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Paper trail leads to Rittenhouse silver

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part installment. Read the first installment here.


By David Finkelstein, Joel J. Orosz and Len Augsburger

This article is part two of a two-part series regarding the Mint’s processing of David Rittenhouse’s two silver bullion deposits of Aug. 22, 1794, the striking of the 1794 silver dollars, and the release of the 1794 dollars from the Mint’s treasury. From part one, published in the Nov. 7, 2017, Numismatic News we know that:

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.

On Aug. 24, 1794, David Rittenhouse (depositor) was provided two certificates that specified the values of each of his silver bullion deposits in to-be-coined 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.

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. Nicholas Way to the custody of Chief Coiner Henry Voigt.

Beginning Aug. 25, 1794, Silver Deposits #2 and #3 were prepared for coining.

On Oct. 15, 1794, David Rittenhouse (Mint Director) issued Delivery Warrant #1 to transfer 1,758 silver dollars from the custody of Henry Voigt to the custody of Dr. Way.

Figure 1 – Oct. 15, 1794: Partial Coin Return Warrant

Also 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 himself (see Figure 1).

On May 7 and 8, 1795, David Rittenhouse (depositor) received the remainder of the coins due him to close out the accounting for Silver Deposits #2 and #3.

No Connection To The Bank of Maryland’s Silver Deposit

The top left corner of the partial coin return warrant in Figure 1 specifies “Depts No 2 & 3”. This notation was used on delivery warrants and coin return warrants to identify the source of the silver bullion. For this partial coin return, the silver bullion was from Silver Deposits #2 and #3. Had the 1794 dollars been struck from the Bank of Maryland’s silver bullion deposit, and returned to David Rittenhouse, the top left corner would have been written as “Depts No 1 and 2 & 3”. How do we know this?

Mint documents stored at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) confirm that the Mint allowed coin exchanges between depositors. Bullion from one depositor was struck into coins, then returned to a second depositor. Then, when the second depositor’s bullion was struck into coins, an equal dollar amount was returned to the first depositor. Coin exchanges required written authorization from both depositors. Although the audit trails of the coin exchanges were not logged in Mint ledgers, some of the documents written by the depositors to authorize the coin exchanges, and some of the warrants authorized by the Mint Director that identify the coin exchanges, are stored at the NARA.

Figure 2 – Feb. 28, 1795: From The Bank of Maryland

One such coin exchange occurred between the Bank of Maryland (Silver Deposit #1) and John Vaughan (Silver Deposit #7). On Feb. 28, 1795, William Patterson, President of the Bank of Maryland, authorized the Mint to deliver up to $20,000 in coins from the last half of the Bank of Maryland’s silver bullion deposit to John Vaughan (see Figure 2 above). On April 7, 1795, a delivery warrant was issued to transfer 16,000 half dollars from the custody of Chief Coiner Henry Voigt to the custody of Treasurer of the Mint Dr. Way, “the property of the Bank of Maryland and John Vaughan” (see Figure 3 below). The warrant specified “Depts No 1 & 7” at the top left corner, indicating an exchange between the Bank of Maryland and John Vaughan.

Figure 3 – April 7, 1795: Exchange Delivery Warrant

Since the Oct. 15, 1794, partial coin return warrant in Figure 1 specified Silver Deposits #2 and #3 at the top left corner, there was no exchange between the Bank of Maryland and David Rittenhouse (depositor). Only the silver bullion from David Rittenhouse’s two silver bullion deposits was used for the 1,758 1794 dollars.

October 16, 1794

On either Oct. 15 or 16, 1794, David Rittenhouse provided Secretary of State Edmund Randolph one of the 1794 dollars to be given to President Washington. How do we know this? On Oct. 16, 1794, Randolph wrote to President George Washington. A copy of the letter is located in Edmund Randolph’s outgoing letter copybook [images not included in this article]. Randolph’s letter included the following passage:

“The silver coin of the U.S. bears upon its face so much neatness and simplicity, that I cannot restrain myself from transmitting a dollar for your inspection”.
Washington was not in Philadelphia on Oct. 16. He was at Ft. Cumberland, Md., commanding 13,000 militiamen from the states of Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia in an attempt to suppress the “Whiskey Rebellion”.

Also on Oct. 16, Rittenhouse requested $5,000 from Randolph for current and forecasted expenses of the Mint. On Oct. 20, 1794, Randolph forwarded Rittenhouse’s request on to Oliver Wolcott Jr., who was managing the Treasury Department while Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton was assisting President Washington with suppressing the Whiskey Rebellion.

