The early years of the United States Mint were fraught with problems: The equipment was crude, serviceable die steel was difficult to obtain, and until 1816, men and horses, not steam, supplied power to operate the machinery. But one of the most serious problems facing the new enterprise was a lack of experienced personnel, particularly in the area of design and engraving.
When the Mint began operations after the Coinage Act of 1792, employing suitable officers and workmen became one of the first priorities. As early as 1790, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson (then the Cabinet officer in charge of the Mint) had been attempting to recruit qualified artisans from European cities where minting methods were state of the art. Jefferson had attended an exhibition at the Paris Mint in 1786, where he observed the operation of an improved coining press and was quite impressed with the machine and its inventor, French engraver J.... (Expand Text)