Penny Smashing: A History Lesson

We do a good amount of traveling with the kids, whether it’s a summer excursion, a day trip  or just an overnight.  When my kids were small, my boys always wanted to take something to remember it by.  This can get a bit pricey for two kids over time.

Solution?  A Smashed Penny collection!

450px-Penny_Press,_Royal_Armouries,_Leeds_(24th_June_2010)

You can find Penny Smashers in just about every tourist attraction (including rest areas).  For between 51 cents and a $1.01 you have an instant souvenir.
The Philadelphia Visitor’s Center
I love collections and projects of any kind.  There is something about a large quantity of the same thing together that suddenly makes something that is completely mundane into something fascinating.  I hope when the kids grow up and have kids of their own, they can show them all their pennies and recant the memories of their travels growing up.
So, what’s the history lesson?  The origins of the elongated penny are quite interesting.  Evidently, the first “smashed penny” souvenir was created for the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.  This World’s Fair is a vast and rich topic for research in and of itself, with attractions like moving pictures, the Ferris Wheel and the John Bull locomotive (now at the Smithsonian), not to mention the architectural and landscaping feats.
You can also learn a little about science and engineering with the history and invention of the rolling mill which made penny smashing something for the general public instead of relegated to those brave enough to put pennies on train tracks.
1893_Columbia_Exposition_penny
We have also found these great Penny Passport books to keep all their pennies safe and sound.
I suppose that as the designs retire, they may have a few collectors items on their hands, but really it’s just for the fun of having a collection, and an easy and inexpensive souvenir.  If you’re interested, you can find the Penny Smasher Waymarking Group is actively indexing the locations of these machines, if you want to find a penny smasher, log your visit or index one yourself!
Best,
Krysten
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