"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

The falcon that ate Idaho

Most of the releases of the state quarters – those with designs emanating from the 50 states – have followed a smooth progression. Not so Idaho’s, owing partly to the peculiar timing of the shift in control of the governor’s office, and partly owing to what sounds like a screwup at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Idaho quarter designThe announcement of the Idaho quarter – those for Washington and Oregon were released earlier – came this week, though it might have saw in the treasury files for some time. Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review recounts:

And the only reason all of us know this today? Tim Woodward. The Idaho Statesman columnist and reporter, whose intrepid reporting on Idaho goings-on has brought things to light for decades in our state, has been following the state quarter saga closely, and he, alone, noticed that the U.S. Treasury had approved Idaho’s design in late June. Woodward contacted Gov. Jim Risch’s office, which the Treasury hadn’t notified. Then, once they confirmed it, he asked to see the quarter. The governor’s office declined, citing plans to unveil it ceremoniously later, so Woodward filed a public records request. That was Thursday, and by law, the governor’s office had three working days to respond. So today, they held a press conference and unveiled the quarter – one day before the deadline to respond to Woodward.

And what of the design?

As noted in this space earlier – in response to both the Washington and Oregon designs – the job of representing a state in a drawing the size of a quarter is really an impossible task.

We took a call yesterday from an Eastern Idaho newspaper inquiring about the decision to illustrate a Peregine Falcon rather than the traditional Idaho potato. We responded that the potato has gotten plenty of play already, and while an intact potato just looks like an undifferentiated oval, a potato on a dinner plate would be too complex a design for a quarter. On the other hand, Idaho now has a quarter featuring a falcon apparently ready to wash down its declaration of “esto perpetua” with a tasty snack of . . . Idaho.

But it works. Washington had the salmon at Mount Ranier, Oregon had Crater Lake. Idaho’s falls neatly in the nature scene pattern of western quarters.

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