12e. ORIGINS

Medallion NameORIGINS

Significance – Prior to President Abraham Lincoln passing the National Bank Act of 1863, private entities, like state-chartered banks, issued money. The most common form of circulated currency was printed notes could be exchanged for gold and silver. Barter was also the way of the land in the Western Territories.

Inscription – Clark, Gruber and Company printed gold notes as well as producing $2.50, $5 and $20 gold pieces.

After private mints were outlawed in 1869, the federal government took over the job as the Denver Mint.

Clark, Gruber and Co. evolved to become the First National Bank of Denver, which was located in the Equitable Building.

Location – 39°44’48.0″N 104°59’30.6″W

Details – Typical of rapid migrations of people into sparsely inhabited areas, the Colorado miners didn’t rely on currency to transact business. Gold dust was the money of the realm. It was usually carried in buckskin pouches and was weighed out on scales at stores. In the absence of scales a “pinch” of dust counted as 25 cents.

Austin M. Clark, Milton E. Clark and Emanuel Henry Gruber knew it was a long and tedious process in getting the gold dust all the way to Philadelphia to be coined and then shipped back to the Kansas Territory. They had already gone through the steps to establish a full-service brokerage firm in Leavenworth, Kansas. Their team acted as brokers, bankers, and even assayers who tested the purity of nuggets and dust brought in for sale. The company then transferred customer assets to Philadelphia for pressing into bars and coins. For Clark, Gruber and Co. opening an office in the new gold rush center and expanding into coinage was a natural extension.

To begin, the brokerage purchased three lots in Denver at Market and 16th Streets, and a two-story brick building soon went up on the property.

Milton Clark went back East to get the necessary machinery for minting coins. It was chaos back in the “United” States. South Carolina was succeeding from the Union; its senators had resigned from Congress. Several more Southern states were on the verge of joining the succession. To remedy the crisis, Republicans put forth statesman and lawyer Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for president of the United States.

Back in Kansas Territory city of Denver, life offered more opportunity than issue. Clark, Gruber and Co. established an office in Denver at the beginning of the Colorado Gold Rush. Trial strikes of the four denominations to be coined ($2.50, $5, $10, and $20) were ready for inspection by mid-July 1860, and formal coinage began in August.

Gold and nuggets brought there by miners from the surrounding area were accepted by the Assay Office for melting, assaying, and stamping of cast gold bars. The bars were then returned to the depositors as imparted bars stamped with the weight and fineness of the gold. During the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, most of the gold came from the rich beds of placer gold found in the streams and first discovered in 1858, the same year Denver was founded. When the supply of gold was exhausted from the streams, the emphasis turned to lode mining, uncovering veins of ore with a high percentage of gold and silver. By 1859, the yearly value of the gold and silver deposited at the Assay Office was over $5.6 million. During its early years as an Assay Office, the Denver plant was the city’s most substantial structure. Clark, Gruber and Co. was minting $10 gold pieces at the rate of “fifteen or twenty coins a minute.”

The first set of coins featured a rendering of Pikes Peak, with a timber forest at its base. The words ‘Pikes Peak Gold’ encircle the summit. At the bottom you’ll find the word ‘Denver’, and beneath it ‘Ten D.’. On the reverse is the American Eagle encircled by the name of the firm ‘Clark, Gruber & Co.,’ and beneath the date, ‘1860.’ The minters were able to press $10 gold pieces at the rate of, “fifteen or twenty coins a minute.”

A $20 gold coin was added. It was described that, “the weight will be greater, but the value the same as the United States coin of like denomination.”

Later, a $5 and a $2.5 gold coin were added, with production reaching $18,000 per week. They introduced a new coin design with, “head of the Goddess of Liberty surrounded by thirteen stars, with “Clark & Company” in the tiara. “Pikes’s Peak Gold, Denver” was on the other side, with “5D.” or “2 1/2 D.”

Business was thriving when it was abruptly terminated by an act of Congress. On February 25, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the National Currency Act established the federal dollar as the sole currency of the United States for the first time in American history. Subsequently, the Clark, Gruber & Co. was formally bought by the US Treasury in April, 1863. In its almost three years of operation, the business had minted $594,305 worth of Pike’s Peak Gold in the form of coins. Additionally, they purchased 77,000 troy ounces of raw gold, and shipped “large amounts of dust” to the Philadelphia Mint. Clark, Gruber & Co.’s final job was printing the $25,000 – authorized by the US Treasury – to buy their building, assaying and minting equipment.  Clark, Gruber & Co. repositioned the business as a bank until the business was purchased by the First National Bank of Denver two years later.

The mint at Market and 16th Streets reopened later that year as a United States Assay Office. The Denver of the of the United States Mint branch 43 years later, after Denver had joined the Union. Coins produced at the Denver Mint bear a D mint mark. Today, the Denver Mint is the single largest producer of coins in the world.

For the story of the Denver Mint please visit http://wallstreetoftherockies.com/mint-robbery/

Quiz Questions

Why was in logical for Clark, Gruber and Co. to set up operations in Denver?

How did miners turn gold dust into money?

Which geographic landmark is on Colorado’s first minted coins?

What was the name of the Act that abruptly put an end to Clark, Gruber and Co.?

What is noteworthy about the Denver Mint?

Bibliography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denver_Mint

http://amhistory.si.edu/coins/printable/coin.cfm?coincode=4_08

https://www.coinworld.com/news/us-coins/2017/08/1861-clark-gruber-co-look-like-average-gold-issue-it-is-not.all.html#

http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1860to1869.html

http://www.history.com/news/8-things-you-may-not-know-about-american-money

http://dcnewsman.blogspot.com/2011/11/money-trail-from-gold-silver-to-fiat.html

http://www.antiquemoney.com/value-of-20-legal-tender-note/

http://www.antiquemoney.com/national-bank-notes/colorado/old-money-from-the-colorado-national-bank-of-denver-1651/

https://currency.ha.com/itm/obsoletes-by-state/kansas/leavenworth-ks-clark-gruber-and-co-1-nov-1-1862-ks-47-g2a-whitfield-302-pcgs-very-fine-25-apparent/a/3533-19066.s