1918 Illinois Centennial Lincoln Half dollar coin
By thy rivers gently flowing, Illinois, Illinois,
O'er thy prairies verdant growing, Illinois, Illinois,
Comes an echo on the breeze.
Rustling through the leafy trees, and its mellow tones are these, Illinois, Illinois,
And its mellow tones are these, Illinois.
Illinois State Song
With the Bicentennial celebrations afoot at Illinois, a 100 years back, the Centennial year of Illinois was celebrated by a coin release. 1918 saw the Centenary celebrations for joining of Illinois with the union and the Illinois Centenary Half dollar or the Lincoln coin as it was popularly called was released.
1818 - Joining the United States of America
The French gave Illinois it's name that meant 'warrior'; a name given to Native Americans when French settlers came in the 1600s. Illinois was given by the French to the British in 1763 after the Seven years' war, and the name stuck. Initially after most of the French left not many other settlers came in as the British Crown reserved it for the Native Americans. After the American war of Independence, George Rogers Clark claimed the region for Virginia County and then it was ceded to United States of America in 1783.
The discussions for Illinois to be included as a state into the Union was rife with a lot of undercurrents. The northern border of Illinois was changed not once but twice so that it could enjoy a considerable length of the lakefront of the Lake Michigan. This was done so that the lake could be connected to the Mississippi river through the Chicago river and a canal later called the Illinois canal. The other reason was to make sure Illinois was firmly with the Northern states when it came to the question of slavery that was even then dividing the country.
In those times, the waterways were like the super highways and with the border extended and a canal connecting the lake and the Mississippi river, Illinois can ship goods as far as Louisiana in the South. When the Erie Canal opened a few years later, boats carrying produce from the west, livestock, tourists, and machinery from the Atlantic ocean via the Great lakes could enter the Illinois region. As Illinois was connected to the southern states through it's borders and also a trade route via the Mississippi river, it enjoyed an economic boom. A direct result of this, Chicago, a city incorporated on the shores of Lake Michigan in 1837 is one of most populous city in Illinois and the third largest in the country.
Illinois - The Lincoln Land
Nicknamed "Land of Lincoln," Illinois is very proud of its famous son, Abraham Lincoln. Abe Lincoln was part of the extended family that shifted to Illinois in 1830. After the initial struggle of settling in a new region, Abraham struck out on his own. In a twist of fate his foray into local politics attracted him to studying law; not as a formal student but more of a self learner. Yet, without any training, Lincoln got his lawyer's license and became a successful lawyer. He soon married a socially prominent resident Mary Todd and settled into his new home to practice law and build a political career that would bring him the presidency in 1861.
1918 Illinois Centennial Half dollar
For the Centennial celebrations, the state of Illinois wanted to honor it with a coin and called for the issuance of a legislation. As the centennial year was almost over, the coin designs were given to Mint Chief Engraver George T. Morgan and his assistant John R. Sinnock to be completed. While the designs were not popular then, later numismatists have lauded the designs as one among the best.
The obverse depicts a portrait of a young Abraham Lincoln based on the statue of Lincoln by Andrew O'Connor at the State Capitol grounds at Springfield, Illinois. On the periphery of the obverse is CENTENNIAL OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS. Behind Lincoln’s head is the motto IN GOD WE TRUST and to his right LIBERTY is found. Finally, the date 1918 is seen below.
The reverse of the coin was a slightly altered state seal of Illinois; a defiant eagle is perched upon a rocky mound and the federal shield, clutching in its beak a banner inscribed with the Illinois motto STATE SOVEREIGNTY NATIONAL UNION. A rising sun is at right, while an olive branch passes behind the shield. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and HALF DOLLAR are arranged peripherally around the reverse. The motto E PLURIBUS UNUM appears above the sun in small letters to complete the design.