I recently had reason to re-read the 1937 bills that attempted to secure a second type of the 1936 Cleveland, Ohio Centennial / Great Lakes Exposition Half Dollar. I originally discussed this attempt here:
- What If? 1937 Cleveland Centennial Half Dollar
(A quick review of that post would serve as a goof foundation for this one.)
The first bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by John McSweeney (D-OH) in March 1937. Senator Robert Johns Bulkley (D-OH) followed with the Senate version of the bill in April. The bills were immediately referred to their appropriate committee - the House bill was referred to the House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures; the Senate bill to the Committee on Banking and Currency. Both bills stalled in their respective Committee.
As I re-read the bills, one thing jumped out at me that could have been a major factor in the bills' failure with the Committees (aside from the fact that the US commemorative coin market had peaked in 1936 and Congress was no longer overly supportive of new coin proposals). What struck me was the following specification:
"The coins herein authorized shall bear the date 1936, with small additional date 1937."
Considering the bills were introduced in 1937, ahead of the 1937 season of the Great Lakes Exposition, and that any coins authorized would be struck in 1937, I think attempting to downplay the addition of "1937" on the coin created a significant obstacle.
Recall that the Cleveland Centennial / Great Lakes Exposition half dollar incorporates the dual dates "1836 - 1936" into its design (they flank the map of the Great Lakes region at the rim on the reverse - they are small, but they are there), and there wouldn't have been a good reason to alter this approach on any new coin as they represented Cleveland's 100th anniversary dates. So, it really would have come down to where to locate "1937." IMO, a slight repositioning of "E PLURIBUS UNUM" up and to the left would have made ample room for a fair-sized "1937" to be added to the reverse.
I think the amendment bills may have stood more of a chance if each would have simply specified the addition of "1937" and left "1936" out of the discussion. Such an approach would have more closely paralleled the 1921 Landing of the Pilgrims Tercentenary half dollar with its added "1921" to an existing dual-dated ("1620-1920") design. The Pilgrim coin did not require Congressional intervention as it had not exhausted its mintage limit in 1920 and its authorizing legislation did not include date restrictions, but as the original Cleveland / Great Lakes Exposition bill included provisions of a maximum mintage of just 50,000 coins (all of which had already been struck/delivered) and the stipulation that they all be dated "1936" - a new coin for 1937 required a new authorization.
The "new legislation" requirement made the request similar in some ways to the Daniel Boone Birth Bicentennial coin amendment that successfully secured the addition of a small "1934" on its issues of 1935, 1936, 1937 and 1938. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that Thomas G. Melish, the man behind the Cleveland coin, was inspired by the success of the Boone Commission.
Pure speculation on my part, but it seems plausible (at least to me!
).1936 Cleveland, OH Centennial / Great Lakes Exposition Half Dollar
For other of my posts about commemorative coins and medals, including more stories about the Cleveland half dollar, see: Commems Collection