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1781-1791 | 1793 | 1794 | 1795 | 1796 | 1797

THE HISTORY OF THE EARLY UNITED STATES MINT - 1792

by Ron Guth

"An act was framed establishing the mint, which finally passed both Houses and received President Washington’s approval April 2, 1792." (During the Confederation the different states had the unquestioned right to coin money, but only according to the standard of fineness, weight, and value, prescribed by the central government)."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p. 7

An act passed by Congress, April 2, 1792, ordained "That a Mint for the purpose of a national coinage be and the same is established; to be situate and carried on at the seat of the government of the United States, for the time being."

Reference in the bibliography

April 14, 1792

"On April 14, 1792, Washington appointed David Rittenhouse, the foremost scientist of America, the first director of the Mint at a salary of $2000 per annum. Rittenhouse was then in feeble health and lived at the northwest corner of Seventh and Arch Streets, then one of the high places of Old Philadelphia, where he had an observatory and where he later died and was first buried."

Stewart, Frank H. "George Washington and the First U.S. Mint". The Numismatist, April, 1925.

May, 1792

In May, 1792, President Washington provided for the purchase of an L-shaped plot of ground on Seventh Street, Philadelphia, near Market Street, together with three small buildings of different size and shape. Here the Mint of the United States was established, and remained for forty-one years, with an extensive remodeling in 1816.

Dr. William H. Sheldon, Penny Whimsy (New York, Harper Brothers, 1958)

July, 1, 1792

Washington, on the first of July following, appointed David Rittenhouse to be the "Director of the Mint." Rittenhouse very soon thereafter entered upon the duties of his office.

Sylvester Sage Crosby, The United States Coinage of 1793. -- Cents and Half Cents. (Boston: Published by the author, 1897)

July 9, 1792

To: David Rittenhouse, Director of the Mint
From: George Washington, President

"Having had under consideration the letter of the Director of the Mint on this day's date, I hereby declare my approbation of the purchase he has made of the house and lot for the Mint; of the employment of Mr. Voight as Coiner, of the procuring fifteen tons of copper, and dimes and half-dismes of silver, and I leave to his discretion to have such alterations and additions made to the buildings purchased, as he shall find necessary; satisfied that under his orders no expense will be incurred which reason and necessity will not justify.  And I desire that he will make out an Estimate of the sums of money which will be wanting for these purposes, and of the times at which they will be wanting, in order to enable the Treasury to make arrangements for furnishing then with convenience."

Source - The "Letter Book" copy in the "Washington Papers."  A press copy of the draft, in Jefferson's writing, is in the "Jefferson Papers" in the Library of Congress.

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Rittenhouse recommended to Washington, who resided on the south side of Market Street, below Sixth, that an old distillery of Michael Shubert, located on lots now known as Nos. 37 and 39 North Seventh Street and 631 Filbert Street, be purchased for the use of the Mint.  Washington approved of the purchase as recommended by Rittenhouse, under the date of July 9, 1792.

Source - Stewart, Frank H., "George Washington And The First U.S. Mint".  The Numismatist, April, 1925.

July 18, 1792

Frederick Hailer and Christiana his wife agreed on this date to rent to the U.S. Government two lots (one, 36.10 by 99, the other 17 by 56.10, bounded westward by a four foot alley or passage. Ground rent on the two lots was to be 21 Spanish silver pieces of eight each weighing 17 dwts and 6 grs., or value thus in lawful money under Pennsylvania law.

Record Group 104, Entry 1 in the National Archives

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While it is not ordinarily remembered, except by historians and perhaps a few numismatists, the date of July 18, 1792 marks the birth of our Philadelphia Mint. Tradition has it that owing to a lack of bullion, the first coins to be struck at the Mint - silver half dimes - were wrought from sterling teaspoons donated by President Washington. It is said that, a year later, Washington contributed "an excellent copper tea-kettle as well as two pair of tongs" to begin the manufacture of cents and half cents.

