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Early U.S. Mint History: The Samuel Moore Letters

Samuel Moore - United States Mint

By Len Augsburger …..
Republished from The E-Gobrecht – the Electronic Publication of the Liberty Seated Collector Club (LSCC) Published on CoinLink
Part 1-The Hiring of Christian Gobrecht

During a recent research trip to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, my research partner, Joel Orosz, had the excellent idea to call for the Robert M. Patterson personal papers. Three letters from Samuel Moore to Robert M. Patterson dated June, 1835 were located. At this time Moore was the outgoing director of the United States Mint; Patterson assumed the Mint directorship in July, 1835. Patterson’s father had also been the Mint director, serving from 1806 to 1824. Tying the family knot even further, the incoming director Robert M. Patterson was the brother-in-law of the outgoing director Moore.

The first letter is dated June 16, 1835 and deals with the issue of hiring Christian Gobrecht as an engraver. Moore wrote to the Secretary of the Treasurer, Levi Woodbury, on the same day regarding the same issue. The Moore/Woodbury letter is largely reprinted in Walter Breen’s Secret History of the Gobrecht Coinages. Between the two letters, it is clear that the outgoing director Samuel Moore dearly wanted to get Gobrecht hired into the Mint, which indeed occurred later in 1835.

The first Moore/Patterson letter reads as follows (the second and third letters will follow in a subsequent edition of the E-Gobrecht).

Mint of the United States
Philadelphia, June 16, 1835

Dear Sir:

The necessity of having an additional Engraver in the Mint which has for many years been sufficiently manifest may be considered as imperative now, in order to supply the Branch Mints with the requisite dies [Randy Wiley and Michael Fey, in separate articles in GJ #99, noted the situation of the New Orleans Mint desiring additional dies]. Since the adoption of the Branch system I have had several conversations with Mr. Gobrecht to ascertain whether there is any hope of associating him with the institution – a mission I have long desired to accomplish. He is at present employed as an engraver of Bank Notes [multiple bank note proofs reside in the Christian Gobrecht personal papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania], but could, I perceive, be detached from that pursuit, if a timely assurance could be given him, of continued[?] permanent employment in the Mint, so that he could give due notice to the company now having claims on him. If he could receive the necessary assurance by the 10th or 15th July, it would enable him to devote his full attention to the Mint from the first January next [1836].

No provision was made in the acts of last session [of Congress] for a second Engraver here but all the Branches are left dependant on this source for dies [note Moore’s reference to a “second” , not “assistant” Engraver]. That another Engraver therefore must be assigned to the institution by act of Congress or in [unclear] of that engaged by print contract, is a matter of simple absolute majority and I therefore regard it as a thing virtually done in one of those ways. There is no diversity of opinion here, I think, certainly now at the Mint, as to the peculiar fitness of Gobrecht for the plans.

In a communication to the Department this day [Moore is probably referring to his letter to Treasury SecretaryWoodbury written the same day] I have suggested the strong expediency of adopting timely measures, in order that the commencement of coinage at the Branches may not be delayed for want of dies, and relying on my recollection of your opinion heretofore expressed in regard to Mr. G[obrecht], I took the liberty of referring to you presuming that you will certainly stop through Washington, and have an interview with the President [Jackson] and Secretary of Treasury [Woodbury]. Mr. Gobrecht could not I believe be secured on a less expectation than $1500, nor is it equitable that he should. In mentioning this in my letter to Mr. Woodbury I have taken occasion to impart again the views I entertain in regard to the inconsistency of the present Mint salaries.

Mr. Peale will be here in a few days [Peale had been dispatched in 1833 on a two year tour of Europe to study minting technology at the English, French and German mints]. Certainly, I think, by the [unclear, Moore seems to indicate a European departure of May 16th, expecting Peale’s return by the end of June]. He will have some good suggestions to offer, no doubt, on the subject of [unclear] dies, and Gobrecht has long had a desire to evince his powers in an effort of this character. I hope the spark[?] of the commencement of coinage under the Branch system may be [unclear] by something really beautiful.

On your arrival here you will be able to give an answer to Gobrecht, if it shall have been satisfactory to the President to authorize the requisite assurance in the case, and this will be in time for him to give the warning demanded by his current employment. I am in great regard,

Yours very truly
Samuel Moore

P.S. Afternoon – Mr. Peale has arrived.

The Samuel Moore Letters: Part II

In last month’s episode, the outgoing Mint Director, Samuel Moore, was found lobbying the incoming Director, Robert M. Patterson, and the Secretary of the Treasury, Levi Woodbury, to hire Christian Gobrecht as a second engraver. This month we look at the second letter of the series, from Moore to Patterson, dated June 26, 1835. At this point President Andrew Jackson has approved the hiring of a second engraver, and now Moore attempts to finalize the details of Gobrecht’s appointment:

“Received two days since from the Secretary of the Treasury a reply to my communication of the 16th [Moore had written to both Secretary Woodbury and Patterson on July 16th, 1835] concerning the President’s approval of the arrangement therein recommended having in view the employment of another Engraver. A reply is enclosed.

