While the postcard image below shows the New Orleans Mint flying a flag of the United States, there was an interesting period wherein the
Mint was taken over by the State of Louisiana and later by the Confederate States of America. In a great article by Jim Laughlin in the
October 2015 E-Gobrecht (an electronic publication of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club) reprints and reviews contemporary
newspaper articles about the Mint during this period. Here's a short excerpt concerning one of those articles. -Editor
March 15, 1861, The Hancock Jeffersonian (Findlay, Ohio)
Gold from the New Orleans Mint--A Communication from J. Ross Snowden, Director of the Philadelphia Mint, addressed to the Secretary of the
Treasury, under the date of February 18th, appears in the Philadelphia Press. Mr. Snowden recommends that the coinage of the New Orleans Mint be
declared no longer a legal tender, inasmuch as the Mint has been seized by the state authorities and is no longer a federal institution. This
important proposition is set forth as follows:
“It appears that the institution in question is not conducting its operation in a lawful manner, and although it is still a branch of
the Mint of the United States, (for no action of the Louisiana can legally alter its relation to the general government) yet, as its
coin-age from the close of the month of January will not be subject to the tests required by law, it has practically ceased to be a
branch of this Mint—The coinage of that branch is designated by the letter “O” on the re-verse side of each piece. The coins struck in
January are legal coins of the United States; but as these pieces can-not be distinguished from others coined since that time, having the
date of 1861, the whole coinage of the year ought to be discredited by the government.
The announcement should be made, either by the President, or by act of Congress, if the former should not be deemed proper, that the
coins of the branch mint at New Orleans of the year 1861 are not of the coinage of the United States, and are therefore not a legal
tender in the payment of debts; said coins are designated by the letter “O” on the reverse of each piece.
“I may here state that the coins stamped at San Francisco are designated by the letter “S”; those of Dahlonega (Georgia) by the letter
“D” and of Charlotte (North Carolina) by the letter “C”. The coinage of the mint at Philadelphia may be known by the absence of any
letter or mint mark.”
If Director Snowden’s proposal had taken traction, all the 1861-O half dollars and Twenty Dollar pieces, regardless of which Government
or State had issued them, would have been declared no longer a le-gal tender, and refused to be accepted by the United States for any dues
or customs. Apparently Dahlonega and Charlotte were still considered loyal, or possibly thought not to have struck coins and therefore are
not addressed in the Director’s appeal.
While this proposal appears to have gone nowhere, the Post Office in August 1861 came out with re-designed U.S. postage stamps and
instituted a short period for exchanging old stamps for new, and then demonetized all previous U.S. postage stamps. To this day, the
postage stamps issued by the U.S. Government previous to 1861 cannot be used as valid postage. The reasoning was the CSA could raise
considerable sums of money by selling U.S. postage stamps that were recovered from taken over Post Offices located in the South. The new
Confederate States of America Post Master General in April 1861, ordered all Post Offices in his charge to return all U.S. postage on hand
back to Washington, D.C. Few apparently complied with his directive.
For more information on the Liberty Seated Collectors Club, see:
Wayne Homren, Editor
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