The Columbian half dollar is the first US commemorative coin, struck at
the Mint from November 19, 1892, until early 1893. It was issued both to
raise funds for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and to mark the
quadricentennial of the first voyage to the Americas of Christopher
Columbus, the first historical person to be depicted on an American coin
(pictured). Fair official James Ellsworth wanted the new half dollar to
be based on a 16th-century painting he owned by Lorenzo Lotto, reputedly
of Columbus, and pushed for this throughout the design process. When
initial sketches by Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber proved
unsatisfactory, the fair’s organizers turned to a design by artist Olin
Levi Warner that was modified by Barber and his assistant, George T.
Morgan. Some five million half dollars were struck, far beyond the
actual demand, and half of them were returned to the Mint and melted
after the fair closed. Sales of the coins did not cure the fair’s
financial woes; fewer than 400,000 were sold at a premium price. Some
two million were released into circulation, where they remained as late
as the 1950s.
Today’s selected anniversaries:
The University of Warsaw, the largest university in Poland, was
established as Congress Poland found itself a territory without a
American Civil War: US President Abraham Lincoln delivered the
Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery
in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
World War II: The Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney and the
German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran destroyed each other in the Indian
Playing for Santos against Vasco da Gama in Rio de Janeiro,
Brazilian footballer Pelé scored his 1000th goal.
Wiktionary’s word of the day:
1. (mildly vulgar) A piece of solid animal or human feces.
2. (derogatory) A pejorative term, typically directed at a person.
Wikiquote quote of the day:
I have always said that my whole public life was an experiment to
determine whether an intelligent people would sustain a man in acting
sensibly on each proposition that arose, and in doing nothing for mere
show or demagogical effect.
–James A. Garfield
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