anniversary different from the 1952 version?
In 1952, the coin was intended to mark the 250th anniversary of the 1702 establishment of the original Mobile ("Old Mobile") by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and his younger brother Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville (see the post linked above for details). In 1961, the medal was intended to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the settlement's move to a new, safer location down river closer to the Gulf of Mexico (Mobile is Alabama's only salt-water port).
The bills were referred to their respective Committee on Banking and Currency upon introduction. The bills called for the striking of up to 2,000 medals for the benefit of the Mobile Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration Corporation. The bills specified that the authority to strike the medals was to expire on December 31, 1961.
The Senate version of the medal bill was the one to move forward. It was reported by the Committee with amendments: the maximum mintage was increased to 5,000 with added language restricting orders to a minimum of 2,000 medals (i.e., a maximum of two orders). In addition, authority was given for the medals to be struck in bronze or silver or both (the bill originally did not specify a composition for the medals). The Committee's Report also included a letter received from the Treasury Department that stated it had no objection to the striking of the medals.
The Senate accepted the Committee's recommended amendments, passed the amended bill and sent it to the House for its consideration. Upon receipt, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Banking and Currency. The House Committee accepted the revised Senate bill and reported it without further changes and with a recommendation to pass. The House of Representatives passed the medal bill without objection or debate.
From there, it was smooth sailing for the bill. It was examined and signed in each chamber, then sent on to the President for approval and signature. The bill was signed into law on April 24, 1961 by President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Mobile got its US Mint-struck commemorative!
An initial order for the maximum mintage of 5,000 medals was placed by the Celebration Corporation (all in silver); they were struck in Philadelphia. The medals are 1-5/16th inches in diameter (slightly larger than the US half dollar).
The obverse of the medal features a three-quarter, front-facing portrait of Jean Baptiste Lemoyne Seur de Bienville (one of Mobile's founders). The portrait is flanked by the anniversary dates - "1711" and "1961" - and encircled by an inscription noting the city's 250th anniversary - it is presented in French.Jean Baptiste Lemoyne Seur de Bienville (Appears to be source of medal's portrait)(Image Credit: King, Grace. Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville. New York: Dodd, Mead and company, 1892-93. Public Domain.)
The medal's reverse is based on the new Mobile, AL Seal (adopted in 1961). It presents the six flags that have flown over Mobile, AL: French, British, Spanish, Alabama Republic, Confederate States and United States in the background with a circular emblem featuring the Mobile motto and icons of it history in the foreground. (Side Note: The Confederate Flag was changed from its National flag to its Battle flagin 2000 and then removed entirely from the Mobile Seal in 2016, along with the other historic national flags.)Mobile, AL Seal: 1961-2000 (with Confederate National Flag in place)Mobile, AL Seal: 2000-2016 (with Confederate Battle Flag in place)Mobile, AL Seal: 2016-Present (with all non-US National Flags removed)1961 Mobile, AL 250th Anniversary Medal Note: A souvenir "Good For" 50 cents token was also issued in 1961; it was not struck by the US Mint.
I'll post an image of the flyer that accompanied my medal in a follow-up post.
For more of my topics on commemorative coins and medals, see: Commems Collection