The two famous battles fought in 1775 are commemorated on this Lexington Concord Sesquicentennial Half Dollar.
The obverse device, labeled CONCORD MINUTE-MAN, is a close copy of Daniel Chester French's "Grand Concord Man" statue (commonly called the Minute-Man) at Concord, Massachusetts. This statue depicts one of the volunteer soldiers taking part in the battle of Lexington and Concord which began the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775; a farmer, leaving his coat on his plow, ready to leave for the battlefront at a minute's notice, musket in hand, presumably awaiting the call to arms sounded by bells in the Old Belfry at Lexington (the reverse device of this coin). This statue was French's first commission (he was then 23 years of age), and it was erected in April 1875 for the centennial celebration.
President Grant attended the ceremony. On a panel below the statue, not visible on the coin but known to every schoolboy in New England, and likely to be called to mind whenever the landmark statue was seen or remembered or pictured as on the coins, is Emerson's famous stanza about the event.
The word PATRIOT alludes partly to the statue (as representative of a generation of revolutionaries), partly to the celebration; it was a non-negotiable demand of the Concord Town Committee, one of the two which divided the designing and the payment to the artist. As the coins were meant to appear on April 19, 1925, there was an additional local allusion; April 19 has been "Patriot Day" and a legal Greenhalge proclaimed it in 1894. The remaining inscriptions are self-explanatory, though perhaps we should mention that the Concord Committee even wanted to add the date APRIL 19 on reverse!
Two separate town committees late in 1924 were planning sesquicentennial celebrations in Concord and Lexington. The Lexington committee sponsored legislation in Congress to authorize a commemorative half dollar (which became the Act of January 14, 1925), and on its own initiative contacted Chester Beach, offering him the commission to design the coin. (The Mint, pleased with Beach's work on the Monroe half dollar, had been recommending him to committees seeking passage of commemorative coin bills.) When the Concord committee learned of the impending passage of the bill, its members sought out Beach as well, and eventually the two committees agreed to share the expense of his fee, but in exchange they insisted on their designs being used, Concord's for the obverse, Lexington's for the reverse.
Daniel Chester French, sculptor of the "Minuteman" statue. French was still alive, in his seventies, in the Concord area, and Chester Beach consulted with him as to the propriety of adding the words CONCORD MINUTE-MAN. French not only approved, he gave Beach a photograph of the statue for use in making his original plaster models. (We would also list the architect of the Old Belfry in Lexington if anyone knew his name.)
After an amazing amount of petty niggling demands by the two committees, changing from week to week, Beach finally managed to produce designs satisfactory to both committees. His nearest prototype, for layout, was Philip Holden's drawing, though minus the 13 stars in the obverse sky; this is reproduced in Taxay. Buildings are always a difficult problem in coin design, and Beach's solution was to use a photograph from a low angle probably the camera was on the ground furnished by Edward Stone. After working day and night for some weeks, Beach submitted plaster models to the Federal Commission of Fine Arts, February 14, 1925; James Earle Fraser, as sculptor member, approved them at once, but protested that the committees had made most unsuitable choices of subject matter.
The models went to the Philadelphia Mint, which rushed the coins into production during April and May 1925.
Apparently the first strikings were available for the celebration on Patriot Day. A joint enterprise called the United States Lexington Concord Sesquicentennial Commission made up of members of the two town committees handled the sales. Harold Orendorff, the Concord publicity chairman, arranged for the Concord National Bank and the Lexington Trust Company to do the actual distribution.
Many of the coins were sold in small wooden boxes, with sliding tops, like that illustrated on the preceding page. These had on top a rubber stamped picture of the Minute Man statue in blue ink; owing to weathering, the ink has faded, varying from dull blue black to pale graying blue. On the base of each box is a similar stamped picture of the Old Belfry, in the same color ink. Over 125 of these coins are around in the original boxes; they are among the least rare original holders for commemorative coins, but they are still very scarce and desirable.
At least one matte proof is reported, but it is not yet available for examination. As its source was reportedly the J. R. Sinnock estate, the coin is quite probably as described.
Survivors tend to be weak on hat, chin, musket and often also on garment details. The coins are not often found in low grades, but there are many sliders and borderline case, and many that have been poorly handled-nicked or scratched up, or badly cleaned by subsequent non-numismatic owners.