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The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 1, January 2, 2011, Article 9

ERIC NEWMAN ON THE PRE-HISTORY OF THE FIRST U.S. MINT

The January 2011 issue of The Whitman Review has a featured column by Eric P. Newman, who wrote the foreword to The Secret History of the First U.S. Mint by Len Augsburger and Joel Orosz. It's a great overview of the history leading up to the creation of the first U.S. Mint. Here's a very short excerpt. -Editor

Eric P. Newman Private contractors continued to seek authorization to strike coins for the United States. English minters in 1791 struck quantities of samples of WASHINGTON PRESIDENT copper one-cent pieces and in 1792 coined an improved design to include 13 stars. Peter Getz of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, submitted 1792 half dollar–size trial coinage with a numeric presidential legend (G. WASHINGTON PRESIDENT I) in accordance with pending congressional legislation. That coinage was immediately deemed unacceptable.

It was obvious that having gold and silver coinage minted in Europe was impractical because of the risk of sea transport to the United States. Copper coinage minted in England for the United States was somewhat practical because much copper was produced and refined there. When the first U.S. Mint was under construction in Philadelphia, quantities of copper were purchased from Swedish and English sources, and the U.S. Mint advertised in a Philadelphia newspaper to buy copper. An English source thereafter furnished many copper planchets for the first U.S. Mint.

In the thinking for the development and operation of a U.S. Mint, many problems had to be solved. Sufficient water power was not available in Philadelphia or New York or in a future possibility of the new federal capital along the Potomac River. The advantage of steam power was known in America from the successful Boulton & Watt private enterprise in Soho, near Birmingham, England, but the Royal Mint in London had not introduced that type of energy. Steam power in the United States was not then sufficiently developed. Therefore, the first U.S. Mint had to rely on the power of horses and the strength and physical coordination of men, which, although very burdensome, had the virtue of reliability. With mechanical skills available there, the location of choice was Philadelphia.

Secret History of the U.S. Mint Jefferson’s hope and dream came true after about 18 years of the struggle and devotion of many. The coins minted at the first U.S. Mint are evidence of its achievement. The exciting historical detail of that establishment is outstandingly presented by Leonard Augsburger and Joel Orosz in The Secret History of the First U.S. Mint: How Frank H. Stewart Destroyed—And Then Saved—A National Treasure.

To read the complete article, see: Guest Column, January 2011 (www.whitmanbooks.com/Default.aspx?Page=55&HTMLName=ReviewGuest_0111)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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