So-Called Dollars


Purpose: To commemorate 150th anniversary of Declaration of Independence.

Organization: Idea conceived by John Wanamaker, "Father of Exposition"; Sesquicentennial Exhibition Association chartered 1922; limited public subscription to stock. Congress created National Commission 1925; authorized President to appoint National Advisory Commission, as auxiliary, on which latter all states and territories represented. City appropriated $10,000,000 including $5,000,000 at close to meet unpaid bills; Congress granted over $2,000,000 directing that $1,000,000 go for construction of four or more exhibit buildings.

Site: League Island Park and adjacent area, about 1,000 acres, South Philadelphia. Swedish-American Memorial House remains as a museum; Municipal Stadium, built for exposition, later renamed JFK stadium, demolished in 1992.

Dates, Attendance: May 31-Nov. 30, 1926; also "post-exhibition" period, Dec. 1-31, 1926. Attendance 6,500,000; 4,600,000 paid (25,000,000 expected!).

Participants: President Coolidge extended broad foreign invitation "for the purpose of exhibiting the progress of United States and other nations in art, science and industry, trade and commerce...". Sixteen states and 43 foreign countries represented, 7 of each erecting own buildings. Federal displays included Mint Exhibit.

Comment: Five exhibition palaces and 72 other major buildings, mostly multi-colored, created spectacular "Rainbow City." For first time, exposition architecture was set-back or pyramidal style, originally developed for skyscrapers. Huge lighted Liberty Bell at entrance called "largest electrical structure ever." First exposition to use sound amplification; first comprehensive display of diesel engines, radios, electric refrigeration, "talking" motion pictures and multiple message telegraphy. Sports program climaxed by Dempsey-Tunney bout for heavyweight championship. Precedent was established by first appearance upon U.S. coin of likeness of a living U.S. President--commemorative half dollar. Exposition's financial failure attributed to local skepticism, Sunday closing, no midway and incompleteness at opening.

Medals: Official Medals designed by Albin Polasek; struck in Mint Exhibit on grounds.


Photos courtesy of John Dean

Obv. In upper center, Washington bust, facing r., within 13 stars; below, Philadelphia / 1926 / (Liberty Bell); around, Sesquicentennial-International-Exposition
Rev. Liberty, torch in upraised l. hand and palm branch in r., rides flying Pegasus to r., above clouds; torch held between sun and rays; incuse, at l. border near edge, Albin Polasek (designer).

HK-451 Copper. 35mm.
HK-452 Bronze.
HK-453 Brass.
HK-454 Nickel.

NOTE: Bronze piece struck on different dies from others and in higher relief, both obverse and reverse.


Issued by State of Connecticut both to commemorate 150th anniversary of death of Nathan Hale, her patriot-martyr son, shot as spy in 1776 and for dedication of Connecticut Building on exposition grounds. Medal designed by George S. Godard; 6 Gold, 25 Silver and 5,000 Bronze pieces struck by Whitehead & Hoag Co.; Gold specimens presented to heads of governments, considered uncollectible. Silver medals presented to important guests; Bronze medals sold at Connecticut Building on exposition grounds and at State Library, Hartford, for 50 cents, or 75 cents if mailed. 250 bronze pieces were remaining in 1980, and offered for sale by the State Library at that time for $8, or $9 if mailed.

Photos courtesy of John Dean

Obv. Edifice; below, Sesqui-Centennial / Philadelphia / 1776 (Liberty Bell) 1926; above, around Connecticut State Building.
Rev. Statue to l., with laurel branch below; State Seal in upper r.; below seal, "I Only Regret That I Have / But One Life to Lose for / My Country" / Nathan Hale / Patriot-Martyr / Connecticut / 1755 / 1776; at l. rim, microscopic Whitehead-Hoag

HK-455 Silver. 38mm.
HK-456 Bronze.
HK-1032 Gold. Microscopic 10K at lower r. of reverse. Only 6 pieces struck.


Photos courtesy of John Dean

Obv. Female head facing to l.; at lower l., 1926; below date, interlaced AP [Adam Pietz, designer]; around, Sesqui-Centennial-International-Exposition-Philadelphia
Rev. Large spread eagle covers almost entire area, swastika over leaf on breast; behind eagle, sun and rays; above around, Lucky Token

HK-457 Gilt. 35mm.


Photos courtesy of John Dean

Obv. Within center wreath Medal / of Honor; outside around, Sesquicentennial-International-Exposition-Philadelphia; below, • 1776-1926 •
Rev. Large eagle, facing to l., stands in nest; edifice in field near l. border.

HK-458 Brass. 34mm.

HK-449 to HK-450