Editor's Note: This is the first of a two-part installment. Read the second installment here.
By David Finkelstein, Joel J. Orosz and Len Augsburger
For more than 50 years, multiple numismatic researchers have speculated as to which silver bullion deposit was used for coining the 1,758 mintage of 1794 dollars, and which silver bullion depositor or depositors received those 1794 dollars. Many of these incorrect speculations came to be regarded as fact, simply because they were put in print. They have been reprinted by others, and now appear in multiple publications and auction catalogs and on several websites. Due to the rediscovery of the first partial coin return warrant issued by Mint Director David Rittenhouse by Joel Orosz and Len Augsburger, we now know that:
1. The silver from David Rittenhouse’s two silver bullion deposits of Aug. 22, 1794, was used for coining the 1,758 1794 dollars.
2. On Oct. 15, 1794, David Rittenhouse received all 1,758 1794 dollars in a partial coin return towards his two silver deposits.
3. The Bank of Maryland and the Bank of Maryland’s silver deposit of July 18, 1794, were not connected to the coining or release of the 1794 dollars.
The October 15, 1794, partial coin return warrant has been in the Society Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for the last 81 years. It provides us a clearer understanding of the Mint’s processing of David Rittenhouse’s two silver bullion deposits, and the release of the 1794 dollars from the Mint’s treasury. Note that is article is part one of a two-part series. This article provides a chronological account of what we now believe occurred from Aug. 22, 1794, through Oct. 15, 1794. Part 2 will discuss what occurred after Oct. 15, 1794.
August 22-24, 1794: Deposit & Assay
David Rittenhouse, in addition to being the Mint Director, was also a depositor of silver bullion. On Aug. 22, 1794, David Rittenhouse (depositor) made Silver Deposits #2 and #3 with Treasurer of the Mint Dr. Nicholas Way (see Figure 1 last column). On Aug. 24, David Rittenhouse (depositor) was provided two certificates (see Figure 1 column 1) that specified the values of each of his silver bullion deposits to be coined into United States money. Silver Deposit #2 was valued at $1,706.82½ and Silver Deposit #3 was valued at $294.51½, for a total of $2,001.34. (see Figure 1 column 6).
August 25-26, 1794: Transfer Bullion From Treasurer To Chief Coiner
On Aug. 25 and 26, 1794, David Rittenhouse (Mint Director) ordered Silver Deposits #2 and #3 transferred from the custody of Treasurer of the Mint Dr. Way to the custody of Chief Coiner Henry Voigt. A paper warrant was dated and signed by David Rittenhouse (Mint Director), then provided to Dr. Way. The bullion was then physically moved from the Treasurer’s vault to the Chief Coiner’s vault. In addition, audit trail entries of the transfer of custody were made in Mint ledgers (see Figure 2).
October 15, 1794: Delivery Warrant #1
On Oct. 15, 1794, David Rittenhouse (Mint Director) issued Delivery Warrant #1 to transfer 1,758 Dollars from the custody of Henry Voigt to the custody of Dr. Way. A paper warrant was dated and signed by David Rittenhouse (Mint Director), and provided to Henry Voigt. 1,758 dollars were physically moved from the Chief Coiner’s vault to the Treasurer’s vault. Audit trail entries were also made in Mint ledgers (see Figure 3).
What Happened Between Aug. 25 and Oct. 15, 1794?
Beginning Aug. 25, Silver Deposits #2 and #3 were prepared for coining. The silver bullion was melted and refined, then poured into ingots of similar sizes and weights, with a thickness that was greater than the dollar. This standard approach gave David Rittenhouse (Mint Director) flexibility. He did not need to decide how many coins of each denomination were going to be struck while the bullion was being melted and refined. At a later date, the ingots could to be rolled into strips, the thickness of any denomination, punched into planchets, and then processed through the Castaing Machine, if required, to impart the edge design.
