skip navigation
Left Navigation Links


Era 1783–1832 Freedom and Independence


Between 1782 and 1790, Congress debated the creation of a national mint, but no real progress was made until the Constitution was adopted in 1789.  Finally, the Act of April 2, 1792, established a mint at the "seat of Government…," regulated United States coins, and authorized coinage to be made of gold, silver, and copper.  Each coin was to have " impression emblematic of liberty, with an inscription of the word 'Liberty' and the year of the coinage...."  Gold and silver coins were to include a figure or representation of an eagle and the words "United States of America" on the reverse, while the copper coins were to note the denomination.  Defacement, embezzlement, or counterfeiting of a coin by a Mint employee was punishable by death.

The first Secretary of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton, author of the Mint Act of 1792.  The legislation placed the U.S. Mint under the authority of Secretary of State (and leading advocate for establishment of the Mint) Thomas Jefferson.  The first Director of the Mint, David Rittenhouse, laid the cornerstone for the first Mint building on July 31, 1792, in Philadelphia.  It was the first federal building erected by the United States Government under the Constitution.

On their expedition from the Missouri territory to the Pacific coast, Lewis and Clark gave a Peace Medal to representatives of the various American Indian tribes they met.  The medal portrayed Thomas Jefferson on the obverse and two hands clasped in friendship on the reverse, with a tomahawk and pipe above the handshake.

Keywords: national mint

Copyright Info:
Pessolano-Filos, Francis. The Venus Numismatics Dictionary of Artists, Designers, Modellers, Engravers, and Die Sinkers Whose Works Were Commissioned by or Struck by the United States Mint, 1792–1977. New York: Eros Publishing Company, 1983.

Last Updated:
August 16, 2006