The proposed grade of compensation being [unclear] approved by the President, I should feel at liberty to proffer specific terms to Mr. Gobrecht on which he would safely announce to his present employer the termination of their connection by the first of January [1836] relying on being from that period attached to the Mint at a compensation of $1500 [annually]. It seems, however, proper that this should be deferred until you arrive and especially I must first be assured that I have not misconceived your opinion in regard to Mr. Gobrecht before holding any further conference with him touching the employment in question. On this point please drop me a line – I know you can have his [unclear]. And if it shall be conformable to your impressions, I will acquaint him with the probability of his being invited into the Mint, and refer him thereafter to yourself.

The terms ‘assistant Engraver’ as employed by Mr. Woodbury without however appearing to lay any stress on them, as indicating a distinctive station. Certainly the conception of any inferiority of rank, would be very unsupportable[?] to Mr. G[obrecht] and this it will be proper to exclude which can easily be done. No inferiority in this respect was within my contemplation in the arrangement proposed. [The salient point here is whether Gobrecht was to be hired as “assistant” or “second” engraver – clearly it was Moore’s intention that Gobrecht be hired as an equal to the current engraver William Kneass.]

It had seemed to me probable that during your [unclear] conferences with the Sec. of the Treasury at Washington he might acquaint you particularly with the views presented in my letter to him of the 16th [July], and this, notwithstanding the President’s prompt decision in regard to the Engraver, he will perhaps still do, if a convenient session[?] should occur … [Moore now moves on to unrelated points.]”

The Samuel Moore Letters: Part III

This is the third and last part of a series covering correspondence in June, 1835 from the outgoing Mint Director, Samuel Moore, to the incoming Mint Director, Robert Patterson, concerning the appointment of Christian Gobrecht as an Engraver to the U.S. Mint. Last time, Moore wanted to present the employment offer to Gobrecht but was awaiting final confirmation from Patterson. This third letter, dated June 27, 1835 was written one day later. It reads as follows:

“Mint of the United States
Philadelphia, June 27, 1835

Dear Sir,
Yours of the 24th was received last evening [this letter apparently contained Patterson’s final approval of the offer to Gobrecht]. I called this afternoon on the Mr. Gobrecht who had not before heard of the approaching change here [Moore apparently refers to the fact that a new Mint Director will be soon appointed]. He looked concerned on its being [unclear, but the obvious implication is that Gobrecht desired the appointment and felt that his chances of receiving the position under Director Moore were favorable], but when informed of your appointment evinced the utmost gladness of heart.

Having stated to him the satisfactory terms[?] of the communication received from Washington in reply to my suggestions in regards to his being associated with the Mint, I referred the question to be adjusted[?] after your arrival [this possibly refers to the precise title which Gobrecht was to be granted at the Mint]. Render[?] no concern on account of a five days delay in your arrival. No inconvenience will result from it. I will attend to whatever shall require prompt action [Moore refers to the fact that Patterson was delayed in traveling from the University of Virginia to Philadelphia].

Yours truly,
Samuel Moore.”

Although Gobrecht’s appointment was to take effect January 1st, 1836, fate intervened. Chief Engraver Kneass suffered a stroke in August 1835, and the new Director, Patterson, requested permission from the Secretary of the Treasury to immediately hire Gobrecht as a second (not assistant) engraver. Gobrecht thus entered the Mint in September 1835. (See also Rare Coin Review, #126, November/December 1998, pp. 17-25.)


[Editor’s Addition – Bio]

MOORE, Samuel, a Representative from Pennsylvania; born in Deerfield (now Deerfield Street), Cumberland County, N.J., February 8, 1774; pursued an academic course and was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia in 1791; instructor in the university 1792-1794; studied medicine and practiced in Dublin, Bucks County, Pa., and later at Greenwich, N.J.; spent several years in trading to the East Indies; returned to Bucks County, Pa., and in 1808 purchased and operated grist and oil mills at Bridge Point (now Edison) near Doylestown; later erected and operated a sawmill and woolen factory; elected as a Republican to the Fifteenth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Samuel D. Ingham; reelected to the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Congresses and served from October 13, 1818, until his resignation May 20, 1822; chairman, Committee on Indian Affairs (Seventeenth Congress); appointed by President Monroe as Director of the United States Mint on July 15, 1824, and served until 1835; moved to Philadelphia, Pa.; became interested in the mining and marketing of coal and served as president of the Hazleton Coal Co. until his death in Philadelphia, Pa. February 18, 1861; interment in Woodland Cemetery.

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About the E-Gobrecht

The E-Gobrecht is an award winning electronic publication of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club (LSCC). The LSCC is a non-profit organization dedicated to the attributions of the Liberty Seated Coin series. The LSCC provides the information contained in this email newsletter from various sources free of charge as a general service to the membership and others with this numismatic interest.



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