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A Pair of Lorillard (Lorrilard) Wise Plaster Models Submitted for the New Rochelle Commemorative Half Dollar

Lorillard (or Lorrilard, as per Don Taxay) Wise was the first artist contacted about producing models for the proposed New Rochelle commemorative half dollar design. Interestingly, the designs and plasters were originally approved only to be highly modified and later rejected entirely with the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) moving to another artist (Gertrude Lathrop; designer of the previously issued Albany commemorative).

A July 20, 1936 letter from Charles Moore to acting Mint Director Mary O’Reilly requested that certain aspects of the submitted design be reworked and, after this was done, a follow up letter of August 17, 1936 to acting Mint Director O’Reilly stated that the models should be approved with some additional modifications. At that time the conditionally approved design featured a Native American crouched along the shore with ship in background on obverse paired with the New Rochelle coat of arms on reverse, which would match the pair of plasters offered presently. Photographs of these plasters are also included in Taxay’s “An Illustrated History of US Commemorative Coinage” on page 197. Instead of smoothly transitioning to coinage production, additional critiques of the designs were ongoing and a complete reworking of the Native American obverse was later submitted as a sketch including merely the shoreline of New Rochelle. At this point the CFA was split as to approving the designs and plans were put into place to remove Lorillard Wise from involvement and to instead go with Gertrude Lathrop for coinage design and production.

The initially approved designs by Wise, included here, offer a very different view of what might have been for the New Rochelle commemorative half dollar. The positioning of the Native American, in an apparent crouch, seems somewhat odd today and this was also the case in the critiques of 1936 as well as in 1967 when Taxay wrote “The obverse featured an Indian who anatomy can only be described as unfortunate.” There are two positions that the word LIBERTY appears on these first-draft models; one obverse has the inscription on the sun and another has it in the vegetation directly behind the Native American. The plaster included here has the inscription on the sun.

The two plasters included are quite clean with a crisp white appearance and essentially smooth, unmarked reverses. They are approximately nine inches across and one inch deep and neither is a perfect circle, but instead each shows irregular borders immediately surrounding the raised borders that encircle the proposed design.


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