Boston sculptor Cyrus E.
Dallin, designed the Pilgrim half dollars of 1920 and 1921.
The obverse shows a stylized portrait of Governor William Bradford
in profile facing left holding a Bible in his left hand. Above
his head is the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, the words
separated by dots. Below, separated by a star on each side,
is the inscription PILGRIM HALF DOLLAR. The motto IN GOD WE
TRUST is in the right field above his shoulder. The reverse
portrays the Mayflower in full sail. It is surrounded by the
inscription PILGRIM TERCENTENARY CELEBRATION, the words separated
by dots. Below, separated by stars, are the dates 1620-1920.
The 1921 coin adds the date to the left field in front of Bradford
at shoulder height.
The Pilgrims were Puritans
who fled England during the reign of King James I. William Bradford
was with the group of Pilgrims who arrived from England on board
the Mayflower. They landed in 1620 in what today is Massachusetts.
Bradford was elected governor of the colony of Plymouth and
served for thirty years.
As every school child knows,
the Mayflower was the Pilgrims’ ship. However, it is incorrectly
portrayed on the coin. The coin shows a flying jib sail, which
was not used until much after 1620. A square sail under the
bowsprit should have been shown.
coins were issued by the Pilgrim Tercentenary Commission using
The National Shawmut Bank of Boston and other outlets. There
was no official original packaging. Some pieces for Rhode Island
were distributed in cardboard boxes that contained the coin
and a small certificate which said “Society of Colonial
Wars/ in the State of Rhode Island and/ Providence Plantations/
by its Governor/Henry Dexter Sharpe, Esq.” The total quantity
minted of the 1920 issue was 200,112. Of those 152,112 were
actually distributed with 48,000 returned for melting. For the
1921 issue, 100,053 were minted. However, only 20,053 were distributed
with 80,000 returned for melting. The 1921 coin was the first
variety of the early commemorative series made to increase sales