The demise of a western mint – Morgan Silver Dollar Coin

Today, the Morgan Silver Dollar Coin helps tell the story of the Carson City Branch Mint.

In the Executive Documents of the House of Representatives for the first session of the fiftieth Congress, 1887-88, the Director of the Mint provided arguments about the Carson City Branch Mint.



During the war years, the coinage was all executed at the mints at Philadelphia and San Francisco. The mints at New Orleans, Charlotte, N. C., and Dahlonega were suspended in 1861 and throughout the entire period of the war of the rebellion.

It was during the same period, when two mints in the Southern States were suspended, that acts of Congress were approved providing, as above stated, for two mints on the Pacific coast in addition to the mint at San Francisco, and a third at Denver, Colo.

Of the three mints thus newly created by acts of Congress, the mint at Carson is the only one that has been provided for by subsequent legislation in conformity to the provisions of the original act.

It becomes my duty to show that the mint at Carson is at the present time, and that from the first it has been, an unnecessary extension of the mint service of the United States.

The bill to establish a branch mint in Nevada passed on March 3, 1863.

In 1863 the cost of transportation from the mines and mills of Nevada, with which the producer of bullion was taxed before it could be returned in coin, was represented as one of the most important reasons for the establishment of a mint in that Territory.

It will be my duty to show that the conditions of transportation, as well as the conditions of the production of the precious metals, have since changed in Nevada, and especially that while in that State railway facilities have been increased, the production of gold and silver has greatly declined in importance.

It will also be shown that the mint at Carson has at no period of its history received considerable deposits from the mines of the Comstock Lode, their product having continued to be sent to San Francisco for coinage, the same as before the establishment of that mint.

The mint at Carson was opened for business January 8, 1870. Carson is on the line of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, 34 miles from Reno, on the Central Pacific Railroad, and 300 from San Francisco, and some 14 miles from Virginia City — the location of the great mines of the Comstock Lode.

Substantially the whole product of these mines, instead of being transported south this short distance to Carson for parting and refining and coinage, or in the case of silver at present for conversion into bars, has always been shipped directly to San Francisco for parting and refining, for coinage of all the gold, and for as much of the silver as required by considerable, and often large, demands from the mint at that city for coinage of dollars.

On March 8, 1885, the superintendent, Mr. James Crawford, died. Business was suspended and the mint closed, pending appointment and qualification of a successor, until April 1, when a new superintendent and new coiner assumed office.

March 28, the balance of the regular appropriation for ” wages of workmen ” being but $7,200 for four months’ operations, the Director of the Mint, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, ordered the suspension of coinage (which had not been resumed) for the remainder of the fiscal year 1885 ; also, that the force of clerks, workmen, etc., be reduced to the lowest possible limit.

The receipt of bullion for ” parting and refining,” and local purchases of silver for the standard dollar coinage, however, were allowed to continue.

May 8, by Department order, the superintendent at Carson was instructed to discontinue the purchase of silver bullion until further notice.

June 11, the Secretary further directed that no silver be purchased, except silver ” parted ” from gold and deposits of mutilated United States coin, and also that a charge be imposed on deposits of gold bullion to cover transportation to the mint at San Francisco.

August 14, the coiner, for want of occupation, was suspended by the President.

November 6, it was ordered that the mint at Carson be closed to receipt of deposits, and that clerks, assistants, and workmen be discharged.

November 10, the melter and refiner and the assayer were suspended by the President.

The falling off of the business of the mint at Carson, which led to the closing of that institution, will, in connection with the above statement, be exhibited by the fact that during the first three months of the fiscal year 1886 the deposits of gold at that institution had fallen to 518 standard ounces, from 23,333 standard ounces for the corresponding period of 1885.

Under the circumstances above set forth, the same at present as in the past, and as likely to be in the future, it becomes my duty to recommend for the good of the mint service that the mint at Carson be finally closed, that its machinery and other equipment be distributed among the several mints and assay offices, and that the building be applied to some other public purpose.


The Carson City Branch Mint coining operations closed in 1885. The coinage production reopened in 1889 but discontinued in 1893.

The Branch Mint remained open as an assay office until it closed in 1933.

The Morgan Silver Dollar Coin shows against a view of the Carson City Branch Mint building, circa 1879.

Morgan Silver Dollar Coin