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Designed and modeled by John Howard Benson and Arthur Graham Carey both of Newport, Rhode Island, and distributed by Arthur L. Philbrick, vice-president and treasurer of the Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Tercentenary Committee, Inc. Mintage figures: Philadelphia Jan 1936–20,013, Denver Feb 1936–15,010 and San Francisco Feb 1936 –15,011. Image courtesy of Rare Coins of New Hampshire (RCNH) a coin in my collection.
Approved by Congress on May 2, 1935 and issued to commemorate the three-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the city of Providence, the first settlement in Rhode Island, by the great leader Roger Williams.
Obverse: Roger Williams kneeling in canoe, holding Bible, being welcomed by an Indian at State Rock; sun with rays in background; behind Indian a stalk of maize; above, in small letters, LIBERTY; around border in large letters, 1636-1936: RHODE ISLAND.
Reverse: Shield of Rhode Island; the anchor of hope on a mantle; on ribbon above, HOPE (standing for the authority of State); below, E. PLURIBUS UNUM (standing for the authority of the nation); around border, in large letters, UNITED. STATES. OF. AMERICA. HALF. DOLLAR.
“The Providence Plantations were the first white settlements in Rhode Island. The clergyman Roger Williams, banished by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay for propagating ‘new and dangerous opinions,’ founded the Providence Plantations in June 1636. Williams bought a large tract of land from the Narragansett Indians, and in 1638 joined with twelve other settlers in forming a land company. Their covenant provided for majority rule and allowed religious liberty. Other religious dissidents fleeing the Bay Colony's orthodox Congregationalism founded towns at Narragansett, Newport, Pawtuxet, Pocasset, and Warwick by 1643. To protect local land titles, Williams petitioned Parliament to recognize Providence, Newport, and Portsmouth as a charter colony, and the charter was issued on 24 March 1644 as the Incorporation of Providence Plantations in the Narragansett Bay in New England (adding Warwick in 1647). After the Restoration, Williams received a royal charter from Charles II in 1663 confirming the parliamentary charter. . .”1
1 Courtesy Encyclopedia dot com.
John Howard Benson
“John Howard Benson and A. Graham Carey, artists of this city, were among those who voluntarily worked on the project before announcement was made of a competition among Rhode Island artists in designing the Providence Tercentenary memorial 50 cent piece by former Judge Ira Lloyd Letts, chairman of the Rhode Island Tercentenary Jubilee committee. For a design acceptable to the United States Treasury the winning artist will receive $250 and 10 of the coins. Second prize will be $100 and five coins. The committee will accept entries until noon of Monday, September 23, at its office in the Hospital Trust building.
The designs will be judged by Dr. Royal B. Farnum, educational director of the Rhode Island School of Design; Howard W. Chapin, librarian of the Rhode Island Historical Society; Henry D Sharpe, Judge Letts, and a woman member of the Tercentenary committee, who will be designated later.”2
2 The Newport Mercury and Weekly News, Rhode Island Artists Enter Competition; Prizes to be Awarded for Best Design, for Tercentenary 50-cent piece. Friday, August 30, 1935.
“An unprecedented demand for the tercentenary half dollars resulted in the complete sale of all the 50,000 coins available in less than a day throughout the state. All the half dollars, which sold at a dollar each and which were designed by John Howard Benson and Arthur Graham Carey of this city, available in Newport were gone by 9:30 last Friday. Bank officials, surprised at the great interest shown, sought in vain to secure additional coins from headquarters in Providence.
The Newport Trust Company disposed of its entire allotment of 200 coins Thursday. The Aquidnecit National Bank distributed 150 on orders, and have another 168 requested, which it hopes to secure from state headquarters. The Savings Bank had 175, the last of which went at 9:30 this morning. The Newport National Bank’s quota of 100 was disposed of in a few hours.
Nothing like the interest indicated had been expected. Arthur L. Philbrick of Providence, treasurer of the tercentenary committee, declared the sale one of the most encouraging features of the observance thus far, indicating, he said a far greater interest in the celebration than anyone had suspected.” The committee disposed of 45,000 of the congressionally authorized coins through the 30 banks of the state within six hours, and held 5,000 more to fill previous orders received.
Rhode Island’s interest in the coins is all the more remarkable, it was said, because of the experience of Connecticut. That state, with a population twice the size of Rhode Island, had 20,000 coins minted for its tercentenary last year. After two months so many of the Connecticut coins remained unsold that they were turned back to the Treasury and melted down for other coinage uses, Mr. Philbrick said.
Further interest in the Rhode Island coins is evidenced in the action of Congress prohibiting the minting of any more coins of this nature. These may be the last memorial coins authorized, although the House has since passed a measure authorizing a coin for Charleston, S. C.”11
11 The Newport Mercury And Weekly News, Tercentenary Coins All Sold First Day, Unprecedented Demand Shows Great Interest In Jubilee, 50,000 Half Dollars Available Throughout State Disposed of in Less Than Day, Friday, March 13, 1936.
#11 above is not correct. The
“Three weeks ago I went to Providence, R. I., to see how scarce the Rhode Island half dollars were. The following is what I learned: I was told that an influential banker had scooped up eleven hundred sets of these Rhode Island halves and at present was disposing of them in lots of five or ten sets at the highest market price. Also, that a bank in Providence still had the half dollars, but would only give them out to its depositors. Another one is about the man who went from bank to bank the day they were issued and filled a Boston bag full. The man who told me the above was offered 450 Rhode Island halves the day they were issued by a bank employee and turned them down because he is not interested in coins. He is a stamp dealer. Let’s have more commemorative half dollars.
17 The Numismatist, Rhode Island Half Dollars, July, 1936, p. 510.