1925 Stone Mountain Memorial Half Dollar
The 1925 Stone Mountain Memorial Half dollar was designed and released to raise funds for the Stone Mountain Memorial to be sculpted on Stone Mountain, Atlanta, Georgia in honor of Robert E. Lee, General of the Confederate army. This post looks at the history behind the coin design and release.
Stone Memorial for Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee was a celebrated officer in the American army before the Civil war. When Virginia declared secession from the Union, Lee followed his home state, even though he wanted a united country. Initially, a senior advisor for the Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Lee became the General of the entire Confederate army soon. While he was considered a great strategist, his tactics towards the end of the Civil war were criticized by historians later.
In the early 20th century, KKK (Ku Klux Klan) and the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) were growing in numbers. These organizations had a lot of sympathizers for the 'Lost cause'; as the Southern argument in the Civil War was known. They romanticized the 'Lost cause' and tried changing the perception of the public psyche to the war. Monuments honoring the southern war heroes were considered an effective means to do just that. The legend of Robert E. Lee had grown exponentially by then and probably slightly more than that of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who later worked on Mount Rushmore was contacted to create a memorial on the Stone Mountain in Atlanta, Georgia for Lee. A Klan member, Borglum was also sympathetic to the cause. He proposed a colossal sculpture 200 feet (61 m) high and 1,300 feet (400 m) long depicting Confederate army, including artillery and infantry, as well as 65 Confederate generals. The UDC and KKK founded the Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association to raise funds for the Stone Memorial.
The Association proposed the issue of a Half dollar to raise funds. Though Borglum designed the coin after a lot of trial and error, he was fired because of differences in opinion with the Association. It is said that most of the money raised for the Stone memorial went into the pockets of corrupt officials and the Stone memorial sculpture was a much scaled-down version of the original design. Borglum had by then shifted to the work in Mount Rushmore which would become world famous.
1925 Stone Memorial Half dollar
The Half dollar was released in 1925. The Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association took considerable measures to boost the sale of the coin which was fixed at $1. Even with a lot of innovative marketing campaigns, the demand for the coin wasn't great at the time probably because of a deep-seated antipathy towards the Southern cause in public minds. But it is an interesting coin to collect in these modern times because of all the history behind it.
The obverse of the Stone Memorial Half dollar depicts the portrait of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The reverse showcases an eagle perched on a mountain crag and an inscription on the bravery of the soldiers of the South.