|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 status?
"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 the mint!
"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.