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Location of the current Philadelphia Mint building, inaugurated in 1968.

The Philadelphia Mint.


The first U.S. Mint opened in 1792 at 7th and Arch Streets, only two blocks from the current facility; it was the first new government structure in the new country. George Washington, who lived nearby, was said to have donated his own silver to make some of the first coins. The current building, opened in 1969, is the fourth Philadelphia Mint.


First Building (1792-1833)

David Rittenhouse, a leading American scientist, was appointed the first Director of the Mint by President George Washington. Two lots were purchased by Rittenhouse on July 18, 1792, at Seventh Street and 631 Filbert Street in Philadelphia for $4,266.67. The very next day demolition of an abandoned whiskey distillery on the property began. Foundation work began on July 31, and by September 7, the first building was ready for installation of the smelting furnace. The smelt house has gained the honors of being the very first public building erected by the United States government.

A three-story brick structure facing Seventh Street was constructed a few months later. Being the tallest and most visible structure of the mint the words "Ye Olde Mint" were painted on. Measuring nearly 37 feet (11 m) wide on the street, it only extended back 33 feet (10 m). The gold and silver for the mint was contained in basement vaults. The first floor housed deposit and weighing rooms, along with the press room, where striking coins took place. Mint official offices were on the second floor, and the assay office was located on the third floor.

Between the smelt house and "Ye Olde Mint" a mill house was built. Horses in the basement turned a rolling mill located on the first floor.

January 1816 saw the destruction of the smelt and mill houses from a fire. The smelt house was never repaired and all smelting was done elsewhere. The mill house, which was completely destroyed, was soon replaced with a large brick building. It included a new steam engine in the basement to power the machinery above.

Until 1833, these three buildings dutifully provided America with spendable hard currency to undertake the exploration and growth of a nation. Operations moved to the second Philadelphia mint in 1833 and the land housing the first mint was sold. In the late 19th or early 20th century, the property was sold to Frank Stewart, who approached the city asking them to preserve or relocate the historic buildings. With no governmental help "Ye Olde Mint" was demolished between 1907 and 1911. A small plaque now is the only thing memorializing the spot upon which the largest economy to date was conceived.

Second Building (1833-1901)

On July 4, 1829, a cornerstone was laid at the intersection of Chestnut and Juniper. It was designed by William Strickland. The second Philadelphia Mint, the "Grecian Temple", was constructed of white marble with classic Greek style columns on front and back. Measuring 150 feet (46 m) wide in front by 204 feet (62 m) deep, it was a huge improvement over the first facility, in space as well as image. Opening for business in January 1833, its production was constrained by the outdated machinery salvaged from "Ye Olde Mint". Franklin Peale was sent to Europe to study advanced coin making technologies which were brought back and implemented, increasing productivity and quality.

The second Philadelphia mint pounded out coins through the American Civil War, three presidential assassinations, growth from sea to sea, the telegraph and telephone, and the incandescent light bulb. The nation exploded from 13 million people to 76 million by 1900, and demand soon outpaced production.

In 1901, the third Philadelphia Mint was to begin coining operations. Sold in 1902, the second mint was quickly demolished. The cornerstone buried in 1833 was unearthed and contained a candy jar with a petrified cork stoppering it. Inside, three coins, a couple of newspapers, and a scroll with information on the first mint and the creation of the second.

Third Building (1901-1969)

The third Philadelphia Mint was built at 1700 Spring Garden Street and opened in 1901. It was designed by James Knox Taylor. It was a block from the United States Smelting Company was at Broad and Spring Garden Streets. In one year alone the mint produced 501,000,000 coins (5/7 of the the U.S. currency minted) as well as well 90,000,000 coins for foreign countries.[1]

A massive structure nearly a full city block, it was an instant landmark. Characterized by a Roman temple facade, visitors were to marvel at seven themed glass mosaics designed by Louis C. Tiffany in a gold backed vaulted ceiling. The mosaics depicted ancient Roman coin making methods. This mint still stands intact with much of the interior as well. It was acquired by the Community College of Philadelphia in 1973.

Current Building (1969-Present)

A mere two blocks from the site of "Ye Olde Mint", the fourth and current Philadelphia Mint opened its doors in 1969. It was designed by Philadelphia architect Vincent G. Kling who would also help design Five Penn Center, Centre Square and the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.[2]

It was the world's largest mint at the time.

Today's mint can coin one million coins in thirty minutes.[3] It took three years for the original mint to produce that many. This mint also produces medals and awards for military, governmental and civil services. Engraving of all dies and strikers only occurs here. Uncirculated coins minted here have the "P" mint mark, while circulated coins from before 1980 carried no mint mark except the Jefferson nickels minted from 1942 - 1945 and the 1979 Susan B. Anthony dollar coins. Since 1980, all coins minted there have the "P" mint mark except pennies.