At a ceremony in Moravia, New York, today, the U.S. Mint will officially unveil and release the Millard Fillmore one-dollar coin. Moravia is Fillmore’s birthplace.
Anna Prior’s story in the Wall Street Journal notes the contest between Moravia and nearby Buffalo for the heritage of Fillmore. (Fillmore spent most of his life in Buffalo.) All told and totalled, there may be more information out on Millard Fillmore in the newspapers today than you can find in most U.S. history texts.
Members of Moravia’s historical society say there’s more than enough Millard Fillmore to go around. Buffalo can claim Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th president, who began his career there. “As a small town, we just have a few moments of history that are ours—and Fillmore is one of them,” says Roger Phillips, president of the Cayuga-Owasco Lakes Historical Society
Joyce Hackett Smith, former president of the historical society and a distant cousin of Fillmore’s, notes that the 13th president is more apt to be overlooked in a big city like Buffalo, which has a population of about 272,600, while every child at Millard Fillmore Elementary School in Moravia learns a lot about Fillmore.
“You ask a kid in Moravia, what was the first thing that Fillmore bought with the money he saved from working when he was young? They’ll tell you—a dictionary!” she says.
“We spent quite a lot of time in history class going over the things that Fillmore did,” says 57-year-old Lee Conklin, a lifelong Moravian and owner of an auto-parts store there. The late Robert Scarry, a Moravia history teacher, wrote a book detailing the president’s life.
Buy a newspaper today; buy a Wall Street Journal. See if you get a Millard Fillmore dollar in change.
- Serious history of Fillmore? See if you can find Benson Lee Grayson’s The Unknown President: The Administration of Millard Fillmore (Washington: University Press of America, 1981. 175 pages). I haven’t found it yet — and while there’s a danger it repeats the bathtub hoax as fact, it promises to offer more good information about Millard Fillmore’s presidency than just about any other source.
- See the list of Millard Fillmore sources, here at the Bathtub.