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THE HISTORY OF THE EARLY UNITED STATES MINT - 1781 to 1791

by Ron Guth

The first United States Mint was built in 1792.  While much of the authorizing legislation is known, the daily workings of the Mint have gone largely unpublished, primarily because of a dearth of information.  Mint records have been lost, scattered, or poorly preserved.  Perhaps the best repository of Mint records is in the National Archives in Washington, DC.  The following chronology reconstructs the early years of the Mint based on the records in the National Archives and other sources.  The value in this chronology is that it provides detailed information about the activities at the Mint, it provides deductive answers to many questions that have arisen over the years about the early Mint and its personnel, and it gives the reader a "feel" for what it was like to build and maintain a Mint in the 1790's and early 1800's.

June 28, 1781

From: John Bradford

To: Samuel Huntington, President of Congress

"Sir . . I beg leave to mention to your Excellency that we have a very large quantity of rough copper laying in the Stores upwards of two years. It has always been supposed that it was sent with a design to mix with other metals for the purpose of Casting Brass Cannon. It is sort of Copper in so rough a State, as has not been seen among us. I have had the Opinion of several of our most ingenious artisans respecting the quality of it, who were all of the same Sentiment, that it was scarcely worth the freight, but two days ago I had an Essay made by Mr. Dudley, and we find it to be the purest copper. He melted down about two pounds into three ingots, and we find no dross among it. Mr. Dudley assured me he can roll it into Sheets of any thickness, and can either harden or soften it. We find it to be very malleable. He tells me that if Congress should see meet to Strike a parcel of coppers for a currency he can make the apparatus and go through the whole process. This gentleman comes to America highly recommended as a warm friend to our cause and being possessed of a most uncommon extensive genius. A Doctor Pei --- who was his patron left London with him to come over via France in order to bring over some arts unknown to us, but the Doctor was advertised and a large reward offered to stop him from taking Mr. Dudley out of the kingdom, but they just escaped being taken. The Character of both those Gentlemen are known to my son as being acquainted with them ten months in France. The Doctor is waiting a favorable opportunity to get to America. Mr. Dudley has already given such proofs to his ingenuity that ----- him as an important acquisition to this infant nation, and I hope he will meet the encouragement. I have the honour, etc."

Source: Papers of the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, Record Group 360, No. 78, IV, National Archives, also TAXAY, p. 13.

July 16, 1781

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Wrote to Mr. Dudley at Boston inviting him hither in consequence of the Continental Agent Mr. Bradford’s Letter respecting him referred to me by Congress".

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

July 17, 1781

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Wrote Mr. Bradford respecting Mr. Dudley."

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

November 10, 1781

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Ordered some money on application of Mr. Dudley to pay his expenses."

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

November 12, 1781

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Sent for Mr. Dudley to consult him respecting the quantity of Alloy Silver will bear without being discoloured, he says he can put six drops into an ounce. Desired him to assay some Spanish Dollars and French Crowns, in order to know the quantity of pure Silver in each."

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

November 16, 1781

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley assayed a number of Crowns and dollars for our information respecting the Mint."

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

January 2, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary

"Mr. Benjamin applied for money to pay his Board which I directed to be paid by Mr. Swanwick, this gentlemen is detained at the public expense as a person absolutely necessary in the Mint, which I hope soon to see established. My propositions on that subject are to be submitted to Congress so soon as I can get the proper assays made on Silver Coins, etc."

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

January 7, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary

"Mr. Dudley applies about getting his wife from England.  I promised him every assistance in my power."

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

January 15, 1782

"On the 15th of January, 1782, he [Robert Morris] laid before the Congress an exposition on the whole subject [of a National Mint]."

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

January 18, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"I went to Mr. Gouvr. Morris’s Lodging to examine the plan we had agreed on, and which we had drawn up respecting the Establishment of a Mint, we made some alterations and amendments to my satisfaction and from a belief that this is a necessary and salutory measure. I have ordered it copied and sent into Congress.

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.8

January 23, 1782

From: Robert Morris, in Philadelphia

To: Richard Yates

"At the request of a very honest Man who seems much distressed for the welfare of his wife, now in London, I beg to trouble you with the enclosed Letter, praying that you will forward it, and if in consequence thereof Mrs. Dudley should come to New York, I beg you to procure her Passage and reasonable expenses in New York, which must be reasonable as possible, she may draw upon her Husband, Mr. Benjamin Dudley, and I engage that the Draft shall be paid. I shall thank you for your attention to this poor Lady when she arrives..."

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

January 23, 1782

From: Robert Morris, in Philadelphia

To: The Commissary General of Prisoners

"I send herewith an open letter for Mr. Richard Yates containing one for Mrs. Dudley in London, from her husband now here. I wish these may be safely delivered to Mr. Yates, and therefore pray you to send them into New York, by some person that will not only promise, but perform the delivery of them..."