Don Taxay, Counterfeit, Mis-Struck, and Unofficial U.S. Coins (New York, Arco Publishing Company, 1963)

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The property was paid for and deeded to the United States of America for a consideration of $4266.67 on July 18, 1792. The money for the Mint was the first money appropriated by Congress for a building to be used for a public purpose.

Stewart, Frank H. "George Washington and the First U.S. Mint". The Numimatist, April, 1925.

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Warrant No. 1  Frederick Hailer, for the lot and buildings for the Mint $4,266.67

Source - Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse, National Archives

July 30, 1792

Warrant No. 2  Henry Voigt, to pay workmen - $170.21

Source - Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse, National Archives

July 31, 1792

This day, about 10 o’clock in the forenoon, the foundation-stone was laid for the Mint, by David Rittenhouse, Esq.

Sylvester Sage Crosby, The United States Coinage of 1793. -- Cents and Half Cents. (Boston: Published by the author, 1897)

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An old still-house, which stood on the lot, had first to be removed. In an account book of that time we find an entry on the 31st of July, 1792, of the sale of some old materials of the still-house for seven shillings and sixpence, which "Mr. Rittenhouse directed should be laid out for punch in laying the foundation stone."

George C. Evans, Source: History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891)

(A foundation stone is a stone that is part of the foundation of a building or a cornerstone - Webster’s New World Dictionary 1955)

August 4, 1792

Warrant No. 3. Christopher Hart, for 92 3/4 perches of stone for the new building $86.56

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

(A perch is a cubic measure of stone, usually equal to 24 3/4 cubic feet - Webster’s New World Dictionary 1955)

August 13, 1792

Warrant No. 4. Henry Voigt, to pay workmen $200
Warrant No. 5. John Nancarrow, for 28 loads of clay for fire bricks $112

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

August 24, 1792

Warrant No. 6. Josiah Gaskill, for scantling $52.72

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

(Scantling: "a small beam or timber, especially one of small cross-section, as a 2x4" - Webster’s New World Dictionary 1955)

August 25, 1792

The foundation was completed and ready for the superstructure on Saturday the 25th of August following, and the framework was raised in the afternoon of that day.

Sylvester Sage Crosby, The United States Coinage of 1793. -- Cents and Half Cents. (Boston: Published by the author, 1897)

August 29, 1792

Warrant No. 7. John Harper, for cutting, presses, castings $217.85

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

September 1, 1792

Warrant No. 8. Wm. Dixey, pump maker, for work $36.31
Warrant No. 9. Henry Voigt, to pay workmen $200.00
Warrant No. 10. John Harper $34.42

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

September 7, 1792

"The work was rapidly pushed forward after this date, and the building was so far completed that the workmen commenced operations 'in the shop' preparing the internal arrangements, such as bellows, furnaces, etc., on Friday the seventh of September.

Source - Sylvester Sage Crosby, The United States Coinage of 1793. -- Cents and Half Cents.  (Boston: Published by the author, 1897)

Analysis - Crosby makes a minor error in that the 7th of September was a Saturday, not a Friday.

September 11, 1792

Warrant No. 11. Potts and Hobart, 2,781 lbs. of wrought iron, double refined $238.49

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

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"On the Tuesday following (September 7), six pounds of old copper were purchased for the Mint, at 1s 3d per pound; this being the first purchase of copper for coining."

Sylvester Sage Crosby, The United States Coinage of 1793. -- Cents and Half Cents. (Boston: Published by the author, 1897)

September 21, 1792

Two of these (presses) had arrived from England on September 21, 1792, supposedly from the Boulton and Watt Mint at Soho near Birmingham, where Droz was employed.

Dr. William H. Sheldon, Penny Whimsy (New York, Harper Brothers, 1958)

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The coining presses (three in number) which they were obliged to import from abroad, arrived at the Mint on Friday, the 21st of September, . . .

