The World's Largest Penny - Atlas Obscura

The World's Largest Penny

Woodruff, Wisconsin

In 1953, a group of Wisconsin high school students helped build a hospital by collecting over a million pennies. 


Standing 15 feet tall, 12 inches thick, and weighing in at nearly nine tons, this massive coin in Woodruff, Wisconsin, is the world’s largest penny. It wasn’t built by a coin collector or the president featured on its front, but rather to honor Dr. Kate Pelham Newcomb, who collected over a million pennies to build a new hospital.

In 1931, Newcomb moved to northern Wisconsin from New York City so her husband could benefit from clean country air. Hospitals were few and far between in the area, and Newcomb would drive hundreds of miles in a day to reach some of her most isolated patients. In the winter, she would walk to places where the snowplows couldn’t get through, earning her the nickname “Angel on Snowshoes.”

Newcomb began raising funds to build a new hospital in the community in 1949. Donations came in, albeit slowly, and despite still being short of the funding goal, they broke ground on the facility in 1952. Their missing funds came from an unexpected place: a geometry class at a local high school. While learning about the concept of a million, the class set out to collect 1 million pennies and agreed to donate the coins to the hospital fund. They called it the Million Penny Parade.

As students mailed out hundreds of letters, their efforts got picked up in local news and even made it to the national stage. Newcomb was invited onto the show This Is Your Life and after her appearance, pennies started showing up by the armful at the Woodruff post office. In addition to the $10,000 originally raised by Woodruff students, they raised another $105,000 in donations. (The total would be equivalent to over $1.3 million in 2024.) 

The Lakeland Memorial Hospital opened in 1954. A few months later, this massive penny was built a few blocks from the hospital as a monument to Dr. Kate and the students who made the Million Penny Parade happen.

Know Before You Go

The Dr. Kate Museum is located around the corner from the World's Largest Penny. Housed in her former office, the museum celebrates Dr. Kate Pelham Newcomb's life and legacy.

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