In 1906, the “San Francisco Earthquake” hit with the ferocity of a catastrophic 7.9 earthquake unleashing historic damage to the city. More than 3,000 people died. The aftershocks, combined with the ensuing fires, destroyed over 80% of the city of San Francisco.
The San Francisco Mint was about the only building left standing not seriously damaged. At the time of the earthquake, the San Francisco Mint building was storing one-third of the nation’s bullion.
During the California Gold Rush, miners were finding huge amounts of Gold and Silver, the nearest mint was a long way away in New Orleans going by steam ship to Central America disembarking Then 100 miles across the country to pickup a second steamship to New Orleans.
The weight and quantity of the Gold Found in far off California required a local San Francisco Mint to convert Gold nuggets, Gold dust, and raw gold into legal tender U.S. Gold Coins necessary to conduct everyday commerce.
The first San Francisco Mint opened in 1854 to convert Gold from the sprawling mines of the California Gold Rush. Raw Gold was brought to the mint to be assayed, the Gold was refined and mixed with 10% to create coin blanks. Using steam presses, the mint would press ? designs into Readily recognizable Gold Coins stamped with a face value equal to the coins weight in pure Gold.
Within the first year, the San Francisco mint turned $4 million worth of gold bullion into legal tender U.S. Gold Coins, an immense value in 1906.
Legal Tender Minted to Exact Mint Specifications
U.S. Gold Coins from this era were minted in 90% gold (0.900 fine = 21.6 kt) and 10% copper alloy and have a total weight of 1.0750 troy ounces. The added copper hardened the Gold Coins to reduce wear on the faces of the coins. Out West especially Gold Coins were real money, paper money was often seen as IOUs issued by politicians back that westerners did not trust.
In those days, every paper dollar was backed by Gold held in the U.S. Treasury. The official U.S. Government gold price has changed over time, in 1792 to the Gold Price was 19.75 per troy ounce, raised to $20.67 in 1834, and $35 in 1934. Today, the Gold Price trades freely on an open market world wide.
With a growing supply of raw gold and not enough space to process it, a bigger facility was needed. Twenty years after the first San Francisco Mint opened, the second location, now known as the Old United States Mint began minting coins.
This was the mint known as “The Granite Lady” that withstood both the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and every other natural disaster. If only the value of a U.S Dollar had been so fortunate.