Monday, November 3, 2014

I Make Fun of State Quarters: Delaware

I feel a little bad making fun of Delaware. I mean, isn't the poor state a punchline already?

Yes. Yes it is.

Still, I must persevere.

It's not like there's any reason to dislike Delaware. I'm sure it's full of wonderful people and quaint little downtown areas and affable grinning Vice Presidents. But it just seems so...plain. Something tells me there aren't too many newlyweds saying, "Hey honey, lets get away to scenic Delaware and climb to the Ebright Azimuth. We'll be higher up than anyone in the entire state!"

And when Mom and Pop load up the station wagon for a family vacation, are they really going to say to the kids, "Come on, children! We're going to visit Felton. We can see the Thomas B. Coursey House. He got the right to stock a mill pond with bass carp in 1883 and tell other people they couldn't fish there. They call their townships "hundreds," and Felton is in South Murderkill Hundred. Doesn't that sound nice??"

Behold, majestic Felton. (Source)

It's almost too much to handle, all these sights and sounds. How can one simple state quarter hold all the excitement that Delaware has to offer?

Well, that does pack it in pretty well. Everyone loves a horsey.

Wondering why Delaware was the place that kicked off the state quarter program instead of one of the states that sits at the cool table, like Massachusetts or California? It's because it was the first of the original 13 colonies to ratify the Constitution, giving it the honor of being the first state in the Union. Thus the big "First State" label on it like some 14-year-old's YouTube comment. There were other colonies established before Delaware, of course, but it still gets to brag about how it was a state before the United States existed.

So now is the time to tell the story of Yankee Doodle, riding through a quarter on a pony. No wait, that isn't it. It's Paul Revere, right? He's heading off to say that the British are coming. Except that was in Boston, not in Delaware. Um...who is this guy again?

Ah yes, Caesar Rodney. Delaware chooses a truly interesting fellow known for being a sheriff, register of wills, recorder of deeds, clerk of the Orphan's Court, and justice of the peace. He's held more public offices than anyone else in Delaware. Hooray for competent county-level politicians?

Actually, Rodney is best known for riding 80 miles through a thunderstorm while ill to get from Dover to Philadelphia. This was in July of 1776, and he made the trip after finding out that Delaware was split on whether or not to go along with the Declaration of Independence. Although his constituents were chiefly Loyalist, Rodney cast the deciding vote in favor of independence.

Delaware might want to forget that his constituency rewarded this patriot for his bravery by throwing him out on his ass. Once it became clear that he had supported the Declaration of Independence, voters in Kent County opted not to include him in the state's constitutional convention or general assembly. They did come around again in 1778, electing Rodney to a position that somehow manages to sound both impressive and embarrassing: "President of Delaware."

It also helps that the quarter's design keeps Rodney's face tiny enough that you can't really make out any detail. No one painted a portrait of Rodney when he was alive, since his face was ravaged by cancer. John Adams described him as having a face "not much bigger than a large apple," perhaps because Adams didn't realize that Rodney wore a facial covering to hide the disfigurement.

Pictured: Caesar Rodney (Source)

All things considered, Rodney is a good choice for the quarter design. He put country before self, and he achieved greatness despite his young age and physical ailments. Maybe some people were disappointed that the quarter didn't have the Delaware Memorial Bridge or something, but it never hurt anyone to pick up a book or do a bit of Googling and learn an interesting story.

Besides, it's certainly better than the alternate designs. Like this one:

That would be Lady Liberty blazing a torch into the future and boldly proclaiming, "Behold! A new nation is born, and the first member of this glorious country shall be this odd misshapen lump of a state!" And then Lady Liberty would presumably pause for a few seconds and say, "Um...Aubrey Plaza is going to be born here in another 200 years and change. That's something, right?"

And even that's preferable to this finalist:

That design recognizes the fact that Delaware has a chicken breed named after it. Had the Mint gone with this design, we'd all have to sarcastically thank Delaware for starting out the state quarter series by showing us their cock.

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