Today, the New York State Quarter Coin remembers when the school children and their teachers decided the state flower on Arbor Day, May 8, 1891.
An excerpt from the History of New York State by Edward S. Ellis in the March 1908 periodical, American Education:
An interesting vote was cast by the school children on Arbor Day (May 8), 1891. They were to decide whether the golden rod or the rose should be the State flower of New York. The votes cast for the golden rod numbered 206,402 and for the rose 294,816. So the rose became the State flower “by a large majority.”
But, there’s more to the story.
From the Thirty-Eighth Annual Report of the State Superintendent, 1892, For the School Year Ending July 25, 1891:
The State Flower
I will announce the result of the vote on the State flower.
You will recollect that a year ago we voted for the State flower.
There was no limit upon the number of candidates.
As a result there were cast 318,000 votes, of which 81,000 were cast for the golden rod; 79,000 for the rose; 33,000 for the daisy; 31,000 for the violet; 21,000 for the pansy; 16,000 for the lily; 11,000 for the lily of the valley; 7,000 for trailing arbutus; 6,000 for the buttercup.
The scattering votes were distributed among 121 different varieties. You will observe that there was no majority for any single flower; and it was believed that if we were to adopt a flower which should fairly receive the designation of “State flower,” it should be one which had not only a plurality but a majority of the votes of the educators and children of the State.
It was also felt that if we were to take a vote over again in order to secure a majority for a single flower, that it would extend an interesting contest over another year and help furnish something with which to continue and augment interest in our Arbor day exercises.
Accordingly the schools were this year asked to vote again upon a State flower and to confine their vote to the golden rod and the rose, the two leading candidates in the former competition.
I may say that there was considerable more care exercised in issuing the notices in advance of Arbor day, and printed forms were distributed in advance in order to secure a very full return of the vote, and will also add, what you very well know, that all this secured a very considerable interest in the- vote this year.
There were cast this year 501,000 votes. We have returns from every school commissioner district in the State, save the first district of Allegany.
The returns which I have in detail but will not take time to read in full from the school commissioner districts, that is, that part of the State outside of the cities, shows 142,000 for the rose and 53,000 for the golden rod.
The vote in the cities is here given in detail and is full of interest.
I will not take time to read the statement in full, however.
In the city of Albany the vote was 5,789 for the rose, 4,069 for the golden rod.
In the city of New York the vote was 65,551 for the rose, 79,011 for the golden rod.
In Brooklyn the vote was 34,974 for the rose, 35,995 for the golden rod.
The normal schools of the State showed a vote of 1,300 for the rose, 1,571 for the golden rod.
Two of the Indian schools voted upon this question, and the vote stands seventy-four for the rose, fifty-seven for the golden rod.
Two parochial schools were good enough to send us their vote upon the question, and the vote was 394 for the rose and 866 for the golden rod.
The grand totals show a total of 294,816 for the rose; 206,402 for the golden rod. [Applause.]
The majority for the rose is 88,414.
The New York State Quarter Coin shows with an image of a wild rose.