Sylvester Sage Crosby, The United States Coinage of 1793. -- Cents and Half Cents. (Boston: Published by the author, 1897)

September 25, 1792

" . . .Flute began after breakfast, trimming the heavy press."

Sylvester Sage Crosby, The United States Coinage of 1793. -- Cents and Half Cents. (Boston: Published by the author, 1897)

September 26, 1792

Warrant No. 13. John Butler, for patterns for casting $47.75
Warrant No. 14. Jacob Craft, for smith work $70.16

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

October 1792

Interesting proposal for incuse designs on United States coins
  -- "Thoughts on Coinage", The American Museum of Universal Magazine, October 1792, Volume 12, No. 4, pp. 203-204

In this fourth annual address to Congress, in October, 1792 . . . . .

Stewart, Frank H. "George Washington and the First U.S. Mint". The Numismatist, April, 1925

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"These presses were put into operation in the beginning of October, and were used for striking the half dimes of which Washington makes mention in his Annual Address to Congress on the 6th of November, 1792 . ."

Sylvester Sage Crosby, The United States Coinage of 1793. -- Cents and Half Cents. (Boston: Published by the author, 1897)

October 2, 1792

Warrant No. 12. Edward Simmons, for scantling $30.60

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

October 3, 1792

Warrant No. 15. Henry Voigt, for expenses of Mint $400.00

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

October 10, 1792

Warrant No. 16. John Gullen, for stone sill and window heads $21.65

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

October 16, 1792

Warrant No. 17. James and Shoemaker, 1451 lbs. of copper and 140 lb. of lead $368.97

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

October 20, 1792

To: The Secretary of State
From: George Washington, President

"The letters of Gouvr. Morris give a gloomy picture of the Affairs of France. I fear with too much truth.

If the order of the Senate dated the 7th of the last May is completed, it must be with all offices except the Judges.

The Post Office (as a branch of Revenue) was annexed to the Treasury in the time of Mr. Osgood; and when Colo. Pickering was appointed thereto, he was informed, as I find by my letter to him dated the 29th of August 1791, that he was to consider it in that light. If from relationship, or usage in similar cases (for I have made no enquiry into the matter, having been closely employed since you mentioned the thing to me, in reading papers from the War Office) the Mint does not appertain to the Department of the Treasury, I am more inclined to add it to that of State than to multiply the duties of the other.

P.S. The letters of Mr. Seagrove to Genl. Know are a contin., of the evidence of Spanish interference with the Southern Indians."

October 24, 1792

Warrant No. 18. David Ridgway, 109,150 bricks at 35s, and 2,070 fire bricks $553.25

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

October 25, 1792

Warrant No. 19.  John Coulston, 794 bushels lime $158.80

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

November 6, 1792

An excerpt from George Washington’s Address to the Congress

"In the execution of the Authority given by the legislature, measures have been taken for engaging some artists from abroad to aid in the Establishment of our Mint, others have been employed at home. Provision has been made for the requisite buildings, and these are now being put into proper condition for the purposes of the establishment. There has also been a small beginning of half-dimes; the want of small coins in circulation calling the first attention to them."

November 7, 1792

Warrant No. 20. David Ridgway, 7367 fire bricks $44.50

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

November 12, 1792

Warrant No. 21. John Rutter & Co., sundry iron castings $221.60

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

November 22, 1792

Warrant No. 22. Daniel Clawges, painting and glazing $40.66
Warrant No. 24. Henry Voigt, for sundry parcels of copper purchased by him $269.86
Warrant No. 25. Henry Voigt, to pay workmen at the Mint $277.27
Warrant No. 26. Isaac Hough, clerk, for his services to November 12th $38.00

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

November 23, 1792

Warrant No. 23. Henry Voigt, to pay workmen, and cash paid by him for materials $580.60
Warrant No. 27. George Young, 24 loads of building sand $16.00
Warrant No. 28. Japhet Ireland, for 60 bus. charcoal $6.60
Warrant No. 32. George Wecherley, for brass castings $8.80

