Matt Rothert Sr. (1904–1989)
aka: Matthew Herman Rothert Sr.
Matthew Herman (Matt) Rothert Sr., a nationally recognized coin collector, was responsible for having “In God We Trust” placed on U.S. paper currency. He was a furniture manufacturer and president of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) from 1965 to 1967.
Matt Rothert was born on March 17, 1904 in Huntingburg, Indiana. Little is known of his family, though he had at least two sisters. Rothert received a BS from Notre Dame University in 1924, moved to Camden (Ouachita County), and founded the Camden Furniture Company, serving as its president until he retired in 1975. On April 10, 1937, he married Janet Hope Firring. They had two boys and two girls.
Rothert’s interest in numismatics, or coin collecting, began when he found his father’s old coins. In time, his interest and collection grew and included rare items. Among these were a Confederate silver penny, one of twelve minted, and a $50 Federal Reserve note, then worth $2,000.
At church one Sunday in 1953, looking at the collection plate, Rothert realized that only coins bore the motto “In God We Trust.” He believed that a message about God on U.S. paper currency would reach more people because of its wider circulation. Rothert wrote letters and gave speeches promoting his idea. As a result, Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, along with several other senators and representatives from around the country, proposed the bill to Congress. President Dwight Eisenhower signed the proposal into law on July 11, 1955.
For his work in numismatics, Rothert received the ANA Medal of Merit in 1960 and later served as president of the ANA. In addition, he received its highest accolade, the Farran Zerbe Award, in 1973. One of his three books, Arkansas Obsolete Notes and Scrip (1985), won an award from the Numismatic Literary Guild in 1986.
Rothert died on September 18, 1989. He is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Camden.
For additional information:
Laseter, Mary A. “Currency With A Message.” Arkansas Democrat Sunday Magazine, August 6, 1961, p. 5.
Obituary of Matthew H. Rothert Sr. The Numismatist 101 (December 1989): 2035.
Smith, Pete. American Numismatic Biographies. Rocky River, OH: Gold Leaf Press, 1992.
Conor J. Hennelly
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