Larry Lee forwarded a press release about several hundred pre-1900 checks that have been discovered from the first Denver Mint.
A horde of several hundred federal bank checks and documents
from the first branch Mint in Denver has been found in a private Colorado
collection. According to numismatic researcher Dr. Lawrence J. Lee, the document
collection includes letters, stock certificates and pre-Territorial records, as well as
U.S. Quartermaster and Paymaster checks issued by the Federal government for
payment of debts, salaries and expenses in the Rocky Mountain region prior to
1900. The horde include hundreds of checks issued by the United States Branch
Mint at Denver, Colorado, the so-called “first Denver mint,” which existed from
Most official U.S. government checks of the early Colorado period were drawn on
the First National Bank of Denver, the only Federal depository in the region.
Several different main check styles were used, with many minor variations. Most
Treasury checks are printed on specially watermarked U.S. Treasury Department
paper and have an image of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton on the right side. The
word “WAR” is printed in the lower right corner. This style of check was adopted by
the U.S. Treasury soon after the Civil War commenced and was apparently
continually used until at least the early 1900s.
The checks issued by the Denver
Mint are signed by the ‘Assayer in Charge’ and cover the period 1865-1899.
Clark, Gruber Bank & Mint and its successor, the First National Bank of Denver,
dominated banking in the western United States from its inception in 1860 to
merger in the mid-1980s. The Clark, Gruber minting function was purchased by the
U.S. government in 1863 and survives today as the United States Branch Mint at
The First National Bank had an extensive document archive that was broken up
thirty years ago, with much of the collection going to the Colorado State Historical
Society. Dr. Lee discovered and has control over a substantial and important
portion of the bank and mint archives that remains in private hands.
In the course of researching the first Denver Mint, Lee examined images of
documents from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and viewed the
contents of the Mint archives located at the Denver Federal Center on multiple
occasions. Leads from that research led Lee to the family with the private
Depository (depositary) checks were drawn on government funds at certain,
specially designated, nationally charted commercial banks. The checks drawn on
the FNB-Denver in the last quarter of the 1800s were from the Denver Assayers
Office of the U.S. Branch Mint in Denver. Other checks in the collection were used
to pay units on military posts, Indian agencies and other government entities.
The cache of U.S. Mint checks represents a huge research project that will take
some time to adequately explore and catalog, said Lee. “These checks contain a
perfect record of the activities of the U.S. Mint during a time when virtually nothing
is known of its day-to-day operations.”
He noted that in some cases, the Mint is cutting a check to a miner who has
brought in raw gold to be sold to the Mint. The check lists not only the name of the
miner and the amount of gold and silver contained in his ‘poke,’ but also lists the
name of the claim from where the gold was mined. Checks are also made to Mint
employees, providing a list of names, positions and pay scales. “This is invaluable
information,” said Lee. “It looks to me like someone’s PhD. dissertation waiting to
For more information about the Denver Mint checks, email Dr. Lawrence J. Lee at
firstname.lastname@example.org or write him at P.O. Box 6194, Lincoln, NE 68506.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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