While straightening up my library recently I came across an old Coin World clipping. I believe this was preserved by Glenn A. Mooney of Pittsburgh. The December 7, 1962 article discusses souvenirs made from wood taken from the first U.S. mint building when it was dismantled to make way for new construction. Knowing that Joel Orosz and Len Augsburger are working on a book about the first U.S. Mint building, I sent it to them. I assumed it would be old news to them, but sent it just in case. I'm glad I did. It turned out to be of use, and with Coin World's permission I'm reprinting it here.
Copyright 1962 by Amos Hobby Publishing Inc. Reprinted by
permission from the Dec. 7, 1962, issue of Coin World, Sidney, OH. www.coinworld.com
Len Augsburger writes:
This is very, very useful and fills in a lot of holes left by other sources. Thanks so much! I had a Coin World article from 1960 on the same subject, but didn't know about this one. Cucore did some of the actual work on the timber, so to get it directly from him only strengthens the information. This will make that section of the book a lot more authoritative.
Joel Orosz adds these annotations:
1. The act authorizing the Mint was passed by Congress on April 2, 1792. Construction did not begin on July 31, 1791, as stated in the article, but rather on July 18, 1792.
2. The Shubert distillery was indeed located on North Seventh Street, and one of the three lots that comprised it also fronted on Sugar Alley. However, the building actually located at the corner of North Seventh and Sugar Alley (No. 35 North Seventh) was never owned or even rented by the Mint.
3. The notion that the corner of North Seventh and Sugar Alley later became the corner of North Seventh and Arch Street is novel, but wrong--these were two different intersections, separated by half a block. The past tense is used advisedly here, for the North Seventh and Sugar Alley intersection today is buried under the Green Federal Building.
4. Coins dated 1793 to 1832 were indeed minted here, but also a few dated 1833, during January of that year.
5. If the timber had 190 growth rings, the tree from which it came began growing approximately in 1602, 110 years after Columbus's first voyage to the New World--hardly "just about the time that Columbus discovered America." It was five years before the English settlement at Jamestown--still pretty impressive.
Len's forum post is interesting, and provides a preview of some of the information in the upcoming book.
This excerpt discusses artifacts constructed from first mint timber. There are many other artifacts as well, and these will be discussed in the book.
To set the stage, is it the year 1911 in Philadelphia and Frank H. Stewart has decided to finish the razing of the first mint buildings in order to expand his business (located on the next lot) into the former mint space. We pick up the action as the final razing of the first mint campus is in progress:
Modern construction sites in the big city are liberally draped in protective plywood curtains, but a hundred years ago it was not so, and certainly not at 37 and 39 North Seventh Street in Philadelphia. Stewart's demolition was wide open to the public, who were free to wander the site in search of treasure. Stewart thought enough to capture a photo for posterity. “People from off street at noon time - digging for relics,” he wrote on the reverse. To this pictorial record Stewart added the following commentary:
“Every noontime, while the workmen were eating their luncheon, a crowd of boys would search the dirt for relics, and the finds made by these boys will unquestionably be saved by them. Scores of pieces of iron, brick, stone and wood were taken away and curiosity was unhampered to the fullest extent.”
Wayne Homren, Editor
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