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

January 26, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley applied for money to pay his lodgings, etc. I ordered Mr. Swanwick to supply him with fifty dollars, informed him that the Plan of a Mint is before Congress, and when passed, that he shall be directly employed, if not agreed to by Congress, I shall compensate him for his time, etc."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.8

February 26, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Benjamin Dudley brought me the rough drafts or plan for the rooms of a Mint, etc. I desired him to go to Mr. Whitehead Humphreys to consult him about screws, Smithwork, etc. that will be wanted for the Mint, and to bring me a list thereof with an estimate of the Cost."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.8

February 28, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley informs me that a Mr. Wheeler, a Smith in the Country, can make the Screws, Rollers, etc., for the Mint. Mr. Dudley proposes the Dutch Church, that which is now unoccupied, as a place suitable for the Mint, I sent him to view it, and he returns satisfied that it will answer, wherefore I must enquire about it."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.8

March 22, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley and Mr. Wheeler came and brought with them some Models of the Screws and Rollers necessary for the Mint. I found Mr. Wheeler entertained some doubts respecting one of these machines which Mr. Dudley insists will answer the purposes and says that he will be responsible for it. I agreed with Mr. Wheeler that he should perform the work; and, as neither he nor I could judge of the value that ought to be paid for it, he is to perform the same agreeable to Mr. Dudley’s directions, and when finished, we are to have it valued by some Honest judges of such work, he mentioned Philip Syng, Edwd. Duffield, William Rush and ----- all of whom I believe are good judges and very honest men, therefore I readily agreed to this proposition. And I desired Mr. Dudley to consult Mr. Rittenhouse and Francis Hopkinson Esquire, as to the Machine or Wheel in dispute, and let me have their opinion."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.8; Taxay, The US MINT and Coinage, p. 17

March 23, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley called to inform me that Mr. Rittenhouse & Mr. Hopkinson agree to his plan of the Machine, etc."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.8

April 12, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley wants a horse to go up to Mr. Wheelers, etc."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.8

May 20, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley wrote me a letter this day and wanted money. I directed Mr. Swanwick to supply him, and then desired him to view the Mason’s Lodge to see if it would answer for a Mint, which he thinks it will, I desired him to go up to Mr. Wheelers to see how he goes with the Rollers, etc."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.9

June 17, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley applied for money for his bill. I directed Mr. Swanwick to supply him."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.9

June 18, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Issued a warrant in favor of B. Dudley 7.11.16."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.9

July 15, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley applied for money, he is very uneasy for want of employment, and the Mint in which he is to be employed and for which I have engaged him, goes on so slowly that I am also uneasy at having this gentleman on pay and no work for him. He offered to go and assist Mr. Byers to establish the Brass Cannon Foundry at Springfield. I advised to make that proposal to Genl. Lincoln and inform me the result to-morrow."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.9

July 25, 1782

From: Robert Morris, in Philadelphia
To: Rev. William Gordon, D.D.

"In consequence of your letter on the nineteenth of June, I sent for Mr. Dudley, told him of the information you had so kindly given me, and assured him of my desires to make him easy and happy. The business in which he is intended to be employed is like many other important matters, retarded by the tediousness of the States in supplying the Continental Treasury.

The Hon’ble Secretary at War has commenced a correspondence with General Gates at my request, which I think, will produce what he wishes. Be assured that I take particular pleasure in promoting the interest and happiness of worthy men..."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.9

July 16, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. B. Dudley to whom I gave an order on Mr. Swanwick for fifty dollars, and desired him to seek after Mr. Wheeler to know whether the Roller, etc., are ready for him to go to work on rolling the copper for the Mint."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.9

August 22, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Saml. Wheeler who made the Rollers for the Mint, applies for money. I had a good deal of conversation with this ingenious gentleman."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.9

August 26, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley called and pressed very much to be set at work."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.9

September 3, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. B. Dudley applied for a passage for his friend Mr. Sprague, pr. the Washington to France & for Mrs. Dudley back. Mr. Wheeler applied for money which I promised in a short time."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.9

September 4, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Wheeler for money. I desired him to leave his claim with Mr. McCall Secretary in this office, and I will enable the discharge of his notes in the Bank when due."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.9

November 8, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley applies for the amount of his bill for lodgings and diet, etc., and I directed Mr. Swanwick to pay him, but am very uneasy that the Mint is not going on."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.9

December 23, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley and Mr. Wilcox brought the subsistence paper, and I desired Mr. Dudley to deliver 4,000 sheets to Hall and Sellers."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.9

November 29, 1782

From: Robert Morris (Office of Finance)
To: Benjamin Dudley

"You will herewith receive the Form for making a particular kind of paper. You are to proceed to the Paper Mill of Mr. Mark Wilcox, in Ash Town Chester County, who has the stuff prepared, and there to superintend the making of sundry reams of Paper upon this form - in doing of which you are to be particularly careful not to leave it in the power of any person or persons to make any paper upon this Form without your Immediate Inspection.

You are to attend the Workmen constantly whilst they are at work, and when you retire from the Mill upon any occasion you are to take the Form with you. You are to count the Paper as it is made sheet by sheet and when you have finished the whole, you are to bring it to me together with the Form..."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.9

December 26, 1782

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Hall the printer brought 100 sheets of the subsistence notes on this day, and desired that more paper might be sent to his Printing Office, accordingly I sent for Mr. Dudley and desired him to deliver the same from time to time, until the whole shall amount to 4,000 sheets."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

February 8, 1783

"Jacob Eckfield was paid $5.18 for dies."

