It all started on April 2, 1792. George Washington, on that day, was President of the United States, and Philadelphia was the capital city. That's also the day when Congress decided what kind of money the country would use and created a national Mint to make it. The United States Mint was built in Philadelphia, the first federal building constructed under the nation's new Constitution.
Back then, coins were the main form of money. Paper money wasn't used by everyone and there were no credit cards, so it was important to our nation's growth for us to be able to make our own coins.
As the nation grew, its need for coins also grew...so the need for space to make more coins also grew at the Philadelphia Mint. The buildings of 1792 were replaced by larger, single buildings in 1829, 1901, and 1969. The building that now houses the United States Mint at Philadelphia (the fourth in that city) is the largest Mint building of them all.
People who visit or live in Philadelphia can tour this building and see coins actually being made there. The building also houses a museum that displays bronze copies of Congressional gold medals. Many of the tools that have been used to make coins in the past are also kept there.
What kind of coins are made there? The kind people earn and spend each day—circulating coins. Its huge coin-making machines usually work 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.
This branch also strikes:
The Mint makes these medals and coins almost the same way it makes circulating coins, but each coin gets special treatment and care to make it extra beautiful.
Did you ever wonder what it was like to work at the US Mint when it first opened in the late 1700s? The records give some interesting details.
Employees worked 6 days a week (even Saturdays!). In the summer (May to September), they would start at 5 AM, have two meal breaks, and work until 7 PM. These 11-hour days added up to a 66-hour work week. Whew!
You might think you could make tons of coins working all those hours, but the process was a lot slower back then. For instance, they used to cut the coin blanks out of strips of metal. Today, machines can punch blanks out of large coils of metal. (Each coil is as heavy as two cars!)
Making the first million coins took 3 years. Today, the United States Mint can turn out a million coins in about 30 minutes!
You probably know that Peter the Mint Eagle is one of the Pals on this Web site. But did you know that there was a real eagle named Peter who lived at the Philadelphia facility?
The real Peter used to live up near the roof of the building. People would see him go out during the day to hunt for food and come home at night to sleep. Peter lived at the Mint for several years.
Unfortunately, an accident broke his wing and he died soon after. But a taxidermist saved Peter's body so it can still be seen at the Mint. He is on display, his wings spread in flight, in all his eagle splendor.
The Peter who you see at H.I.P. Pocket Change is proud of his forefather. Read the story of the first Peter and see his picture at "Meet My Ancestor."
Yes, Nero the Mint Police Dog also had a real-life counterpart in the history of the US Mint at Philadelphia. The first Nero wasn't just a stray dog, but was actually bought by the Mint to help guard the facility, as official records show, in the days before electronic security alarms.
Nero would make his rounds with the night watchman every night. Once an hour, they would walk through the whole building to make sure everything was safe and secure. The watchman was the only one allowed to feed Nero so that he wouldn't get friendly with too many people. This made him a better watchdog.
It is said that Nero got to know the routine quite well. When the watchman was sick, Nero could make the rounds all by himself!
Today's Nero the Mint Police Dog has a "Meet My Ancestor" page as Peter does. This page shows an early United States Treasury seal that pictures a dog with the key to a strongbox around his neck. Is that dog the first Nero? We don't really know...you'll have to decide that for yourself.