|Invitation to the Mint
|Excerpt from "It's an Old New Orleans Custom" by Lura Robinson, published 1938:
"Gen. Andrew Jackson, on a December day in 1814, stood before the gate of Fort St.
Charles and reviewed his ill-assorted troops as they started the march to meet the
Redcoats. It was upon this very site between Esplanade Avenue and Barracks Street
that the United States Mint at New Orleans was to be erected some twenty years later.
"After the mint opened, officials, the public was informed, were always happy to have
the mint and its workings inspected. Citizens eagerly accepted the invitation and
rushed daily to visit this extraordinary institution where they could actually see the
process of making money by stamping it. But little did bureaucrats in faraway
Washington suspect what nocturnal festivities were to take place in the sanctum. How
were they to know that the director of the mint cared less for money than for social
"Joe Kennedy, director of the mint, was a prominent figure in the city's social life and,
when his daughter was ready for her debut into society, it was only fitting that he should
launch her forth in proper style. The suspicion by some that Mr. Kennedy's social
ambitions exceeded his means was perhaps not unfounded, for it is recorded that
'everybody who was anybody' received an invitation to attend the fancy-dress ball -- at
"In glittering costumes, scores of excited guests strolled on that memorable night
through the spacious offices, committee rooms and counting chambers - 'but never,'
one guest recalled, 'beyond the touch of a gendarme...these precautions gave rather
regal air to the whole affair.'
"Comments from the nation's capitol on the fancy-dress ball at the United States Mint
were never made public. However, shortly after that 'grandest and most unique
entertainment,' Director Kennedy retired to private life."
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|Room in the mint, date unknown.
|Above, the old mint as it looks today. (Many thanks to Troy Jowers
for allowing me to share his excellent photo with you.)
|Mule-drawn streetcar passes the Mint, ca. 1880's.
|The old U. S. Mint in New Orleans has the distinction of being the only southern
branch mint to have survived the Civil War. (The Charlotte, NC and Dahlonega, GA
buildings survived, but were never used as mints again after the war.) The old
mint in New Orleans, also, has the distinction of being the oldest surviving
structure to have served as a U.S. Mint. And it has served the nation in more
capacities than any other mint in American history.
Noted architect William Strickland, who designed the United States Capitol
Building, designed the Greek revival mint building. The mint's machinery was
powered by hand until 1845, when steam was introduced. During its years of
operation, it produced over 427 million gold and silver coins, with a value of over
$307 million dollars.
The mint operated from 1838 until 1861 and from 1879 until 1909. The building
then served as a U.S. Assayer's Office until 1932 and as a Federal prison from 1932
until 1943. The Coast Guard occupied the building during the remainder of WWII
and, after the war ended, used the building as a storage facility until 1965. By that
time, it had fallen into disrepair and the state of Louisiana took over the property
and renovated it. Since 1981, it has served as a branch of the Louisiana State
Museum. It is designated as a National Historic Landmark.
|From Jewell's Crescent City Illustrated, 1873