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Congress authorized the New Orleans Mint in 1835, and the facility was producing coins three years later, beginning with silver coins in 1838 and gold coins in 1839. The original legislation provided for the first three branch mints of the Philadelphia Mint, requiring Congress to consider all aspects of the distant operations. The first section stipulated locations:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That branches of the mint of the United States shall be established as follows: one branch at the city of New Orleans for the coinage of gold and silver, one branch at the town of Charlotte, in Mecklinburg county, in the state of North Carolina, for the coinage of gold only, and one branch at or near Dahlonega, in Lumpkin county, in the state of Georgia, also for the coinage of gold only. And for the purpose of purchasing sites, erecting suitable buildings, and completing the necessary combinations of machinery for the several branches aforesaid, the following sums, to be paid out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated, shall be, and hereby are, appropriated: for the branch at New Orleans, the sum of two hundred thousand dollars, for the branch at Charlotte, fifty thousand dollars, for the branch at Dahlonega, fifty thousand dollars.
Additional sections of the 1835 Mint Act provided for officers at each branch and their salaries, that the said officers were required to take an oath, and that the direction or control of each branch fell under the jurisdiction of the Mint Director in Philadelphia. The final section of the Act, approved on March 3, 1835, extended all laws for regulation of the Mint to each of the branch mints. The New Orleans branch mint operated from 1838 to 1861, when Confederate sources captured the facility. At the close of the Civil War, coinage operations remained suspended for a number of years. With the substantial need for Morgan dollars following passage of the Bland-Allison Act in 1878, the New Orleans Mint again produced coins beginning in 1879. Operations continued until 1909, when the last coins were struck in March of that year.
The Annual Report of the Director of the Mint for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1910, discusses the idle New Orleans Mint:
The amount of gold which is available for coinage at New Orleans is small, and the total coinage of the country can be done materially cheaper at three mints and with three organizations than at four mints and with four complete complements of officers and employees. The amount of coinage which could be given to the New Orleans Mint under these conditions did not warrant the continuance of operations there, and they were suspended April 1, 1909, and a large reduction of the force made at that time. At various dates in 1910 further reductions were made, and there appearing to be no likelihood that the mint could advantageously resume operations in the near future, the estimates for 1911 have been made for the conduct of the institution as an assay office only.
Frank Aleamon Leach was the Mint director at the time that New Orleans coinage was suspended. At the time, an option to reopen the New Orleans Mint was reserved, although today we know that never happened.
Description and Analysis courtesy of Heritage Auctions and may not be republished without written permission.
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