The non-profit organization Boys Town, dedicated to helping at-risk youth and made famous by the 1938 movie of the same name, is commemorated on a clad half dollar, a silver dollar and a $5 gold coin celebrating the centennial of its founding in 1917. Established by Father Edward Flanagan, the charity’s main focus was to provide a safe refuge for wayward boys. Significantly, Boys Town was open to boys of all races and religions. By 1921, Boys Town had more than 100 residents, and Father Flanagan moved his facility to Overlook Farm just outside of Omaha to continue expanding his mission.
By the late 1930s, the unique organization had attracted national attention, spawning the popular Spencer Tracy film, which also starred a young Mickey Rooney. Soon after World War II, President Harry Truman asked Father Flanagan to advise leaders in areas overseas on how to properly address the needs of war orphans and displaced children.
Flanagan died in 1948, but his mission, which he called “God’s Work,” carried on. By the 1980s, Boys Town assisted both boys and girls all around the United States, today touching more than two million lives each year.
The 100th anniversary of Boys Town prompted Nebraska representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE1) to propose a commemorative coin bill that was later enacted on July 6, 2015. The law approves the production of no more than 350,000 silver dollars in uncirculated and Proof finishes. In addition to the one-dollar coins, the Boys Town commemorative coin program also calls for the production of no more than 300,000 copper-nickel clad half dollars and 50,000 $5 gold coins. Surcharges benefit Boys Town.
The Boys Town silver dollar features a solitary young girl sitting on the bare ground staring up at a tree branch. She is gazing upward, as if seeking help. Tufts of grass are growing on the right side of the obverse field, which is visually divided into upper and lower sections. The upper portion, containing the visage of the young girl, has the lone inscription BOYS TOWN running along the upper-center of the obverse along the rim. The tree branch divides the words BOYS and TOWN. On the bottom right of the upper design segment, near the grass, is the coin’s “P” mintmark indicating that it was struck at the Philadelphia Mint.
The lower segment of the coin, which consumes the bottom third of the obverse, includes the phrase “When you help a child today…” a motto that is finished on the reverse with “you write the history of tomorrow.” The inscriptions IN GOD WE TRUST, LIBERTY and 1917-2017 continue in three horizontal lines of text below the previous phrase. On either side of LIBERTY are the initials “ESD” (left) for obverse designer Emily Damstra and “JFM” (right) for sculptor Joseph Menna.
The reverse of the Boys Town silver dollar is anchored by five children, including the girl seen on the obverse, striding hand in hand from left to right under a grand oak tree. The massive tree and its graceful canopy, which symbolize shelter, consume the bulk of the upper two-thirds of the reverse. Under the plane of the main design feature are the words “…you write the history of tomorrow,” which is the continuation of the obverse phrase “When you help a child today…”.
The inscriptions UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ONE DOLLAR and E PLURIBUS UNUM appear in three horizontal lines of text toward the bottom center of the reverse. Damstra designed the reverse and Menna sculpted it; their initials “ESD” and “JFM” are seen on the reverse as well, to the left and right (respectively) of the denomination inscription ONE DOLLAR.
The edge of the 2017 Boys Town Centennial silver dollar is reeded.
Designer(s): Emily Damstra has worked as a freelance science illustrator in a variety of media. She has a Masters in Fine Arts in Science Illustration from the University of Michigan and has designed several coins for the Royal Canadian Mint (View Designer’s Profile).
United States Mint engraver Joseph Menna has more than three dozen coin and medal designs to his credit since joining the Mint in 2005 (View Designer’s Profile).
|Year Of Issue:
|90% Silver, 10% Copper
|Emily Damstra | Joseph Menna
|Emily Damstra | Joseph Menna
Keep up with all the latest coin releases from the United States Mint by clicking on CoinWeek’s Modern U.S. Coin Profiles Page.