The Miracle of a Million Pennies

“You’re a legend in the great north woods, a figure of pioneer American living in our own day,” said Edwards, adding that “you never enter a room without a prayer on your lips.”

Twenty million Americans watched as the hoax unfolded. Within days 60 bags of mail had flooded the tiny Woodruff post office. One, five, or dozens of pennies stuffed in envelopes. Piggy banks and cookie jars and shoe boxes filled to the brim with pennies. Thousands more envelopes carried cash or checks. When all the money had been counted, the total was a whopping $106,000 — or 10,600,000 pennies!

It was more than enough money to complete the 18-bed hospital and furnish it with the latest medical equipment available. Lakeland Memorial Hospital was dedicated on July 21, 1954 and opened debt free.

Adding to the “cent-sationalism,” students at Arbor Vitae-Woodruff High School erected in 1954 the world’s largest penny. Standing 15 feet tall and weighing more than six tons, the Big Penny — like all pennies —proclaims the country’s national motto. Above the bust of Abraham Lincoln in letters eight inches tall are the words “In God We Trust.”

In 1988 the Dr. Kate Museum in Woodruff was dedicated as a memorial to the country doctor and all the people who made Lakeland Memorial Hospital a reality. They trusted, and God provided — in a million ways more than one!

Adapted from Penny Prayers: True Stories of Change by Marion Amberg (

To learn more about Dr. Kate Newcomb and the World’s Biggest Penny, visit

Copyright © 2021 Marion Amberg

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