--Taxay, THE U.S. MINT & COINAGE, p. 17

March 21, 1783

"Dudley was paid $75.24 for 'preparing a Mint'."

--Taxay, THE U.S. MINT & COINAGE, p. 17

April 2, 1783

From Robert Morris’s Diary:

"I sent for Mr. Dudley who delivered me a piece of Silver Coin, being the first that has been struck as an American coin."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

April 16, 1783

From Robert Morris’s Diary:

"Sent for Mr. Dudley and urged him to produce the Coins to lay before Congress to establish a Mint."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

April 17, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Sent for Mr. Dudley to urge the preparing of Coins, etc. for establishing a Mint."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

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"John Swanwick was paid $22.42 for dies.

Swanwick was a business partner of Robert Morris, and the payment recorded on April 17 was apparently a re-imbursement for bills drawn against the former."

--Taxay, THE U.S. MINT & COINAGE, p. 17-18

April 22, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley sent in several pieces of Money as patterns of the intended American coins."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

April 23, 1783

"A day later, Morris enclosed the coins in a letter to Congress, requesting that he be allowed to explain his plan for a Mint, and to select a committee to report on the subject."

--TAXAY, U.S. MINT & COINAGE, p. 18

May 5, 1783

"A. Dubois was paid $72.00 for "sinking, casehardening, etc. four pairs of dies for the public Mint"."

--TAXAY, U.S. MINT & COINAGE, p. 18

May 6, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Sent for Mr. Dudley and desired him to go down to Mr. Mark Wilcox’s to see 15,000 Sheets of paper made fit to print my Notes on."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

May 7, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"This day delivered Mr. Dudley the paper Mold for making paper, mark’d United States, and dispatched him to Mr. Wilcox’s, but was obliged to advance him 20 dollars."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

May 27, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"I sent for Mr. Dudley to know if he had completed the paper at Mr. Wilcox’s paper mill, for the Certificates intended for the pay of the Army. He says it is made, but not yet sufficiently dry for the printers use. I desired him to repair down to the Mill and bring it up as soon as possible."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

May 28, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Whitehead Humphreys to offer his lot and buildings for erecting a Mint."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

July 5, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Benj. Dudley gave notice that he has received back from Messrs. Hall and Sellers the Printers, three thousand sheets of the last paper made by Mr. Wilcox. I desired him to bring it to this office. He also informs me of a Minting Press being in new York for sale, and urges me to purchase it for the use of the American Mint."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

July 7, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley respecting the Minting Press, but I had not time to see him."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

August 19, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"I sent for Mr. Benjamin Dudley, and informed him of my doubts about the establishment of a Mint, and desired him to think of some employment in private service, in which I am willing to assist him all in my power. I told him to make out an account for the services he had performed for the public, and submit at the Treasury office for inspection and settlement."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

August 30, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley brought the dies for Coining in the American Mint."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

September 3, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley applies for money for his expenses which I agree to supply, but urge his going into private business."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

September 4, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley for money, which is granted.  Directed him to make three models for constructing Dry----"

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

November 21, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley applies for money. He says he was at half a guinea a week and his expenses borne when he left Boston to come about the Mint, and he thinks the public ought to make that good to him. I desired him to write me and I will state his claims to Congress."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

November 26, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley for money, which was granted."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

December 17, 1783

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley with his account for final settlement. I referred him to Mr. Milligan."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

January 5, 1784

From Robert Morris’ Diary:

"Mr. Dudley applies for a Certificate of Time which he was detained in the public service. I granted him one accordingly."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

January 7, 1784

"Mr. Dudley after the settlement of his account, which I completed by signing a warrant."

Source: George C. Evans, History of the United States Mint and Coinage (Philadelphia: Published by the author, 1891), p.10

March 15, 1784

An independent reference to the copper 5-unit piece appears in the diary of Samuel Curwen, who on March 15, 1784 received a specimen from Judge Josiah Bartlett.

--TAXAY, U.S. MINT & COINAGE, p. 18

May 1, 1784

From: Robert Morris
To: Thomas Jefferson

". . . In this letter you will find enclosed my original letter to Congress of the 23rd of April 1783, together with Specimens of a Coin there mentioned. These you will be so kind as to deliver to the Secretary of Congress after you have done with them and as the Reasoning on such subjects is facilitated by a reference to visible objects let us take to the largest of these Silver Coins as the Money Unit divisible into a thousand parts each containing 1/4 of a grain of pure silver, and worth about two thirds of a Dollar, viz: 4/2 Virginia money. The smallest Copper piece is worth one Farthing Virginia money . . . "

--TAXAY, U.S. MINT & COINAGE, p. 18

April 15, 1790

"On the 15th of April, 1790, Congress instructed the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, to prepare and report a proper plan for the establishment of a National Mint, and Mr. Hamilton presented his report at the next session."

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

March 1791

Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton's Report on the Subject of a Mint - the complete text

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1792 | 1793 | 1794 | 1795 | 1796 | 1797