The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 12, March 21, 2005, Article 25


Mark Borckardt writes: "Bob Korver of the Heritage staff
recently asked about the mementoes made for Frank Stewart
from timbers of the first Mint building. Chairs, a bench, gavels,
and paperweights were described by Stewart in his History
of the First Mint. Bob wants to know if any of these items
still exist today, and where they are located. He can be
contacted at Korver at"

Bob wrote about his quest in a recent Heritage electonic

I must also confess that I am often distracted by one of
eBay's great marketing come-ons, "Other Postings by This
Seller." Following one such trail of breadcrumbs, I 'discovered'
a posting for Our New Home and Old Times, a book of
which I was previously unaware, but promised to include
much early history of the electrical products distribution
business as well as the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. Only
modestly intrigued, I put in a 'throw-away' bid without
doing any research, and won; when the very thin package
arrived, I opened it with about the same sense of dread if
I had bid on a raw, fuzzy-photoed $30 coin.

Long story short, the eBay description of the book was
precisely correct. The book was published in 1913 by the
Frank H. Stewart Electric Company, purveyors of industrial
wiring products: insulators, wire, fuses, conduit, etc.
Stewart's business was successful enough to construct a
new "fire-proof building of the best type," of "steel, concrete
and brick." Unfortunately for future generations of numismatists,
the location they chose for this magnificent new cathedral of
commerce was 37 North Seventh Street, and the building
razed in 1911 to accommodate Stewart's six-story behemoth
was the original U.S. Mint. More than a dozen full-page
photographs of the company's "over one thousand" new
shelving bins and storage rooms are proudly included, the
latest in turn-of-the-century industrial chic. But enough of

One other photograph definitely caught my eye: aware of
the historic significance of the original Mint Building, the
Stewart Company constructed a bench and two chairs in
1911 from the "oak timbers of the coinage building of the
old mint."

"The bench and chairs... were made of oak joists from the
Coinage building. These timbers were so hard that the
cabinetmaker claimed extra compensation for his work.
One hundred and twenty years of seasoning gave the wood
an obstinacy which even a novice would suspect if he were
to feel the weight of the furniture. The bench has a suitably
engraved brass plate screwed on the top piece. About two
dozen gavels and the same quantity of paper weights made
of the same wood as the bench and chairs were made for
us by Mr. James Barton, of Camden, N.J. These rare
mementos were nearly all distributed at the cornerstone
laying to those participating and a few special guests."

Anyone know if any of these still exist?"

"The unlisted author of this book refers to a "forthcoming
history of the First United States Mint" referring almost
certainly to Frank H. Stewart's History of the First United
States Mint, published in 1924 (and typically encountered
in the Quarterman reprint. Mention is also made of the "ye
Olde Mint" booklet, which seems to have been previously
printed by the Stewart Electric Company. I was not
particularly familiar with the Stewart book, being an 'Evans'
fan myself, so I visited Mark Van Winkle, Heritage's chief
cataloger, in his book lined office (some guys have all the
luck). I showed him the photo of the bench and chairs, and
we both wondered if they might still exist. Neither of us had
heard of existing gavels or paperweights either. He then
pulled down his copy of Stewart, and we discovered the
same photos were published therein! I had reinvented a
numismatic wheel, so to speak. Personally, I am blaming
it on age; Mark can use whatever excuse he wants.

All in all, a fair number of numismatic challenges out of a
$30 purchase."

The complete text of the article, with illustrations, is
on this web page: Full Story

[Bob reports that since publishing his article he has located
two of the gavels and one gavel 'target'. -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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