Financial History Issue 118 (Summer 2016) - Page 18

Collection of The Mint Museum , North Carolina mines in the second half of the 19th century , but to no long term avail . However , even in the 1900s some production continued , and Gold Hill was the state ’ s largest 20th century mining operation . Gold production largely ceased in the 1910s , except for a brief flurry during the 1930s Depression , as investors still desired the mines , waiting for gold prices to rise enough to make production profitable again .
The estimated value of gold recovered from North Carolina since 1803 reached over $ 1 million a year at its peak , with production estimates fluctuating widely between $ 25 and $ 100 million . It is known that $ 17.5 million worth of North Carolina gold went to the three mints : Philadelphia , Charlotte and Bechtler . However , due to a number of factors — including theft and tax avoidance — the actual total of the state ’ s gold production is unknown .
By 1849 , many prospectors and their families involved in the North Carolina rush left the area to travel to California to participate in that gold rush . They brought with them many of the lessons learned and technologies developed in North Carolina .
Top : The Charlotte Mint , the first branch Mint to operate outside of Philadelphia . Construction began in 1836 , and coinage began the following year . Bottom : The author standing on the historical façade of the original Charlotte Mint , now used for the Mint Museum Randolph in Charlotte , North Carolina .
begin operation . The New Orleans Mint was authorized to produce both gold and silver coins . The branch mints were placed “ under the control and regulation ” of the director of the Mint , with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury . This was the first time Congress gave the Treasury Department supervisory authority over the Mint .
The cornerstone was laid for the Charlotte Mint building on January 8 , 1836 , and coining operations commenced on December 4 , 1837 . William A . Strickland , a noted Philadelphia architect who also designed the original Philadelphia Mint , designed the building in Federal architectural style . It originally stood on West Trade Street and cost $ 29,800 . Between 1838 and 1861 , the Charlotte Mint coined more than $ 5 million in gold coins .
When the Civil War commenced in 1861 , the building was repurposed into a Confederate headquarters and hospital within 24 hours of North Carolina leaving the Union . After the war concluded , the building became a local assay office ( 1867- 1913 ), as well as a headquarters for local organizations . In 1933 , it was dismantled and rebuilt in Charlotte ’ s Eastover neighborhood for use as the state ’ s first art museum , which opened in 1936 . It maintains this role today as Charlotte ’ s Mint Museum Randolph .
The decline of North Carolina ’ s gold production began in the 1830s . During the 1850s , the receipt of gold at the Charlotte Mint dropped by two thirds . The Civil War largely stopped the commercial production of gold . The mines were used in the war effort , largely as a source of sulfur and lead — materials that could be used for ammunitions and medicine . Post-war efforts failed to produce a profitable operation for the miners .
Although Gold Hill and other placer operations in the state re-started production in the 1870s , gold mining did not take hold as in the earlier days . New machinery and methods ( e . g . chemical processes ) were put into operation at some of the older
Andrew Schmidt is a volunteer docent at the Museum of American Finance . He visited the Reed Mine and the Mint Museum Randolph in Charlotte for this article , which is his first to be published in Financial History .
Author Acknowledgement : The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Evin Burleson of the Reed Gold Mine and Joyce Weaver , Director of Library and Archives for The Mint Museum ( with two locations , one of which is The Mint Museum Randolph , located in the original 1836 US Mint at Charlotte ), for their invaluable assistance and courtesies .
Crayon , Porte . “ North Carolina Illustrated .” Harpers New Monthly Magazine , No . LXXXVII , Vol . XV , page 289 . August 1857 .
Knapp , Richard . Gold Promise in the Piedmont : The Story of John Reed ’ s Mine . North Carolina : Division of Archives and History . 1999 .
Knapp , Richard and Brent D . Glass . Gold Mining in North Carolina : A Bicentennial History . North Carolina : Division of Archives and History . 1999 .
16 FINANCIAL HISTORY | Summer 2016 | www . MoAF . org
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