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Originally a public domain film from the Library of Congress Prelinger Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).
The U.S. Mint has produced coins for this nation for over 225 years. Coin production evolved from slow horse- and man-powered machinery to fast computer-controlled machines. Explore the history of coin production and how the process changed through the years.
Coinage at the First Mint
When the U.S. Mint first opened in 1793, coin production was a very physical, slow, and imprecise process. The first Mint in Philadelphia consisted of a three-story brick building along with a series of smaller buildings housing crude horse- and man-powered machinery. The Mint lacked experience designing and engraving coins, and coin production got off to a slow start.
The Coinage Act of 1792 authorized the Mint to produce copper, silver, and gold coins for circulation. The Act specified that the government must buy the copper needed to coin half cents and cents (as raw material or as blank coins already the appropriate size for coining). But depositors such as banks and individuals provided the silver and gold. The silver and gold were either in the form of foreign coins or bullion that the Mint melted down and refined to the appropriate fineness for coining...
Screw presses fitted with a lower and upper die stamped the coin designs. They were operated by one to three men, depending on the size of the press. Smaller screw presses operated by one man were also used as cutting presses.
In March of 1793 the Mint delivered its first circulating coins: 11,178 copper cents. Silver coin production started the following year and gold coinage began in 1795. Coining was slow; it’s possible that each press could only produce a couple dozen coins a minute. The Mint couldn’t produce the quantities of coins needed for circulation. Congress allowed certain foreign coins, in circulation since the colonial days, to continue as legal tender.
The Switch to Steam Power
The 19th century ushered in the use of steam power, and big changes in coin production. In 1816, rollers and cutting presses were the first machines powered by a steam engine. Then in 1833, the Mint hired Franklin Peale to travel to mints in Europe to observe their processes. He brought back many ideas for advancements to the Mint and its equipment.
Two years after Peale returned, the Mint built steam-powered coining presses modeled after those used in Europe. A single person operated a press, dropping blank coins down a tube to feed between the dies. Coin production became a lot less labor-intensive, opening up many jobs to women.
The new presses dramatically increased production numbers, with each press capable of making around 100 coins per minute. That, combined with the opening of other branch Mints, brought coinage to the levels needed for the country’s circulation. In 1857, Congress passed a law to ban all foreign coins from circulation...