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

November 24, 1792

Warrant No. 29. Frederick Stall, for ropes $2.26

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

November 26, 1792

Warrant No. 30. John West, for boards and scantling $580.00
Warrant No. 31. Gustavus and Hugh Colhoun, for 4140 lbs. copper at 25 cents $1057.24

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

November 29, 1792

To: The Secretary of Treasury
From: George Washington, President

"It having been represented by the Director of the Mint, that the late rise in the price of copper, and the difficulty of obtaining it, render it improbable that the quantity authorized to be procured can be had, unless some part of it be imported by the United States; it is therefore thought proper that measures should be taken to obtain a quantity from Europe on the public account; and as it is estimated that the sum of Ten thousand dollars will be necessary for this purpose, you are hereby requested, if consistent with the arrangements of the Treasury, to have a bill for the above sum drawn on the Bankers of the United States in Holland, payable to Mr. Pinckney our Minister in Great Britain."

(On. Nov. 29, Lear, by the President’s command, informed Jefferson of this letter and added: "The President, however, suggests that it would not perhaps be the best to confine Mr. Pinckney strictly to Sweden for the purchase of the copper, but to leave it to his discretion to obtain it where it can be had on the most advantageous terms, after calling his attention to Sweden, for the reason mentioned in this letter from the Director of the Mint to the Secretary of the State". Lear’s letter is in the Jefferson Papers in the Library of Congress.

On December 30, Washington approved the letter from Jefferson to Pinckney of that date "but after mentioning Sweden as the country most likely to obtain copper from, I think it would be better not to confine him to the purchase there". This approval is in the Jefferson Papers as is also a press copy of Jefferson’s letter to Pinckney of December 30.)

December 6, 1792

Warrant No. 33. Allman & Guy, bricklayers. $529.05

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

December 8, 1792

Warrant No. 34. David Ridgway, for bricks $41.46

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

December 12, 1792

Warrant No. 35. Daniel Dawson, for large screw and smith’s bellows $66.22
Warrant No. 37. George Ludlam, 500 lbs. bar lead $33.33

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

December 14, 1792

Warrant No. 36. Adam Eckfeldt, for smith work $194.85

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

December 16, 1792

Warrant No. 40. Jacob Hansell, for a ten plate stove $18.63

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

December 17, 1792

Warrant No. 39. Jacob Herneiser, for hauling earth, etc. $5.55

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

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"After a search I found at the present Philadelphia Mint account book No.2 of Henry Voigt, the first chief coiner. On December 17, 1792, he wrote in this small memoranda book: "Struck off a few pieces of copper coins."

Stewart, Frank H. "George Washington and the First U.S. Mint". The Numismatist, April, 1925; Sylvester Sage Crosby, The United States Coinage of 1793. -- Cents and Half Cents. (Boston: Published by the author, 1897)

December 18, 1792

Warrant No. 38. Amos Subers, for black lead, muffles and pots $34.40

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

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". . . a letter in the archives of the Department of State at Washington that for-ever settled the matter, in my mind at least. The letter was sent by Jefferson to Washington the very next day after Voigt had made his memorandum. It said: "Thomas Jefferson has the honor of sending the President two cents made on Voigt’s plan by putting a silver plug worth three-quarters of a cent into a copper worth one-quarter of a cent. Mr. Rittenhouse is about to make a few by mixing the same plug by fusion with the same quantity of copper. He will then make one of copper alone of the same size, and lastly he will make the real cent as ordered by Congress four times as big."

Stewart, Frank H. "George Washington and the First U.S. Mint". The Numismatist, April, 1925

December 31, 1792

Warrant No. 41. Tristam Dalton, Treasurer, salary from June 1st to December 31, 1793 $700.00

--Account of Warrants drawn by David Rittenhouse

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