Was it a coincidence that (1) the first silver coins were released from the Mint on Oct. 15, 1794, (2) these coins were dollars, the largest denomination silver coin, and the crown coin of the realm, (3) one of the dollars was passed on Oct. 15 or 16 from Rittenhouse to Randolph to Washington, demonstrating success in minting silver coins, and (4) on Oct. 16, 1794, Rittenhouse followed this major success with a request for $5,000 to pay various Mint expenses? There are no coincidences.

How Did The October 15th Warrant End Up At The Historical Society?

Written in pencil on the back of the Oct. 15, 1794, partial coin return warrant is “Society Coll” and “Mrs. Wm. Stansfield Feb. 28, 1936”.

“Society Coll” indicates that the document is part of the Society Collection. If a large group of items is obtained by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (or HSP), the collection is named, identifying its source. The Society Collection is a general purpose collection name, containing those items, that when obtained, were too small in number to be part of their own named collection.

“Feb. 28, 1936” identifies the date that the document was added to the HSP’s Society Collection.

“Mrs. Wm. Stansfield” (or Mrs. William Stansfield), the person from whom the HSP obtained the document.

Who was Mrs. William Stansfield, what was her connection to the Oct. 15, 1794 partial coin return warrant, and why did it end up at the HSP?

Who Was She? According to Lineage Book, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Volume 52, Mrs. William Stansfield was also known as Mrs. Mary T. Snowden Stansfield, and was born in Philadelphia.

Mrs. Mary T. Snowden Stansfield, a.k.a. Mary Thompson Snowden Stansfield, was born Mary Thompson Snowden on Dec. 14, 1860 in Philadelphia to James Ross Snowden (1809-1878) and Susan Engle Patterson (1823-1897).

What Was Her Connection To The Warrant? Mary’s father, James Ross Snowden, was the 9th director of the Mint from 1853 to 1861. She most likely obtained the Oct. 15, 1794, partial coin return warrant from her father or her father’s estate. Her father, most likely permanently borrowed the warrant for his personal collection from the Mint’s files while he was Director of the Mint.

Why HSP? Mary’s mother, Susan Engle Patterson, was daughter of General Robert Patterson (1792-1881). General Patterson’s mansion was located on the southwest corner of 13th and Locust Streets in Philadelphia. After General Patterson’s death in 1881, the HSP purchased the mansion as its permanent home. The mansion was demolished, rebuilt, and furnished between 1905 and 1909. The new HSP building was dedicated in 1910. So why HSP? The HSP is now located on the site of Mrs. William Stansfield’s grandfather’s home.

Special Acknowledgement To R.W. Julian

Numismatic researcher and prolific author R.W. Julian published an article titled “The First Silver Coinage – 1794”, in the February, 1963 Numismatic Scrapbook. On page 3 of his article, Julian wrote:

“While the Bank of Maryland made the first deposit, their bullion does not have the honor of being the first struck as silver coins by the mint. Instead, that deposited by Mint Director Rittenhouse has the laurels… Research in the archives indicates that not only was Rittenhouse’s bullion the first used, but he also received every single Dollar struck in the first coinage on Oct. 15, 1794, when 1,758 dollars were struck…”

We contacted Julian about these statements. Julian’s research notes from 1963 indicate that he examined the partial return warrant at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and that this would have been a plausible source for his conclusions that 1) the silver from David Rittenhouse’s two deposits of bullion were used to strike 1794 dollars, and 2) Rittenhouse received all 1,758 examples. While Julian did not specifically cite the partial return warrant, we are appreciative of his ground-breaking research, and are pleased to be able to confirm the conclusions in his 1963 article.

Final Thoughts

At this time, it is not known when President Washington received Edmund Randolph’s letter, dated Oct. 16, 1794, and the 1794 dollar. He did not return to Philadelphia until Oct. 28, 1794. Also, it is unclear if the 1794 dollar transmitted to President Washington is the 1794 Professional Coin Grading Service SP66 Silver Plug Dollar that sold for $10,016,875.00 in the Stacks Bowers Jan. 13, 2013, Americana Sale. Finally, are there other Mint related documents at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania that were obtained from Mrs. William Stansfield? Additional research is required.


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.

Domestic Letters of the Department of State, National Archives and Records Administration, Volume 7, June 27, 1794 to Nov. 30, 1794.

Senate and House Journals. The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 1b, Diary, Sept. 30 – Oct. 20, 1794.

Lineage Book, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Volume 52. Page 234, Martha L. Moody, Washington D. C., 1919.

“The First Silver Coinage – 1794,” R.W. Julian, “Numismatic Scrapbook,” February 1963.


This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.


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