Carson Citys Mint's Press No. 1

Virginia Hall

Although legislation authorizing the creation of the U.S. Mint at Carson City was passed by both houses of Congress on March 3, 1863, actual construction did not begin until three years later. Work proceeded so slowly that three more years passed before coining machinery arrived.

Manufactured by Morgan & Orr in Philadelphia, who created many of the coining presses then in use throughout the world, the first six-ton press arrived at the Carson Mint in 1869. As was the custom of the day, it was painted with a large "1" to signify the first press located in the coiner's department.

On February 11, 1870, this press struck the first coin bearing the soon-to-be famous CC mintmark, a Seated Liberty dollar.

For nearly a quarter of a century, it was used to strike most of the larger pieces produced during the years the mint actually produced coins, from 1870 to 1885 and again 1889 to 1893. When the press suffered a cracked arch in 1878, it was repaired at the local shop of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. Proud of their handiwork, V & T machinists replaced the brass Morgan & Orr plate with one bearing the of their famous railroad.

The Carson City Mint eased coining operations in 1893 and the presses were removed in 1899, along with all other machinery in the coiner's department. Press No. 1 was moved to the Philadelphia Mint, where it was remodeled in 1930 to operate with electric power. In 1945 it was transferred to the "new" San Francisco Mint and renumbered "5" to correspond with its place in the department there. Finally, when all coin production was temporarily halted at San Francisco in 1955, the old press was due to be scrapped.

Through the efforts of Judge Clark J. Guild and other local businessmen, the antique press was purchased by the state of Nevada for $225 and arrived back in Carson City in 1959. However, when U. S. Mint Director Eva Adams, a native of Nevada, was faced with a severe coin shortage in 1964, she requested the loan of the old press. It was soon trucked to the Denver Mint and placed in operation, striking more than 188 million coins during the next three years.

Once again returned to the Carson City Museum in 1967, press No. 1 was converted to a much slower electric drive. In 1976, it was used to strike Nevada Bicentennial medals in gold, silver, copper and bronze. In the following years some of the medallic pieces in a lengthy series were produced by the Nevada State Museum.

Don Schmitz and his son Kenneth, owners of the Nevada City Mint in California, began operating the press for the state of Nevada on a limited basis in the late 1970s. Under their supervision, visitors may now strike their own bronze medals on specified days during summer months.

Since Morgan & Orr presses manufactured in the 1860s and 1870s are still in use today in the San Francisco Mint, Carson City's press No. 1 press may well have years of active service ahead.

Additional information:

Built in 1869 by Morgan & Orr, Philadelphia, Pa.

Weight: 12,000 pounds

Production capability: 1869 - 1,500 coins per hour

Today: one medal takes 10 seconds to strike

Striking pressure: 200 tons

Reference: Nevada State Museum by Douglas McDonald

James Phillips 2017