Two-Bit Identity Crisis; Imprint Befuddles the Free—Make That 'Old Line'—State
The Washington Post, 14 March 2000«back | home
You've no doubt heard of the Lone Star State, the Empire State and the Sunshine State. Even the Dairy State has a certain cachet, thanks to the cheeseheads in the football stands for the Green Bay Packers.
But the Old Line State?
That slogan, emblazoned on the tailside of the latest coin in the U.S. Mint's series of 50 state quarters, is raising puzzled brows even in Maryland, the state in question.
At a ceremony in Annapolis to display the new 25-cent piece yesterday, the coin's designer, a University of Maryland graduate, couldn't say where the slogan came from. Nor could Barbara Bachtell, a Cloverly Elementary School teacher who encouraged her class to submit their own designs for the coin. Her fifth-graders, in town from Silver Spring, were equally baffled.
"I thought Maryland was the Fishing State," said Katie Carr, 11.
In fact, Maryland commonly is known as the Free State, a name that is not as high-minded as some might think. And that is partly why Maryland became the Old Line State on quarters shipped yesterday from mints in Denver and Philadelphia to Federal Reserve Banks across the nation.
The Maryland coins, which will show up in general circulation this month, are seventh in a series being minted to represent the 50 states in the order in which they ratified the U.S. Constitution or joined the Union. Maryland follows Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut and Massachusetts. South Carolina, New Hampshire and Virginia will be out later this year. The last coin, representing Hawaii, will be struck in 2008.
The coins feature a portrait of George Washington on the front and designs selected by governors on the back. The quarters have become so popular with collectors that mint officials plan to strike 1 billion Maryland coins--more than twice the number minted for Delaware--to keep enough coins in circulation for parking meters and vending machines.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) selected Maryland's design after a statewide contest. The winning design, submitted by former White House aide Bill Krawczewicz, 33, featured the slim and graceful dome of the Annapolis State House, the oldest working state capitol building in America.
But Tom D. Rogers Sr., a sculptor and engraver with the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, found the dome a bit stark. So he added clusters of white oak, the state tree, and "The Old Line State." The words made a nice design, but even Rogers didn't know what it meant.
"I pulled it out of a book or off the Internet someplace," he said. "I know I got it somewhere official."
Rogers sent the finished design to Annapolis, where a committee of historians and other officials happily approved it.
It seems Washington himself bestowed the nickname on Maryland after the Battle of Long Island in August 1776, when a line of Maryland troops held off the British while Washington retreated. Thousands died, and many Maryland soldiers were buried in Brooklyn, said Maryland state archivist Edward C. Papenfuse.
Thereafter, Washington referred to Maryland troops as "the old line"--meaning they were always there, reliable, Papenfuse said. "It's one of the oldest monikers we've ever had."
The Old Line State also has more noble origins than the Free State. A Baltimore Sun editor coined the latter in 1923, when Maryland was the only state that refused to enforce Prohibition so people would be free to drink, Papenfuse said.
© 2000 The Washington Post Company