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Image of U.S. Assay Office, 50 Dollars, 1851
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Materials: Gold
Measurement: Octagonal 41.9 mm, Wt. 84.894 g
Source: J.K. Lilly

U.S. Assay Office, 50 Dollars, 1851

As early as 1850, agitation began in Congress for the establishment of a San Francisco branch of the United States Mint. This action was blocked by people from New York — who wanted a branch in their own state — and from Georgia and Louisiana — who argued that any California operation would represent unfair competition to the branch mints in Dahlonega and New Orleans.

The opposition won, and San Francisco would go without a mint for another four years. But it did get an odd sort of hybrid, the United States Assay Office of Gold, striking an odd sort of money — a gigantic, fifty-dollar ingot that would also do duty as a coin. The arrangement was made by the Treasury Department under a contract with Moffat & Company, private assayers and gold coiners in San Francisco.

Augustus Humbert came west to oversee the operation, which got under way at the end of January 1851. For most of the next two years, Humbert’s fifty-dollar "slugs" were the principal accepted currency in California. He was eventually allowed to turn his attentions to the production of smaller, and altogether more useful, coins, ten- and twenty-dollar pieces. And his operation finally laid the framework for a formal, normal branch Mint, which began the production of ordinary federal coinage in the spring of 1854.
Related Events
1832: President Andrew Jackson vetoes the charter of Bank of United States, abolishing the institution.
1838: Branch mints open in Dahlonega, Ga., Charlotte, N.C., and New Orleans, La.
1848: Gold is discovered at John Sutter's mill in California.
1850: California is admitted to the Union as the 31st state.
1861: U.S. Civil War begins when Confederate forces attack Fort Sumter, South Carolina.
Golden Legends The following objects are in this section.
Templeton Reid, 10 Dollars, 1830United States, 5 Dollars, 1838Oregon Exchange Company, 5 Dollars, 1849Clark, Gruber & Co., 20 Dollars, 1860
Templeton Reid, 5 Dollars, 1830United States, 2 1/2 Dollars, 1848U.S. Assay Office, 50 Dollars, 1851 
Templeton Reid, 2 1/2 Dollars, 1830United States, 20 Dollars, 1849 (Pattern)Kellogg & Co., 50 Dollars, 1855 
Bechtlers, 5 Dollars, 1834Oregon Exchange Company, 10 Dollars, 1849United States, 50 Dollars, 1877 (Pattern) 
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