Are The World Cup Participants Allowed To Kneel Numismatics in the World’s Columbian Exposition

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Numismatics in the World’s Columbian Exposition

400 years after Columbus landed in the New World, the World’s Columbian Exposition became the most important moment in the United States for years to come. May 1, 1893 marked the beginning of this momentous day in history. The exposition spanned more than 600 acres of Chicago’s beautiful Jackson Park, which featured more than 200 classically designed buildings, bridges and lagoons. The exposition far exceeded all other world exhibitions in its scope, which further proves the theory of American exceptionalism. The fair further showed that Chicago rose from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, which destroyed 4 square miles of Chicago and took hundreds of lives.

The World’s Columbian Exposition remained open for 6 months, from May 1, 1893 until it closed on October 30, 1893. Over 27 million people from around the world attended the fair during its duration. These people have come to experience the largest, most technologically advanced and most futuristic world shaping exhibition in existence. During the duration of the fair, those present experienced many firsts, including the first Russian round. The Ferris wheel, which spanned 264 feet, could seat 2,000 people in one revolution. In addition to the first Russian round, Americans would experience the different cultures of more than 36 different countries around the world, including Japan and Egypt.

The World’s Columbian Exposition greatly influenced the world. It inspired the minds of great inventors and paved the way for the way we live today. From a numismatic perspective, the World’s Columbian Exposition was responsible for the creation of numismatic objects that are still highly collected today.

In an effort to honor Christopher Columbus, the Worlds Columbian Board of Directors decided to establish a commemorative half dollar coin to be minted by the US Mint. A July 10, 1892 NY Times article discusses a proposed bill sent to the Senate in connection with the World’s Columbian Exposition commemorative half dollar. The bill proposed that “these shall be of the same weight and fineness, and in all other respects, of the same quality as the silver half dollar now authorized by law.” The bill outlined how the U.S. Treasury Department would provide $5,000,000 to create a commemorative half dollar. The coins would sell for $1 each and raise $10,000,000. There were many objections to the creation of so many coins. Senator Sherman of Ohio stated that “an enormous number of souvenir half dollars would destroy their value as souvenirs.” Objecting to Senator Sherman’s reply, Senator Allison of Iowa stated that “they will not be mere souvenirs for this day and generation, but will be handed over to the sixty-five million people now living in the United States, to the two hundred million who were to live here in the future.” Children would cry for them and old men would clamor for them. They would be withdrawn from circulation and fall into a state of harmless desuetude.”

Once the bill was passed, the design of the coin was to begin. The coin was supposed to bear the image of Christopher Columbus. In an August 23, 1892 NY Times article, the US Mint expresses how inconvenient it was to uncover the correct portrait of Christopher Columbus. The mint intended to use a portrait by a painter named Sotto, but the portrait did not match the generally accepted features of Columbus’ face. The dilemma of finding the ideal portrait was solved when the Washington Mint forwarded Focilion’s etching from Suardo’s Columba. The portrait of Columbus was copied from an original painting owned by Paolo Giovio. The portrait that hung on the walls of Giovio’s house during Columbus’s lifetime has always been considered a genuine original, as the two were dear friends. More than 2.5 million examples of the coin were minted for the World’s Columbian Exposition. Although many were sold at the fair, many remained unsold and remained in circulation at face value. Today, the Colombian half dollar holds the prestige of being the oldest commemorative half dollar in the US, and a remarkable amount still remains in mint condition.

