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At an age when many people are ready to retire, 66-year-old Daniel M. Fox was appointed Superintendent of the United States Mint by President Grover Cleveland on June 19, 1885. His prior tenure as the Mayor of Philadelphia gave him valuable experience for this demanding position. He oversaw operations at the Mint until November 1, 1889 and also fielded questions and requests from the public during this period.
The National Archives include correspondence with Superintendent Fox on a wide range of topics. Several of these letters, recently transcribed by the Newman Portal, reveal the interest that teachers and students had in U.S. coinage at that time. For example, Principal James Jenkins of the Six Street School is Worcester, Massachusetts, questioned whether “copper, silver and gold expand in passing from the liquid to the solid state; and will the solid metal, when cast, float in the liquid metal?” Other educators were more curious about the specific denominations produced at each U.S. Mint branch and also how the coins were distributed once they left the Mint.
Late 19th century students were just as inquisitive as their teachers. W.G. Welsh, a high school chemistry student in York, Pennsylvania, asked Fox whether “the difference in the color of Gold Coins” is caused by the “[copper-gold] alloy or is it in the metal itself?” William J. German, a young coin and autograph collector from McKeesport, Pennsylvania, respectfully requested the Superintendent’s autograph after reading a book on the history of the U.S. Mint. Fox also allowed at least one group of enthusiastic students to tour the Mint. An April 25, 1889 letter reports that Fox permitted “a party of young ladies from the Langhorne [PA] Friends Institute… to visit the gold vaults and filing rooms.” What an experience that must have been!
Link to Worcester, MA letter: https://archive.org/details/doesgoldexpandorcontractwhenheated18880309/page/n3/mode/2up
Link to York, PA letter: https://archive.org/details/whatcausesdifferentcoloredgoldc oins18871207/page/n1/mode/2up
Link to McKeesport, PA letter: https://archive.org/details/wantssuperintendentautograph18871118/mode/2upLink to Langhorne, PA letter: https://archive.org/details/wantstohaveschoolgirlsvisitmint18890425/page/n1/mode/2up
An 1883 letter from Chief of the Secret Service, James J. Brooks, to Superintendent of the Mint, A. Loudon Snowden, mentions government “operatives” and “inquiries set afoot.” Even though it sounds like an excerpt from a Sherlock Holmes novel, this National Archives correspondence, recently transcribed by the Newman Portal, discusses the possibility of the U.S. Mint striking coins for the country of Bolivia. The Mint was authorized to produce coins for foreign countries as specified by an Act of Congress approved on January 29, 1874. However, the correspondence raises questions about the authenticity of Bolivia’s petition and Brooks requests of Snowden that “no action be taken…as to the preparation of dies for the coining of Bolivian money.”
Sixty years later, the outcome was much different when Bolivia was one of more than 20 countries for which the United States produced coins during World War II. Due to the global economic challenges brought on by this War, many countries were unable to make their own coins and the United States helped them maintain their monetary systems. During the War, these foreign coins were produced at cost and did not yield any profit for the Mint. Between July 1, 1942 and June 30, 1944, they produced 30 million Bolivian coins, evenly divided among the denominations of 10, 20, and 50 centavos.Link to 3 pieces of correspondence regarding Bolivian coins: https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/book/599780