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Introducing Mrs. Potter Palmer ... and the Isabella Quarter

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This is Mrs. Potter Palmer (Try to say that name three times in a row.) was the Chairlady ("Chairperson" would not have been the proper terminology in 1893.) of the Columbian Exposition Board of Lady Managers. The existence Mrs. Potter's group was the direct result of a lobbying effort by Susan B. Anthony to give women a role in the running of the exposition. This medalet, which is made of aluminum, was one of many pieces that were issued in conjunction with this 19th century world's fair.


The ladies took it upon themselves to promote decorum an decency at the fair. For example they called for the fair to be closed on Sundays, but Gentleman managers overruled them. To break ever or perhaps show a modest profit, the fair had been open as much as possible during the six months that it ran. The Sunday openings also allowed the working classes greater access to the fair on the days that they were not at their jobs.


The ladies also objected to the "Little Egypt" exhibit which was in the midway of the fair, that attraction featured a lady, wearing dark make-up" who preformed a belly dance. The lady Managers viewed her performance as "lewd" probably because "Little Egypt" showed a bit more skin than the Victorians were used to showing and danced in a "provocative manner." The gentleman managers knocked down that objection too because the "Little Egypt" show made money, and the men enjoyed it.


The Lady Managers' pride and joy was the Women's Building at the fair which displayed the achievements of the fair sex. The building was designed by a lady architect, and its displays featured domestic arts such as needlecraft, fashions and other arts and crafts connected with homemaking.




Both the Board of Lady Managers and the Board of Gentlemen Managers received $10,000 stipends from the government. The Lady Managers came up with what seemed to be an ingenious plan. They took their stipend in the form of 40,000 Isabella commemorative quarters, which they planned to sell for $1 each, thus quadrupling their money. The Isabella Quarter was sold at the Women's Building, but from I have read, the advertising for it was limited, and the place where it was sold was not easy to find. The coin was also not very popular because it was priced a $1.00 at a time when the Columbian half dollar, also priced at a dollar did not sell very well. In the end the Lady Managers sold only a little over 14,000 quarters, and some them were priced at little as 35 cents apiece.


This is where Mrs. Potter (Bertha) Palmer came to the rescue for modern coin collectors. At the end of the fair the unsold quarters were slated to go back to the mint to be melted. Mrs. Palmer and some of her friends bought up 10,000 of the coins at face value ($2,500) thus saving them from destruction. Had they not taken that action the Isabella Quarter would be a scarcer and more expensive coin today.


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"Very cool. Is the design behind Mrs. Palmer on the aluminum piece a scallop shell?"


Ms. Potter was quite proud of her escalloped potato recipe and so she had a scallop shell design placed behind her idealized effigy....Now, about that bridge to Brooklyn -- here's the deed right her in my pocket...

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Very interesting read!


Prooflike Isabella quarters exist - some of them are extremely attractive. I've never seen one in hand, but I've bid on a couple of them. I'd like to pick one up when the opportunity and cash both present themselves at the same time.

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Very cool. Is the design behind Mrs. Palmer on the aluminum piece a scallop shell?


If it is, it is an inverted one. It also might be some sore of fan.

At first, I kinda thought it looked like a peacock tail, but a scallop shell (a common symbol in Greek mythology) would make a lot more sense since the wreath on the reverse is clearly Hellenistic.

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