The position of Melter and Refiner was not officially created until the Supplementation of the Mint Act of March 3, 1795. Without a Melter and Refiner, Director Rittenhouse had the next best person melt and refine silver bullion deposits; Assayer Albion Cox. How do we know this? On Oct. 28, 1794, Director Rittenhouse sent a letter to Secretary of State Edmund Randolph. Randolph forwarded Rittenhouse’s letter to President Washington. On Nov. 20, President Washington forwarded Rittenhouse’s letter to the Senate. Rittenhouse’s letter included:
“Near 120,000 ounces of bullion have already been deposited in the mint for coinage; a considerable quantity of which, being too base for the standard of the United States, has, in part, been successfully refined by the assayer, who is still going on with that process”.
Note that Director Rittenhouse stated that the bullion was “successfully refined by the assayer”. On Oct. 28, 1794, the Assayer was Albion Cox.
October 15, 1794: Partial Coin Return Warrant For 1,758 Dollars
On Oct. 15, 1794, David Rittenhouse (Mint Director) issued a partial coin return warrant to deliver the 1,758 1794 dollars from Dr. Way to depositor David Rittenhouse (see Figure 4). The text of the warrant, which was rediscovered at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania by Joel Orosz and Len Augsburger, is as follows:
No 2 & 3
Mint of the United States
15 October 1794
Pay to David Rittenhouse one thousand
seven hundred and fifty eight Dollars in part of Deposites No 2 & 3 made the 22.d of August 1794 ~
To the Treasurer
of the Mint
(Signed) Davd Rittenhouse Director
The Mint and Coinage Act of April 2, 1792, did not specify that the coins returned to a depositor had to be in only one coin return. We now know that David Rittenhouse (depositor) received multiple partial coin returns for his Silver Deposits #2 and #3. The first partial coin return was on Oct. 15, 1794. Two other partial coin returns most likely occurred on May 7 and 8, 1795. How do we know this?
The audit trail entries in Mint ledgers specify that on May 7, 1795, David Rittenhouse (depositor) received 1,706 Dollars, 1 Half Dollar, 6 Half Dismes, 2 Cents and 1 Half Cent. Also, on May 8, 1795, he received 52 Dollars, 484 Half Dollars, 51 Cents and 1 Half Cent (see Figure 5).
We know that David Rittenhouse (depositor) received all 1,758 dollars on Oct. 15, 1794, therefore he could not have received them on May 7 and 8, 1795. So why were the audit trail entries dated May 7 and 8, 1795?
Although partial coin returns occurred, they were not logged in Mint ledgers. What was logged, was the summary of all partial coin returns that occurred, or the one full coin return that occurred. The date of the audit trail entry was the date of the final coin return. This is the date that closed out the accounting for the specific deposit.
David Rittenhouse (depositor) received 1,758 Dollars, 485 Half Dollars, 6 Half Dismes, 53 Cents and 2 Half Cents for his Silver Deposits #2 and #3. He received the 1,758 Dollars on Oct. 15, 1794. On May 7, 1795, he most likely received 1 Half Dollar, 6 Half Dismes, 2 Cents and 1 Half Cent in a partial coin return to close out the accounting for Silver Deposit #2. On May 8, 1795, he most likely received 484 Half Dollars, 51 Cents and 1 Half Cent in another partial coin return to close out the accounting for Silver Deposit #3.
Note that documents in the Mint’s General Correspondence files at the National Archives and Records Administration identify that the Bank of Maryland, the Bank of North America and John Vaughan also received multiple partial coin returns for their silver bullion deposits (see Figure 1).
To Be Continued
Part two of this article discusses (1) what happened immediately after David Rittenhouse took possession of the 1794 dollars, (2) why the Bank of Maryland and the Bank of Maryland’s silver deposit of July 18, 1794, were not connected to the coining or release of the 1794 dollars, and (3) how the Oct. 15, 1794 partial coin return warrant made its way from the Mint to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Click here to read more!
The Mint and Coinage Act of April 2, 1792.
The Supplementation of the Mint Act of March 3, 1795.
Records of the Bureau of the Mint, National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 104; Bullion Journals, Waste Books, Register of Silver Deposits, and Miscellaneous Correspondence 1792-1899.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Society Collection, David Rittenhouse folder, documents donated by Mrs. Williams Stansfield, Feb. 28, 1936.
American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Gales and Seaton, 1832, Finance, page 317.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
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