Archive field trip enlightening
- Published: Feb 20, 2011, 7 PM
A “field trip” taken Jan. 19 by the Heritage Numismatic Auctions cataloging staff in Dallas to a National Archives repository in nearby Fort Worth yielded numerous records from the New Orleans Mint, some of which will be useful in preparation of future auction catalogs, according to Heritage’s chief cataloger, Mark Van Winkle.
Van Winkle said the trip that he took with three other members of the cataloging staff — John Dale Beety, David Stone and Mark Borckardt — had been delayed for about a year and a half because of auction cataloging deadlines and the auctions themselves. Van Winkle said a window of opportunity finally opened.
Of greatest interest among the original source materials, Van Winkle said, were the letters regarding the repair of the New Orleans Mint building from 1856 to 1858; the register of gold bullion, coins and jewelry received between 1850 and 1860; and the record of department letters received from 1897 through 1911.
The July 1856 monthly payroll record, for example, indicates the New Orleans Mint had 81 employees, with four of the employees being slaves.
Three of the slaves were owned by Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard. Beauregard was a graduate from West Point Military Academy in 1838.
For a number of years, Beauregard supervised the building of coastal fortifications. While engineering the draining of New Orleans from 1858 to 1861, Beauregard also directed the federal customs house there.
On Feb. 20, 1861, Beauregard resigned his commission in the U.S. Army, and accepted a commission as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army March 1.
Beauregard profited handsomely through the work of his slaves at the New Orleans Mint. The slaves on the payroll were either paid the same or slightly less than free men.
New Orleans Mint Superintendent J.D. Duncan in 1856 was paid $8 per day, just a bit more than five times what a common laborer made.
Records associated with repairs to the New Orleans Mint in 1856 show that while supplies and other materials were secured to execute those repairs, topping the list were two casks of beer at $2.50 per cask.
While Van Winkle said the New Orleans Mint records stored at the National Archives facility in Fort Worth came somewhat as a surprise, the documentation has been stored there for more than a decade.
Greg Lambousy, director of collections for the Louisiana State Museum housed in the original New Orleans Mint building, said New Orleans Mint records have been stored in Fort Worth since at least the year 2000.
“We have been able to obtain copies of the documents as is any U.S. citizen through the National Archives reproductions department,” Lambousy said. “They are federal documents that have remained with the federal government all these years and have been cared for by the National Archives.
“The U.S. Mint and National Archives have provided us with a number of loans and with photographic reproductions that have added to our existing holdings on the history of the New Orleans Mint. We appreciate all that they have done to help us with our exhibits.”
Details specifically on the Fort Worth location can be found at www.archives.gov/southwest/.
Records of the New Orleans Mint and later Assay Office that are stored at Fort Worth represent many documents:
“Textual Records (in Fort Worth): Fair and press copies of letters sent, 1878-97, 1912-19. Record of letters received, 1897-1911. Letters received, 1912-19. Letters received concerning repair of the New Orleans mint building, 1840-58. General correspondence, 1928-34. Register of gold bullion received and coins delivered, 1850-60. Statements of bullion accounts, 1890-92. Record of bullion fund, 1890-93. Calculation books, ca. 1932-42. Registers of bullion abstracts and deposits, 1923-42. Record of bullion stock, 1935-42. Record of mass melts, 1933-35, and bullion shipments, ca. 1941. Miscellaneous registers, 1879-1942.” ¦
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