PIONEER GOLD COINS
This is another company known only by its pattern coinage. A search of the shipping and overland lists of 1849 from the East to California reveals no such company. There is, however, a letter sheet with a vignette of the known Pelican and Company $10 pattern. On the paper the PELICAN COMPANY “offers its services to the miners and merchants of Upper California,” for casting ingots and “Stamping Gold pieces of Ten, Five and Two-and-a-Half Dollar Value.” In addition, there appears on the handbill a recommendation from the active Superintendent of the New Orleans Mint that Dr. Pearson, evidently the Pelican Company’s assayer, was a competent gentleman. Additional endorsements as to Dr Pearson’s skills came from Chemistry Professor J. L. Riddell of the University of Louisiana, and John Brooks, coiner of the New Orleans Mint.
The letter sheet seems to be a reference to a planned mint in California, and since the pelican is Louisiana’s state bird, the use of this bird on the proposed coinage by someone from New Orleans seems logical. The endorsements are dated March 26th and 28th, 1849, making this one of the earliest proposed gold coining companies.
One specimen each of a $1, $2 1/2, and $10 piece is known in silver (the $1) or brass. Presumably a $5 piece was also contemplated. No Dr. Pearson is listed on passenger lists from New Orleans to Panama or San Francisco during 1849, so the venture may not have been established in California.
--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