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PACIFIC COMPANY COINS

1849 $1 Silver 
1849 $1 Silver - on a 1776 Spanish Real 
1849 $1 Silver - on a U.S. Half Dime 
1849 $1 White Metal 
1849 $1 Gold 
1849 $2.50 Silver (sometimes gilt) 
1849 $5 Copper
1849 $5 Silver - on a U.S. Quarter Dollar 
1849 $5 Gold - Reeded edge 
1849 $10 Copper
1849 $10 Gold - Plain edge 
1849 $10 Gold - Reeded edge 

Available evidence seems to indicate that though coins were issued with [Pacific Company] on them, dated 1849, these coins probably were minted by another company from discarded or sold dies bearing this name, with the proceeds from the dies' use probably not accruing in whole or part to any firm called by this name.

The origin and composition of the company who probably made or commissioned dies bearing the Pacific Company name is shrouded in mystery.  There are four candidates for that honor, none of whom can be established conclusively as titleholder, even though the evidence favors one of them.  One possibility is the PACIFIC MINING & TRADING CO. (also called Pacific Co.) which was organized in Richmond, Virginia.  This company left Richmond on March 16, 1849, sailed around Cape Horn on the ship Marianne and reached San Francisco September 20th.  There is no indication that this company planned to issue gold coins and it may well have been simply a travel group that dissolved upon reaching its destination.

Another company, PACIFIC ADVENTURERS' ASSN., left Philadelphia on March 22, 1849.  As no further account of its proceedings can be found, it is possible that it, too, was nothing more than a high-sounding name given to a body of would-be pioneers, who disbanded on arrival, if they ever reached California.

On January 11, 1851, the PACIFIC MINING CO. was organized in San Francisco with the avowed purpose of using a recently purchased steamer, the Chesapeake, to exploit the gold discovered on the beach of Humboldt Bay, a few miles below the mouth of the Klamath River (approximately 200 miles north of San Francisco).  Since the known "Pacific Company" coin specimens are dated 1849, it is highly unlikely that the Pacific Mining Co. issued them.

Evidence would indicate that the most likely venture to have issued these coins is the PACIFIC COMPANY.  This company was formed on January 8, 1849, by Boston merchant John W. Cartwright of 32 India Street.  The first public mention of the formation of this firm was a Boston Herald article which appeared on January 27, 1849:

The "Pacific" Company is forming at this port.  The number is limited to thirty, who contribute $1,000 each.  The ship York has been purchased, and will be fitted out as a home for the company in California for two years.  They propose to sail about the 20th of February.

Evidently thirty passengers were not enough to pay expenses and the ship was delayed until thirty-eight passengers signed aboard.  The York finally sailed out of Boston port on April 1 for its five and one-half month journey to San Francisco.  On September 16, 1849, the Pacific Company arrived in San Francisco and from the diary of one of its members, we are able to get a vivid contemporaneous view of San Francisco on the day the York glided through the "Golden Gate."

San F. is an odd little village of a few hundred shanties & tents around a plaza--very lively--much business--very dusty--very rough.  A couple of hundred ships in the harbor at Anchor.  All that board us say that our company will break up as all others have done.  

The York with its party on board proceeded to Benicia where they anchored on October 8, but as the previous editorial predicted, as soon as they arrived, the company began disbanding and on the twentieth it officially dissolved.  The only significant fact that indicates that this company may have made the dies inscribed PACIFIC COMPANY, lies in the fact that the chronology of issue fits such an hypothesis.  The dies could easily have been sold to enterprising individuals such as Broderick and Kohler (see above), who then used them to strike the coins the next month.

The historian is frustrated in that no documentation has apparently survived concerning the coinage plans of any of these firms.  Perhaps none of them planned to issue coins, and the dies for the "Pacific Company" $2 1/2 and $5 coins were engraved at the order of and entirely different group.  In any case, sufficient facts have not been revealed to make any firm conclusion about the derivation of extant coins bearing the name "Pacific Company."

--Reprinted with permission of the author from Donald H. Kagin's, "Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States", copyright 1981, Arco Publishing, Inc. of New York, pp 163-167.

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Sources and/or recommended reading:
"Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States" by Donald H. Kagin

 
 

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