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


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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