The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 15, April 10, 2011, Article 4


John and Nancy Wilson submitted this review of The Secret History of the First U. S. Mint. Thanks! -Editor

Secret History of the U.S. Mint The Secret History of the First U. S. Mint, Authors Joel J. Orosz and Leonard D. Augsburger, Foreword by Eric P. Newman, Whitman Publishing, LLC, 2011, Reviewed by John and Nancy Wilson, NLG

The Secret History of the First U. S. Mint How Frank H. Stewart Destroyed And Then Saved A National Treasure by dynamic and award-winning authors Joel Orosz and Leonard Augsburger. It is a well written and informative hardcover reference containing 336 pages, full of color plates. The majority of information, as well as photos have never been published. This is another can't miss publication for Whitman that once you start reading it is hard to put down.

The two page preface for this book gives the reader insight into how the authors came together to co-author this reference. Leonard Augsburger was originally focused on his "Treasure in the Cellar," and Joel Orosz on the 1792 half disme and Dunsmore's celebrated painting, "Washington Inspecting the First Money Coined by the United States". From that small beginning doors started opening and more information was found regarding the First U. S. Mint and Frank H. Stewart. Sherlock Holmes would be very proud of the co-authors of this reference for going the extra mile with their 15 weeks in researching information for the reference.

We especially liked how the reference was organized. Following the Foreword and Preface was the Acknowledgments which covered about 107 names. The eight page Introduction on "The Declaration House: Foreshadowing of the First Mint's Fate," quoting the reference "How did a modest farmer's son named Frank Huling Stewart grow up to buy the first U. S. Mint?" How did he "become the villain who demolished it?" These and many other questions will be answered in this introduction, as well as the ten chapters that follow.

Following the Chapters is an Afterword: The Mint as It Was, the Mint as Stewart Fixed It in Memory. These seven pages are full of historical information. We liked and quote, "The Mint, as Stewart fixed it in our memories, was a place of productivity, where workers stood at their posts efficiently striking the coin of the realm. The Mint as it actually existed was a place of backbreaking labor, requiring of its employees 11-hour days and six-day workweeks." Wow, and today we hear talk of a four day workweek.

The book covers in great detail the various construction and fire at the mint from 1792 until it was sold at auction in 1835. Frank Stewart bought the mint in 1907.

Mr. Stewart's collection of early coins from 1792 to 1812 is discussed in detail. It is interesting to note that Stewart was not a coin collector in our terms as he had no interest in the condition of his coins or the completeness of his collection. The gold areas were covered only to the half-eagle. Stewart expressed an interest in the 1804 dollar but would not spend the $3,600 one would cost at the time even though he had the means to purchase it. Stewart wrote an indispensable history of the first mint, History of the First United States Mint in 1924. Most of what we know about the first mint buildings we know because of Frank Stewart's exertions. Stewart's commissioned artworks were: John Ward Dunsmore's Inspection of the First Dies and Washington Inspecting the First Money Coined by the United States, Edwin Lamasure's Cradle of Liberty and Ye Olde Mint. The details of these artworks were explained from conception to preservation.

Appendix A to E cover

The 21 pages of notes cover all the sources that were used for the reference. The Selected Bibliography will give bibliophiles references that might help them find information for projects they are working on and the Index will take them directly to information that is needed immediately.

It is great that these two authors have come together to present to us, "The Secret History of our First U. S. Mint". It helps to answer just about any question that anyone would have on our first U. S. Mint, its operation and history right down to the hours employee's worked coining our first money. We think this well written reference will be of interest to both numismatists and historians. It should also be in every library in the United States. It is so well done it will probably challenge for numismatic book of the year.

The reference lists for $24.95. For information on purchasing it you can contact the publishers at: Whitman Publishing, LLC, 3103 Clairmont Rd., Suite B, Atlanta, GA. 30329 or visit their web page, or call, (800) 546-2995.


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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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