Before I finish up my What If? series on unsuccessful coin bills, I thought I would post a few quick stories about unsuccessful commemorative medal proposals...
In June 1935, John Jackson McSwain (D-SC) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that called for up to 10,000 medals to be struck "with appropriate emblems and inscriptions commemorative of the valor and integrity of Jefferson Davis." The medals were to be struck at the Philadelphia Mint, on behalf of the principals of South Carolina elementary schools. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures.
Jefferson Finis Davis was born in Kentucky on June 3, 1808, but grew up in Mississippi. He attended the US Military Academy at West Point, but was only a marginal student while there. He had a brief military career following his graduation, before settling on his Mississippi cotton plantation. Jefferson Davis - At Davis' Home Beauvoir, near Biloxi, Mississippi - Circa 1885.(Image Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Public Domain.)
He served for just over a year in the US House of Representatives (from Mississippi) before resigning to fight in the Mexican-American War. Though leadership success in the War (Battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista) afforded him advancement opportunities within the military, he declined them and was elected to the US Senate (from Mississippi), where he served from March 1857 to January 1861.
After the original six States seceded from the Union and met in convention, Davis was selected to serve as the Provisional President of the Confederacy - serving from February 1861 to February 1862, With an approved Constitution in place, Davis began formally serving as the first (and only) President of the Confederate States of America; he served from February 22, 1862 to May 5, 1865.
Davis was jailed for two years in Virginia after the Civil War. Though accused of treason, he was never tried and was released in May 1867. After traveling in Europe, Davis and his family returned to the US and settled near Biloxi, MS where he lived out the rest of his retirement. He died in New Orleans, Louisiana on December 6, 1889 after taking ill during a trip.
(I recommend those with an interest in learning more about Davis to use their preferred internet search tool to locate one or more of the many biographies available. His story includes many interesting aspects and is far too expansive for me to adequately summarize here.)
The House medal bill was joined in August by a bill introduced in the Senate by Ellison DuRant Smith (D-SC). Its wording was slightly different from the House bill, but all of its provisions were a match. The bill was immediately referred to the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency.
Elementary school students across South Carolina would go without, however, as neither of the bills was reported out of Committee for further consideration.
Check out this proposed companion piece to the medal in this post:
- 1935 General Robert E. Lee Medal
To read about the attempt to secure a commemorative half dollar for fellow Confederate hero General Stonewall Jackson, see:
- What If? 1934 Stonewall Jackson Birthplace Memorial
For more of my topics on commemorative coins and medals, including quite a few What If? stories, see: Commems Collection