Long before the 2009 set of Abraham Lincoln circulating commemorative cents, a proposal was floated in Congress for the issue of a circulating commemorative cent to recognize and celebrate the contribution's of Michigan's copper industry.
In June 1964, John Bonifas Bennett (R-MI) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives "for the issuance of a special coin honoring the copper country of Michigan." The coin was to be a circulating one-cent coin of standard specifications for the then-current US small cent, with its design, mintage quantity and issue duration all to be determined by the Secretary of the Treasury. The bill did not call for the replacement of the recently-introduced Lincoln Cent - Memorial Reverse, so, presumably, it was to have circulated alongside it.
Bennett's bill was prompted by a Concurrent Resolution passed by the Michigan State Legislature in April 1964; copies were sent to Michigan's US Representatives and US Senators in the US Congress, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives and the President of the US Senate.
The Resolution included statements regarding the history of copper and Michigan's role in successfully producing it, it read:
"Whereas copper is the world's oldest known economic metal, having been used as early as 5,500 years ago: copper's use marked man's transition from the stone age to the metal age and copper was the basis for the historical bronze age; copper was the first metal used in the construction of tools and weapons; and
"Whereas copper is one of the world's most useful metals, being second only to iron; copper is the basis for many of man's most important nonferrous alloys; copper is indispensible to the electrical industry and to this electronic and atomic age; and
"Whereas copper production and use constituted Michigan's most ancient industry, being at least 4,000 years old; and copper made Houghton County, for a period, the second highest taxpaying county in Michigan; and Michigan, for many years, ranked first among the copper-producing States in the Union and production for 1963 was valued at nearly $50 million, and copper is one of Michigan's great heritages."
With its Resolution, the Legislature requested "the minting and issue of a special copper penny [cent!] recognizing and honoring the copper country of Michigan and its manifold contributions to the copper industry for many years." (The Resolution's "penny" reference is somewhat amusing/head shaking - at least to me!)
This request was the core of Bennett's coin bill. Upon its introduction, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Banking and Currency. The bill did not gain the favor of the Committee, however, and was never reported out for further consideration. Its ultimate demise came with the adjournment of the 88th Congress in October 1964.
The bill's fate isn't surprising, considering Congress' (and the Treasury Department's) reluctance to alter US circulation coins (at least at the time). Though not publicly documented, I believe that the Treasury was opposed to the bill and let its stance be known to the Committee when the bill was referred. DOA seems a likely scenario.
For more of my topics on commemorative coins and medals, including many other What If? stories, see: Commems Collection