Women in the 19th century were not viewed the same as they are today. In the late 19th century, many thought that women’s place was in the home. In 1890, a woman named Bertha Honoré Palmer was elected president of the Lady Manager’s Board at the World’s Columbian Exposition. Palmer traveled around the country and generated interest in the fair. She won a spot at the World’s Columbian Exposition to build a women’s building designed by a female architect. Palmer was the mind responsible for designing a commemorative coin for women to be sold during the fair. To preserve the female motif, Palmer insisted that a portrait of Queen Isabella of Spain be used for the coin. Queen Isabella, who gave Columbus patronage, was partly responsible for his historic discovery of the New World. To once again stick with the feminine theme, Palmer chose a New York artist named Caroline Peddle to design the neighborhood. Peddle was a pupil of Augustus St. Gaudens, the famous designer of the $20 double eagle coin. The move to select an independent artist offended US Mint Chief Engraver Charles Barber. Barber would not approve a commemorative coin with Peddle as the artist. Seeing no other options, Palmer allowed Barber to choose the artist to design the coin. An artist named Kenyon Cox was chosen. Cox painted numerous murals of the exposition and the sketches of the bust of Queen Isabella were done by his hand. Palmer raised enough money for 40,000 commemorative quarters. On June 13, 1893, 40,000 souvenirs were struck at the Philadelphia Mint. A June 14, 1893 NY Times article states, “The design of the coin surpasses in beauty that of the Colombian half dollars. The obverse features the head of Queen Isabella of Spain wearing the Crown of Castile, while the reverse features a woman kneeling beside a laborer.” Souvenir quarters were sold in the Women’s Building for $1.00. Of the original 40,000 minted, only 24,191 were sold, the remaining 15,809 returned to the mint and melted down.The Isabella Commemorative Quarter will forever be remembered for the role women played during the World’s Columbian Exposition.

The World’s Columbian Exposition was a life-changing and meaningful experience for all who attended. Tickets for the fair went on sale on April 1, 1892 at various hotels throughout Chicago. Thousands of patrons, wishing to keep tickets as souvenirs or send them to friends, lined up at various Chicago hotels to purchase tickets. An April 2, 1893 NY Times article states, “In addition to the tickets listed for sale at the hotels, Treasurer Seeberger has received large orders for them from department stores who wish to send them to their customers in the country. Orders already totaling over $300,000 from this source alone.”

The tickets are just as amazing as the fair itself. Six different types of tickets were used, each bearing the face of a major figure in history. The first four were general admission tickets with vignette portraits of an American Indian, Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln, each allegorically representing a different era of American history. The latter two were printed in much smaller numbers than regular tickets and feature the face of inventor Benjamin Franklin and composer George Frideric Handel. Franklin’s ticket has the word “free” on the front and was sent to businesses that sponsored the fair as gifts for their best customers. Benjamin Franklin was chosen as the face of this ticket because of his experiments with electricity, which was the most important and remarkable of all the innovations presented at the fair. The “Music” ticket, which is the rarest of all, features an 18th-century engraving of the composer Handel and was used to gain admission to a musical performance. Handel’s “Water Music” and “Music for the Royal Fireworks” were performed at the fair. Handel’s face on the fair’s ticket is very appropriate as the fair showcased the latest in electric fountains and huge displays of fireworks displayed with his compositions playing in the background.

Tickets for the fair were printed by the New York Banknote Company. Employed by the New York Banknote Company, Col. Porter, is honored for designing tickets for the World’s Columbian Exposition. An April 2, 1893 NY Times article describes the Worlds Fair tickets “The tickets, which are in four different designs, are about 4 inches long and 2 ½ inches wide, the paper used is of a remarkably fine texture of a light gray color. tickets of different series differ from each other in the color of the back, the colors used are brown, red, green and blue. Opposite these handsome vignettes in the right corner of the ticket is engraved: World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago. Accept bearers May 1st to October 30th, 1893.” Each ticket was beautifully printed, and are truly works of art. Not only did these tickets exhibit remarkable features, but they represented the premier in anti-counterfeiting measures. “The great protection upon which society relies against the forgery of these tickets, is the use of colors and finely toned and intricate engraving that will make it impossible to photograph the tickets.”

Although the World’s Columbian Exposition lasted only six months, the innovations illustrated at the fair greatly changed the way we live today. The fair introduced the world to some of the deepest numismatic materials of all time. The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 changed the world as we know it now, from the Columbian Half Dollar and Isabella Quarter, America’s first commemorative coins, to intricately designed tickets that showed the first innovations in anti-counterfeiting measures.

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