PCGS 9378 - 1925 50C Stone Mountain

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1925 50C Stone Mountain

Authorization

It is said, that all started when Confederate Daughter Helen Pane wanted to impose a massive big-brother-esque likeness of “General Lee” on the face of Stone Mountain. In 1912, she contracted the talents of the unfortunately-named Gutzon Borglum to do the work, but he refused, arguing that the ridiculously huge proportions she called for were simply impossible to work with. To picture a scale of her plans, imagine clearly seeing General Lee’s face a full 10 miles away from the mountain. Borglum settled for a more modestly-sized sculpture, and proceeded to struggle for years to find the finances to complete the project. After going so far as making a deal with the KKK, Stone Mountain, Georgia: The Idyllic Place of Pride and Hate, and minting a commemerative Stone Mountain coin, Borglum finally decided it simply wasn’t worth it. He published an angry editorial critical of the project, subsequently had his contract canceled, and finally, had all his work blown away by Augustus Lukeman, the sculpture to replace him.

Kkk stonemountain jpg-for-web-LARGE.jpg

The U.D.C. and the Ku Klux Klan helped initially fund the estimated $5,000,000 dollar project, but support also came from other sources. First the Founders Roll Plan required a subscription of no less than $1,000 payable in equal installments over 5 years. Second, the Children’s Founders Roll plan allowed any person between 1 and 18 to submit their names in the Book of Memory in the name of a Confederate soldier or woman of the Confederacy for $1.00. Finally, the U.S. mint issued a Memorial Half Dollar which was sold at a profit to help fund the process. The Act minted 5,000,000 coins, designed by Gutzon Borglum. The profit from the coins produced were in hopes to account for half of the expenses the work of Stone Mountain would demand.

[1]Stone Mountain, located in DeKalb County about ten miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, is the largest Stone Mountain exposed mass of granite in the world. A town at the base of the mountain bears the same name. Before 1800 Native Americans used the mountain as a meeting and ceremonial place. Stone Mountain emerged as a major tourist resort in the 1850s, attracting residents of nearby Atlanta and other cities. The carving of a Confederate memorial on the side of the mountain attracted national and international attention during the twentieth century. Today, Stone Mountain is a tourist attraction that draws approximately 4 million visitors a year.

Native Americans were the first humans to visit Stone Mountain about 9,000 years ago. In the late seventeenth century Europeans, probably English traders and slave raiders, journeyed to Stone Mountain. Disease followed these Europeans to central Georgia, killing thousands of Native Americans. In response to the threat posed by contact with whites, surviving indigenous tribes made alliances with one another during the late eighteenth century. These alliances became known as the Creek Confederation. Although Stone Mountain lay between the Creek Confederation and the Cherokees, it became an important meeting place, because two major trails connected it to the eastern part of the state. European settlers also increasingly moved into the region during the early nineteenth century.

Stone Mountain Park

Two events brought Stone Mountain attention during the twentieth century: the founding of the second Ku Klux Klan (KKK) there in 1915 and the struggle to complete the Stone Mountain Confederate memorial. Inspired by D. W. Griffith's silent film Birth of a Nation (which romanticized the earlier heyday of the Klan), William Simmons, a minister and organizer for fraternal associations, planned the induction ceremonies that awakened the KKK from its slumber of forty years to take place a week before the movie's opening in Atlanta. In 1914 the leader of the Atlanta chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), Caroline Helen Jemison Plane, and the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Association (SMCMA) had decided to carve a memorial on the side of Stone Mountain. Simmons may have selected Stone Mountain as the location of the ceremonies because of the planned memorial.


Stone Mountain, 1929

Even more than the birth of the second KKK, the Confederate memorial gave Stone Mountain notoriety throughout the twentieth century. A product of the Lost Cause era, the memorial was originally conceived as a symbol of the white South. In 1916 the SMCMA hired the renowned sculptor Gutzon Borglum, a northerner, to carve Robert E. Lee leading his Confederate troops across the mountain's summit. These whites hoped that the memorial would serve as a symbol of sectional reconciliation. World War I (1917-18) delayed the project until 1923. Then, in 1925, with only the head of Lee carved, a growing rift between the sculptor and the SMCMA over artistic control ended with the association firing Borglum, thereby halting construction. With the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Confederate memorial remained unfinished. In 1941 Governor Eugene Talmadge formed the Stone Mountain Memorial Association to continue work on the memorial, but the project was delayed once again by the U.S. entry into World War II (1941-45).


Stone Mountain Carving

It was not until the 1950s that interest in (and funding for) the completion of the Confederate memorial was revived. Segregationists hoped that the memorial would serve as a reminder of white supremacy. According to historian Grace Elizabeth Hale, "The rising tide of African-American activism in the wake of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision reignited broad interest in Confederate symbols as many white southerners fired up for 'battle' with the nation again." In 1958 the state of Georgia purchased Stone Mountain, making it a state park, and Governor Marvin Griffin supported plans to complete the memorial. The state and the Stone Mountain Memorial Association (SMMA) agreed to carve the images of Confederate icons Robert E. Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, and Jefferson Davis on the mountain and to construct a plaza at its base. In 1970 planners dedicated the memorial, and an estimated 10,000 visitors came to witness its unveiling.


Stone Mountain Yellow Daisy

Since the 1980s Stone Mountain has remained a tourist attraction, although many groups denounce the memorial as racist. Millions of tourists from around the world marvel at the natural scenery. The park has increased visitation by promoting such special events as the Yellow Daisy Festival, the Highland Games, and the Easter Sunrise services. Other attractions include a reconstructed antebellum plantation built in the 1960s, a skylift, a waterside complex, and a thirty-six-hole golf course. In 1996 Stone Mountain provided venues for three Olympic Games events: archery, tennis, and cycling. The most popular attraction in the park is the laser show. This show now symbolizes the promise of a New South, imposing over the Confederate icons another southern face: that of Martin Luther King Jr.

Obverse

James Earle Fraser

The models furnished by Borglum to the federal Commission of Fine Arts were repeatedly rejected by sculptor member James Earle Fraser, creator of the Indian Head/Buffalo nickel. These models were in very low relief, were inaccurately modeled and were overly crowded with lettering too small to be discernible on the finished coin. It was not until October 10, 1924 that Fraser finally gave his reluctant approval, declaring the revised models "barely passable."

Reverse

Mintage

1,310,000

Specification

Weight: 192.9 grains = 12.50 grams

Net Weight: .36169 ounce pure silver

Diameter: 30.61 mm (1.205 in)

Composition: 90% Ag 10% Cu

Thickness: 2.15 mm (0.085 in)

Rim: 150 reeds

Catalog reference

Prices realized from past auction lots. (PCGS Holder)

PCGS Price Guide [1]

Link to

Source

  • [1]Georgia Humanities Council
  • Breen, Walter H., Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U. S. and Colonial Coins, New York: Doubleday, 1987.
  • Slabaugh, Arlie R., United States Commemorative Coinage, 2nd Ed.," Racine, WI: Whitman Publishing, 1975.

Gallery