Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin
2006 Nebraska Quarter
I picked the Nebraska quarter as the coin for May because Nebraska became a US territory in the month of May. (Many areas were territories before they became states.) The image of pioneers in a covered wagon on this quarter is fitting for the state where major trails to the West began.
Today's eastern Nebraska used to be part of French Louisiana, which the United States bought in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Lewis and Clark explored it in 1804, and Zebulon M. Pike, in 1806. Robert Stuart pioneered the Oregon Trail across Nebraska in 1812 through the valley of the Platte River. The Oregon Trail linked with the California Trail and the Mormon Trail. Some of the people who lived in the area sold animals, food, and supplies to the many wagon trains that passed through.
Western Nebraska was part of Mexico until the Mexican War ended in 1848, when it became part of the United States. Adding those lands to US territories paved the way for the Gold Rush travelers and other western settlers.
Nebraska and Kansas became territories when the Kansas-Nebraska Act became law on May 30, 1854. The Nebraska Territory reached all the way up to the Canadian border until the Dakota Territory was created from the northern part in 1863.
Today, Nebraska is the only state in the Union that has only one house in its government. Other states have two, like the federal government's Senate and House of Representatives of Congress. Nebraska's one-house government is called "unicameral" from Latin words meaning "one chamber."
And here's a trivia question for you: Is the sun on the Nebraska quarter rising or setting?
It must be rising. Know how I can tell? Because it's behind the pioneers. Since they're traveling west (north of Chimney Rock), that means the sun is in the east, where it rises. A new day on the trail begins!