The issuance of a charter to the city of Lynchburg in 1876 was commemorated in 1936 by a special coinage of half dollars.
Senator Carter Glass (D.-Va.; 1858-1946) was one of the founders of the Federal Reserve system, and one of the unsung heroes of our nation's economic history. Because no central clearing house or rediscounting facility existed to service several thousand National Banks, among other things, any occasional tightness in the money supply was likely to occasion back failures, factory closures, mortgage foreclosures, tax delinquencies and mass unemployment and in those pre-welfare days, many people starved as a result. By 1907, this had happened enough times to be a source of nationwide anxiety, especially as it seemed on the verge of happening again, as by December of that year the entire National Bank system was on the verge of collapse.
Emergency relief was provided by the Aldrich-Vreeland Act (1908), but it was temporary; the same conditions reappeared in 1912. Senator Aldrich proposed a national reserve association with voluntary bank membership-only to find the farm bloc opposing it on populist grounds suspiciously reminiscent of those adduced eighty years earlier during President Jackson's stupid battle with the Bank of the United States (Jackson's victory over the Bank having precipitated eight years of hard times, like the 1929-1937 depression only without the kind of relief FDR mandated).
At the same time, a House committee revealed incredible Wall Street scandals: a half dozen firms, operating as a cartel, came within a hair's breadth of cornering the money market. As soon as Aldrich's bill failed of passage, Senator Glass introduced its twin, which managed to pass as the Federal Reserve Act.
This set up the Federal Reserve System (popularly the Fed) as a banker's bank, performing the same services for thousands of member banks through its 12 branches as the member banks in turn provided for depositors. It also empowered the Fed to issue its own paper currency, and to manipulate the money supply, buying and selling bonds in the open market, to prevent financial panics like those of 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893, or 1907; not that it was too successful here, as events of 1921 and 1929 proved. This latter disaster induced Senator Glass to create and push passage of the Glass Steagall Act of 1933, creating the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (to help protect depositors from bank failures) and making other necessaries repairs and improvements in the Fed.
It is thus only fitting that Glass became the only person in American history to have both his signature on U.S. paper currency (during his tenure as President Wilson's Secretary of Treasury) and his portrait on a U.S. coin, this Lynchburg half dollar. (And the latter was over his own protests, approved by the Treasury Department despite its open violation of the Act of April 7, 1866 forbidding portrayal of any living individual on U.S. coins or currency!)
Glass portrait was chosen as device by Lynchburg Sesquicentennial Association, even as he had been named its honorary president. A portrait of John Lynch (founder of the town, chartered in 1786 hence the date on reverse) would have been more appropriate, according to the Federal Commission of Fine Arts, but none is known.
On reverse, Ms. Liberty extends a hand in welcome; behind her is part of Monument Terrace, with the Confederate Monument (above 19 of 1936) and the old Lynchburg Courthouse at the top.
This view for many years was the first sight to greet visitors as the entered Lynchburg at Union Station; it is still perhaps the most distinctive feature of the city.
The Lynchburg Sesquicentennial, otherwise "Lynchburg in Old Virginia Celebrates its 150th Birthday," October 12-16, 1936; Act of May 28, 1936. As the coins were offered at $1 apiece, with a limit of ten per customer, clearly there was little room for That Five Finger Word here.
The Lynchburg Sesquicentennial Association. Fred McWane, secretary. This group debated the merits of Keck and John Brcin as possible designers; Charles Moore of the Federal Commission of Fine Arts praised both, but emphasized Keck's special qualification he had already designed several previous commemorative coins: accordingly, the Association gave the commission to Keck, along with the $1000 figure named by the Commission (July 1, 1936).
Keck's models were completed before July 28, on which day they went from Acting Director of the Mint, Mary O'Reilly, to the Commission, which approved them on the 29th. The Philadelphia Mint struck the full authorized amount, 20,000 coins, plus 13 reserved for assay; these were released as of September 21, in time for local celebrations. Locals got them for $1; outsiders received them by mail at $1.25.
The entire batch sold out, mostly as singles, a smaller number in five coin presentation packages (limit of two packages per customer). We illustrate one of the buff-colored original holders of the issue. About 100 of these are known to survive. No proofs are reported, though some may have been made for John R. Sinnock. Survivors in gem state are increasingly difficult to locate, and increasingly often simulated by lower quality coins with plain nicks and scratches, especially left of Senator Glass' car and on Ms. Liberty's thighs. The latter are not recommended.