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The E-Sylum:  Volume 3, Number 33, August 13, 2000, Article 9

MAKING COINS AT THE SAN FRANCISCO MINT 

   Dave Hirt brought with him to the convention a very rare 
   pamphlet titled "Something About Coins" by E. I. Barra, 
   San Francisco, 1863.  (See The E-Sylum: Volume 2, 
   Number 19:  May 9, 1999).   The pamphlet includes this 
   account of operations at the United States Branch Mint, 
   San Francisco (p16-17), and coincidentally, it discusses 
   the making of gold bars from bullion: 

   "Persons desirous of visiting the Mint can do so any day it is 
   in operation, between the hours of 9 and 12 o'clock in the 
   forenoon.  On making application at the door the visitor is 
   referred to the conductor, whose sole office it is to receive 
   and conduct those who wish to examine the Mint.  The visitor 
   is requested to sign his name in a register kept for that purpose, 
   and then is shown - first, into the weighing-room; here all the 
   gold and silver is received, weighed, and a receipt given to the 
   depositor.   Melting-room - In this room the gold is melted and 
   run into bars,  when it is taken into the chipping-room, where a 
   chip is taken from each bar for the purpose of assaying and 
   estimating its fineness; it is again melted, and two parts of silver 
   to one part of gold added; after it is thus mixed the liquid metal 
   is poured into water, which causes it to granulate.  The 
   granulation is put into porcelain pots, and the refining is done 
   by the use of nitric acid, which has no effect upon gold, while it 
   holds base metals and silver in solution, and the gold settles to 
   the bottom.  It is then thoroughly washed with water to free it 
   from acid, and placed in a hydraulic-press, where it is pressed 
   into cakes resembling cheese - it is again melted, and again 
   assayed, and sufficient copper mixed with it to bring it to the 
   American standard of 900 fine. It is then cast into ingots, and 
   rolled from ingots into bars, which are drawn into flat uniform 
   strips; from these strips are cut the planchets, which, although 
   cut as near uniform as possible, are not sufficiently so to obviate 
   the necessity of their being sent into the adjusting-room - here 
   each piece is weighed, and, if too heavy, it is filed down to the 
   standard, and, if too light, it is sent into the melting-room. The 
   adjusting is done by women.  After the planchets are adjusted 
   they are again sent into the annealing-room, and there prepared 
   for coining by being placed in copper boxes and put into the 
   furnace and brought to a red heat; they are then sent into the 
   coining-room and passed through the coining press, where 
   each piece receives the impressions on both sides at the same 
   time, and thereby becomes the coin of the United States of 
   America, which we all so much admire, and are so anxious 
   to be possessed of. 

   Money is proverbially called the root of all evil; with how 
   much correctness the writer will not attempt to question; 
   but will ask if it is the root of all evil, is it not the medium of 
   great amount of good? Money is the medium of exchange, 
   and without it the baker will not part with his bread, nor 
   the farmer with his wheat, and so on through all the 
   ramifications of trade, without its equivalent in some form no 
   man will part with his property, and the most compact, 
   convenient, and convertible form is money; consequently as 
   society is organized money is necessary to our existence. The 
   writer was shown through the Mint by the gentlemanly 
   conductor, who imparted all the information the nature of his 
   business would permit him to do, as there were other visitors 
   constantly arriving who had a claim upon his attention. - The 
   writer met a gentleman in the Mint who was once attached to 
   the Mint at New Orleans, at which time the writer had the 
   pleasure of forming his acquaintance.  From him much of the 
   information of the practical operations of the Mint was obtained, 
   and the obligation is herein gratefully acknowledged." 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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